New Client Information
The decision to enter into counseling or psychotherapy is undoubtedly an important one arrived at after considerable thought. Whether you were referred by your physician, clergy, family or friends, or came because of problems and feelings only you know about, the decision to participate must ultimately be yours. The following document contains information which is meant to make your psychotherapy experience more rewarding. It also contains information about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and requirements that must be met by both you and your therapist.
Responsibilites & Purposes
Our purpose is to help you resolve problem areas in your life. Although no one can solve your problems for you, we are trained to help people cope more effectively with their difficulties. We will do our best to understand you as a unique individual and to help you work through your difficulties. It is our function to listen, to understand and to be helpful to the fullest extent of our professional training and experience. It is your responsibility to help us understand your life situation, thoughts and feelings and to have the courage to try to master your problem areas. You as a patient have the following rights:
- To receive respectful treatment that will be helpful to you
- To have a safe treatment setting, free from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse
- To report immoral and illegal behavior by your therapist
- To ask for and receive information about our qualifications, including licensure, education, training, experience, membership in professional organizations, specific areas of practice, and limits on practice
- To have written information, before therapy, about fees, method of payment, insurance coverage, number of sessions that may be needed, substitute(backup) therapists used in case of vacations and emergencies, and cancellation policies
- To refuse audio or video recording of sessions (but you may ask for this if you wish)
- To refuse to answer any question or give any information you choose not to answer or give
- To know if your case will be discussed with others (for instance, supervisors or consultants) and what information will be shared
- To ask about your progress
- To discuss your therapy with anyone you choose
- To have any therapy procedure, including pros and cons of its use, explained to you before it is used
- To refuse any test, evaluation or therapy of any kind and to be advised of any possible problems that might come from such refusal
- To end treatment at any time (However, please schedule at least one session with your therapist before terminating treatment.)
- Psychotherapy Notes, however, may not always be open for your perusal.
Psychotherapy is a confidential process. Information will be released only with your permission and written consent. We adhere to strict professional standards of ethics and confidentiality. Two sets of records may be kept regarding your treatment. The first is a "Clinical" or "Medical" Record. The second is "Psychotherapy Notes". The Clinical Record is the official treatment record which is available to you or a third party upon your request. Psychotherapy Notes are records kept of personal information about you and your therapist's impressions or thoughts about treatment. This record is not automatically available to you. It is considered a separate part of your records that is available only if your therapist believes it will be helpful to you. You should always talk over the release of any of your records with your therapist in order to determine how they will be used and how they may affect you if released either to you or a third party.
You should be aware that therapists are required to take appropriate action when a client is judged to be in imminent danger of committing suicide and this action supersedes confidentiality. We must report to the appropriate law enforcement agencies if a client threatens grave bodily harm to another person. The intended victim must also be notified. We must also report to legal authorities if a client is going to commit a felony. Therapists are required to report any incident(s) of child or elder abuse, whether it has already occurred or is likely to occur. Finally, under certain circumstances, confidentiality may be superseded by a court order.
A few words about cell phones. You should be aware that cell phone conversations between you and your therapist are not considered secure in that cell phone transmissions can be intercepted by people who might be scanning certain airwave frequencies for their entertainment or curiosity. If you call your therapist from your cell phone, you automatically give up certain assurances of confidentiality. This is also true if your therapist calls you from his/her cell phone when he or she is not in the office. If your therapist calls you from his/her cell phone you will be informed of this.
Payment of your bill is an important part of your treatment. If you find yourself falling behind in your account, it can have an impact on how you feel about coming for treatment and you may stop your therapy prematurely. It is important, therefore, that you understand the information below. Please feel free to ask for your therapist's fee schedule if you are unclear about his or her charges for specific services.
As a courtesy to you, it is our policy to accept insurance assignment and to assist you in filing insurance claims for services we provide. In an effort to better serve you, the following billing system has been implemented.
We will file your insurance claim for you and will credit your account with any reimbursement. You are expected to pay in full for all charges at the time of service until it can be verified that your insurance company will pay for those services. After your deductible has been met, you will be responsible for paying the percentage of your bill that the insurance company does not pay (co-pay). This percentage can range from 0% to 100% depending on your policy. Payment of the co-pay will be expected at the time of service. Our Office Manager will be happy to work with you to determine the amount of coverage available to you as well as co-payments and deductibles.
