Can a "mandatory reporter" officially still remain a friend?

Discussion in 'Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings' started by yellowflowers, Aug 9, 2008.

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  1. yellowflowers

    yellowflowers New Member


    I am trying to deal with something that has made my severe depression even worse, and I was wondering if anyone might have any information about the official guidelines of being a "mandatory reporter".

    I am dealing with deep depression, and finally reached out to a friend, who I knew had dealt with mental health issues many years ago. Due to my depression, I had not been in touch with her in many years, and upon calling her, I found out she is in the process of getting her masters in counseling. We talked a long time, and she cried with me and said she wanted to do whatever possible to help me. She gave me hope and wanted to make sure that I kept in close touch, so that I wasn't alone in this. It was a wonderful call, and for the first time I felt like someone understood.

    The next day I got an email from her referring to the fact that she was a mandatory reporter, and that she had called the mental health agency in my county, who would be calling me. Her note went on to say that I was never to contact her again, and that she could do nothing more to help me. I was absolutely devastated by the email -- it was the opposite of everything she had told me during our call, when she said she wanted to be there for me and help me make it through. It was a cold, unemotional email, void of any trace of friendship or concern. It has definitely affected me emotionally.

    I later found out that she also called my husband (we are separated), whom she said she would not call. She told him that I called her, as well as the details about the call. She also told him that she called the mental health agency because she was a mandatory reporter, and that she emailed me to tell me I could not contact her again because, given she was a 'counselor' and had to call to report the issue, she was not allowed to remain my friend, or remain in contact with me, or help me in ANY capacity -- not even as a friend.

    She told my husband that she had talked with either her own counselor, or a superior in her masters training, and they were the one who instructed her to do the mandatory reporting. She also seemed to be saying that the rule is that since she now has this "official" capacity, she can no longer maintain contact with me or continue her friendship with me. She essentially said that since she is a counselor, and she knows about my depression, etc., she is not allowed, under the guidelines, to remain friends with me. All contact is to be discontinued between us.

    I completely understand that to abide by the law, she felt she had to abide by the mandatory reporting rule. But I don't understand all of the rest. Is it true that she is also mandated to no longer have any contact with me as a friend because she is now a counselor and/or now has this official capacity? None of this makes any sense to me, and has been heartbreaking. I would just appreciate it so much, if someone might know what the official guidelines are (obtaining to the counselor-friend portion of the situation), if you might be able to share them with me.

    Another question I have is, if she was acting in an official capacity by contacting the mental health agency in my county, wasn't she misusing her official capacity in calling my husband and telling him all about our phone call? If she says she can not be both a mandatory reporter and my friend, then how was she able to call my husband under the "friend" capacity? If she says she can only act under the official capacity of being a mandatory reporter, isn't she abusing that official capacity by divulging the contents of our conversation to him? Isn't there even something in the HIPAA regulations that prevent this? ESPECIALLY if she claims that she can only operate as an official counselor-in-training with mandatory reporting responsibility, and no longer as a friend?

    My husband is a very loving person, and it is not that I don't want him to know things, because I want him to know everything, but I feel such an utter breech of trust in what she did. Especially now, when I feel so vulnerable in this world, and have had such a hard time trusting anyone.

    Thank you so much for your time, and for any thoughts you might have. It means more to me than I can say.
  2. downunder

    downunder Well-Known Member

    I was seeing a counsellor and she reported me to my workplace and my husband she told me that she is allowed to tell anyone who she thinks needs to know. Different rules though for different countrys. I can understand your disappointment though. !!!!!!!!!!!
  3. yellowflowers

    yellowflowers New Member

    Hi downunder,

    Thank you for your kind response. I truly understand her having to report me to the county for followup, but what I don't understand is how she can say she "can't" be a friend due to her capacity, yet call my husband as a friend. That seems to be contradictory. But more than that, I can't understand how she is no longer able to have contact with me as a friend, whatsoever, given her new training/occupation as a counselor. It is extremely painful, especially given it has taken me over 10 years to reach out to a friend, and this has had such devastating consequences for me.
  4. I can't imagine feeling such a profound feeling of betrayal!! (Though I DO know what it's like to be kicked when you're already 'lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut'!)

