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Will Social Security require my psychotherapy information?

Some people who apply for Social Security Disability in Michigan suffer from mental health issues. Naturally, if you are one of these individuals, you might be concerned about the Social Security Administration (SSA) asking for records that reveal your personal conversations with your mental health professional. While it is true that the SSA needs records from your doctor to secure your disability benefits, the SSA will also offer you privacy for your sensitive information.

The SSA explains that it does not require your therapist or the mental health professional you talk with to send the agency your psychotherapy notes. Also referred to as process notes or session notes, psychotherapy notes consist of any kind of recorded notes that document or provide analysis of the contents of a private counseling session. This also applies to the conversations that take place in a counseling session between two or more people or among a family. 

The kind of information that HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) does not consider part of psychotherapy notes include specific medical and scheduling information relating to your therapy sessions. These include the beginning and end times of your counseling sessions and the results of any clinical tests you are a part of. They also may include information about how often you receive treatment and what kind of medicine you are prescribed. Other details, such as your diagnosis and progress to date are also excluded from psychotherapy notes.

Some mental health professionals keep their session notes separate from the other medical records of the patient, so it is easy for your doctor to hold the session notes back while sending the other information to the SSA. But there are also professionals who keep all of their records together. If so, these doctors can redact the portions of the medical record that would contain psychotherapy notes. Alternatively, a professional can compose a separate report that describes the important present and longitudinal features of your treatment.

Also be aware that by law, the SSA cannot disclose the records it does receive without written consent. The only exceptions are the limited ones laid out by such laws as the Privacy Act of 1974 and Freedom of Information Act. Federal regulation 20 CFR 401 also dictates the limited manner in which your medical records may be transmitted.

Because disabilities take many forms, do not consider this article as legal advice. It is only written to inform you about Social Security disability topics.

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