Student Counselling, Health & Well-being (SCHW) at York University is subject to the Personal Health Information Protection Act ("PHIPA"), the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ("FIPPA"), regulations of the College of Psychologists of Ontario and York University’s Policy on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy.
Collection of personal health information
Personal health information is collected for the purpose of providing counselling services to clients, for administrative, statistical, and reporting-related purposes. Student Counselling, Health & Well-being counsellors and interns work as part of a team and may on occasion consult with each other about client files. In these situations, your name and other identifying details will remain confidential.
Disclosure of personal health information
Conversations with your counsellor are confidential. However, you should be aware of the following situations in which your personal information may be disclosed to persons outside of Student Counselling, Health & Well-being.
Disclosure with client consent
A client or former client may provide written consent to SCHW to disclose information in the client’s file to another health care professional or other third party. SCHW shall take reasonable steps to ensure that the consent is informed and voluntary pursuant to the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Canadian Psychological Association, 2017). If information is being disclosed to another health care professional with whom the client will be working while the client is still under the care of SCHW, or following care by SCHW, the client is required to sign a bidirectional release of information form. When granting consent to disclose information, the client may limit what is disclosed. However, if the information the client does not want disclosed is clearly needed by the person receiving the information in order to provide the client with appropriate services, SCHW is required by law to inform the person receiving the information that the client has refused consent to disclose certain necessary information.
Disclosure without client consent
In some instances information may be disclosed without the client’s consent:
- We are required by law to report to the appropriate authorities any suspicions that a child (someone presently under the age of 16) has been, or is currently being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, neglected, or witnessing domestic violence.
- If you are in serious and imminent danger of hurting yourself or someone else, we may need to reveal to an appropriate third party (health care providers, ambulance, police, special constables, family, etc.) enough information to help you and to protect others.
- If you are involved in a legal proceeding, the court may subpoena our records.
- If you report that a member of a regulated health profession (medical doctor, psychologist, social worker, psychotherapist, etc.) has initiated correspondence or contact with you of a sexual nature, we will need to report the professional to their regulatory body.
- As part of the regulatory activities to protect the public interest (such as audits) of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, or the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario
SCHW counsellors and interns work as part of a team and occasionally consult with each other about client files. In these situations, your name and other identifying details will remain confidential.
Access to client information
A client may access the client’s personal health information in the client’s file by providing a written request to the SCHW primary practitioner or designate or the SCHW Privacy Officer and by providing proof of identity.
Such a request would be granted unless:
- it constitutes quality of care information or information generated for the College of Psychologists of Ontario’s quality assurance program;
- it is raw data from standardized psychological tests or assessments or medical tests;
- the record or information in the record is subject to legal privilege that restricts disclosure of the record or the information to the individual; or
- if by granting access:
- there would be risk of serious harm to the treatment or recovery of the client or of serious bodily harm to the client or another person.
- it would lead to the identification of a person who was required by law to provide information in the record to the custodian.
- it would lead to the identification of a person who provided information in the record to SCHW explicitly or implicitly in confidence and if SCHW considers it appropriate in the circumstances that the name of the person be kept confidential.
- SCHW believes on reasonable grounds that a request for access to a record is frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.
Informed Consent for Virtual Counselling & Electronic Communications
For easier access to counselling services during COVID-19, Student Counselling, Health & Well-being (SCHW) and the Accessibility, Well-Being and Counselling Centre (AWC) offer remote appointments, in addition to in-person walk-in sessions during business hours. This purpose of this document is to ensure your awareness of the limitations of electronic communications, and to secure your consent to communicate through electronic means.
Definition of Electronic Communications
The term “electronic communications” refers to any form of electronic means or devices through which a counsellor and student communicates. For our purposes, it is limited to cell phones, email, and video conferencing.
Use of Electronic Communication
SCHW and AWC uses electronic communications (email or phone)to communicate with students to schedule, reschedule, or cancel sessions. We are providing virtual counselling sessions via electronic communication through a secure video platform (Adracare) or by telephone. We do not offer counselling sessions over email as it is not a secure means of communication.
- Adracare states in its policies that it meets the requirements of the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004(PHIPA) for privacy and confidentiality. With that said, we cannot 100% guarantee privacy; it’s possible for electronic media to be hacked, or for other unforeseeable breaches that are out of our control.
- Audio/ video counselling sessions through Adracare are encrypted and the content of the video is never recorded or stored anywhere.
- Cell phones and email also cannot be guaranteed to be 100% secure or confidential, despite our compliance to the required PHIPA protocols.
- Any personal health information that is collected as part of your use of our remote counselling service is being stored in compliance with PHIPA. Counsellors are also following the professional guidelines for working remotely as set out by their respective professional colleges (e.g. College of Psychologists of Ontario, College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, etc.)
Consent to Virtual Counselling from SCHW & AWC via Electronic Communication
You must provide informed verbal consent to your counsellor at the start of your session to proceed with virtual counselling. Your informed consent will be documented to your file, indicating your agreement to the terms outlined in this document. You may revoke your consent at any time, thereby ending the call or video counselling session. If you choose to revoke your consent, please inform your counsellor before doing so.
Correction to client information
A client may request a correction to information in the client’s file if the client can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the SCHW primary practitioner or SCHW that the record is incomplete or inaccurate and provides the information necessary to enable the practitioner to correct the record.
The SCHW primary practitioner may refuse the request if:
- the clinical file was not originally created by the practitioner and the practitioner does not have sufficient knowledge or expertise or authority to correct the file; or
- it consists of a professional opinion or observation that the practitioner had made in good faith about the individual.
In such cases the SCHW practitioner will provide the client with a copy of the written reasons for the refusal, leaving the original in the client’s file and attached to the document in question. The SCHW practitioner will inform the client that the client has the right to include a concise statement of disagreement in the file and to complain to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario about the refusal.
Retention of client records
We usually retain client records for fifteen years after the date of last contact, unless there are extenuating circumstances which require us to maintain the records for longer (such as responding to legal action).
SCHW Privacy Officer
If a client has questions about the collection, use or disclosure of personal information by SCHW or if a client would like to obtain access, request a correction of a record, or file a complaint, the client may contact:
N113 Bennett Centre for Student Services, York University
4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3
Clients may also file a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) at 1-800-387-0073 or ipc.on.ca.
Canadian Psychological Association. (2017). Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (4th ed.). Ottawa, ON: Author. Available at cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/codeofethics/.