You are responsible for any charges which are denied, for whatever reason, by your insurance company. While denials are uncommon, we will be happy to work with you on appealing any denials.
FULL PAYMENT IS DUE AT TIME OF SERVICE UNLESS OTHER ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE OR IT HAS BEEN POSSIBLE TO ESTABLISH INSURANCE COVERAGE.
Mental Health Professionals differ in many respects from other Healthcare Providers. Unlike most physicians, osteopaths, dentists and other professionals who work on flexible and inexact schedules, we commit a specific time period to each client. It is, therefore, important for you to appreciate the fact that a block of time has been set aside for you only. Our schedules can be crowded. Canceling or rescheduling an appointment without sufficient notice often means the loss of an hour of therapy to someone else who needed the appointment time. Therefore, we ask that you give at least 48 hours notice if you cannot be at the appointment for which you have contracted.
If no notice of your cancellation is received, or if less than 24 hours notice is given, YOU WILL BE CHARGED A FEE FOR THE MISSED APPOINTMENT. This fee cannot be claimed on your insurance policy. Of course, rescheduling an appointment can be done at any time if there is an emergency or unexpected illness. Cancellation messages can be left with the answering service if for any reason the office is closed. To prevent any confusion about your appointment time, always keep your receipt which has your appointment time on it. If a mistake is made, your receipt is your means of verification.
Calling Your Therapist
When you have a question or need to schedule or reschedule an appointment, please call our office. If you need to speak with us when we are in session, we cannot be disturbed unless you have an emergency. Please tell the receptionist right away if you have an emergency. Otherwise, if we are in session, either our office staff or the answering service will take your call and any message you wish to leave. We will return your call as soon as possible. If we are not available due to vacations or being out of town for other personal or professional reasons, there will always be a therapist on call in case you have an emergency. We will post in advance any scheduled absences. The office staff or answering service will arrange for you to talk to the on call therapist only if an emergency arises, however.
- If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself or someone else…it's an emergency. Call your therapist immediately.
- If someone you know is in immediate danger of harming him or herself or someone else…it's an emergency. Call 911 and request assistance.
- If you are in immediate danger of being harmed by someone else…it's an emergency. Call 911 and request assistance. Call your therapist if you feel the need, but only when you are safe.
- If you feel that you are losing touch with reality and you cannot control yourself…it's an emergency. Call your therapist.
When you call after regular office hours (8:30 AM—5:00 PM, Monday through Friday) you should call the office phone number (706-353-0709). The Answering Service will answer by saying, "Answering Service for Athens Associates." There will be an automated message that allows you to leave a message if you wish to do so. Wait on the line and someone will assist you. You will need to tell the operator very clearly if there is an "emergency" and the operator will contact your therapist. The operator has technology and phone numbers you do not have, so it is more efficient to call the Answering Service than to try to track your therapist down on your own. When the operator locates your therapist, you will either be patched right through or your therapist will call you as soon as possible. Please be as clear with the operator as possible. Tell the operator your name, telephone number and the type of emergency you are having.
There are times when your therapist will not be available. At these times, another therapist will be backing him or her up. If the operator cannot locate your therapist, the "on call" therapist will automatically be contacted.
Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act
HIPAA is a law that protects your personal health information. It requires that you read the Georgia Notice which is posted in the waiting room. If you wish, we will provide a copy of this document to you. You will also be asked to indicate with your signature that you have read the Georgia Notice. If you have questions regarding HIPAA, please feel free to ask. If we don't know the answer to your question, we'll find the answer.
We are glad you have come for assistance. Psychotherapy is a two-way effort entailing mutual respect, responsibility, and consideration between you and your therapist. The information outlined above is designed to make your sessions more productive and to avoid any unnecessary misunderstandings or problems. Should you have any questions regarding our services, whether mentioned here or not, please feel free to ask for clarification.
*Athens Associates for Counseling and Psychotherapy is a group of independent practitioners. Each practitioner shares certain expenses and administrative functions as well as office space. However, each practitioner independently provides clinical services and maintains his or her own professional records. Each practitioner is responsible for services he or she provides. All professional records (Clinical Records and Psychotherapy Notes) are separately maintained and no member of the group has access to them without your specific written permission.