    It also sounds like this person has totally contradicted themselves, and as well, having later found that they had crossed some line, are now covering THEIR butt! :mad: Really rather reprehensible!!

    Honestly, I don't know much about the guidelines where you live, but I did find this:

    Maybe you can have a look and see if you find something that specifically applies to your situation (and/or the counsellor - who btw doesn't seem to ME to be anywhere near "deserving" of a Masters!! :mad: In fact, she might try "Confidentiality 101" to start, with a concurrent course in "Make up your MIND!")

    However, I am glad that you have a supportive makes a huge difference to know that someone 'knows' you (whether or not you're together). And welcome to the forum...

  5. TheWr0ngChild

    TheWr0ngChild Well-Known Member

    Thats kind of scary, I know this is not the case with you, but imagine if that had been a woman who's husband abused her and just happened to be a name on paper?

    She should have used better discresion. You can make anyone your next of kin, or at leased here in the UK, where we have VERY strict data protection and confidence laws. They are not allowed to pass on ANY info without first telling you and having you sign a form allowing them to do that, and even then you can list people you want them to tell and who not to. They can only do that if 1 they suspect you may harm yourself, 2 you may harm others, 3 a child is being abused, 4 an act of terrorism etc etc.

    Me, I don't trust anyone like that really.
  6. yellowflowers

    yellowflowers New Member

    Hi FoundAndLost1,

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness in finding the HIPAA resource -- I will look to see if anything is mentioned there. It's really only an emotional thing for me, though, of course, as you so thoughtfully picked up on and responded to. And my biggest question, overall, is whether or not the counseling occupation guidelines really say you can no longer maintain a relationship if you have any knowledge about their severe depression, etc.

    Thank you again for your support, and for immediately knowing how painful it is.
  7. yellowflowers

    yellowflowers New Member


    I forgot to mention that I am in Washington State, in the U.S., in case that helps someone with professional knowledge, although I don't imagine it would vary too terribly much from state to state. But I wanted to at least mention that I am in the U.S.

    Thank you again so very much.
  8. Issaccs

    Issaccs Well-Known Member

    Mandatory Reporter?
    Wheres patient confidentiality fit into this?
  9. Stranger1

    Stranger1 Forum Buddy & Antiquities Friend

    I wouldn't put my faith in her hands. She has no on the job training. Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me!!! I'm sorry I don't have much trust in someone like her. I would just move on and forget about her!!!
  10. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    I can't imagine how much it hurt to open up to her as a friend and then receive such a cold email the day after.

    I don't know the laws where you are, but is it possible that according to the law, she must, as a professional counselor (or even as one in training), act as a counselor in such a situation; and, therefore, by law, report the circumstances to the authorities and even to the next of kin if as a "counselor" she believes it will help? That would make the relationship professional vs friendship, and maybe the law says that as with romantic/sexual involvements, counselors cannot be involved with clients even as friends. I don't know if that's how it works, but it could explain the oddness of the email.

    Stay safe,

  11. theleastofthese

    theleastofthese SF Friend Staff Alumni

    I think your "friend" overstepped the boundaries of both friendship and counseling. A consent form is required, I believe, for any counselor to talk to anyone else about the 'patient'. (the exception is made when the patient is believed to be in danger of harming themselves or others) Your "friend" seems to be a little too eager to "counsel". If it had been me I would have reported this "friend" as you are not their client, only a (former) friend and you weren't calling them in a professional way.
  12. kenny

    kenny Well-Known Member

    This seems like a gross breach of trust/confidentiality. it seems very odd that she can call your husband; this seems to be very strange. You might want to consider making a complaint against her?
  13. gentlelady

    gentlelady Staff Alumni

    I believe theleastofthese is correct. i know a form is required, signed by you, before any information can be given to an outside party inder HIPPA laws. As a mandatory reporter she can contact the appropriate emergency individuals if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, but as far as having to stop a friendship because of her position, I feel she is wrong. You are not seeing her as a client. If what she said is true, she will not be allowed to have any frineds because I cannot think of a single person that is problem free.
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