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Counseling & ConfidentialityQuestions & Answers



What are some of the reasons that students go to see a counselor?

Adolescence is a time of great physical, intellectual, and emotional challenges. In addition, our
students are in a highly demanding academic environment, and most of them are learning to live
without the direct supervision and care of their parents. Not surprisingly, there are lots of reasons
why a student might want to talk to a counselor. Problems range from the myriad adjustment issues
associated with coming to boarding school (e.g., homesickness, roommate difficulties, etc.) to more
serious ones that we know an increasing number of adolescents in our society are experiencing
(e.g., depression, eating disorders, etc.). The good news is that students who work with a counselor
cope better with whatever stresses or problems they are facing.

Are parents contacted when a student comes to the counseling center?

While we encourage students to inform their parents of their decision to see a counselor, we do not
automatically contact parents. Some students may initially be hesitant to speak to their parents about
their concerns. It is our experience that most students do inform their parents. In case of a
significant emotional problem or if a student presents any safety risk, parents are always contacted.

The Isham Health Center staff and Graham House counselors are bound by a set of legal,
professional, and ethical principles that obligate them to respect the confidentiality of information
received from students seen in a medical setting or in a counseling relationship. There also are
practical constraints based on students understandable desire for privacy. The health center is
additionally bound by HIPAA, a federal act that delineates the mandated protection of patient
confidentiality and privacy. We always encourage students and their parents to share information
with their house counselors and other appropriate faculty so that these adults in the community can
in turn provide students with appropriate support. However, depending on the circumstance, any
information held by Isham or the counseling staff can be revealed to others on campus only with the
students or parents permission. The only exception is when a students presence on campus
presents a clear danger to himself/herself or to others, or when breaking of confidentiality is
mandated by law or ordered by the court (e.g., reporting the suspicion of child abuse). As noted in
the preceding section on the Sanctuary Policy, when students invoke Sanctuary with Graham House
or Isham staff, parents, house counselors, and cluster deans will be notified.

Are students ever required to see a counselor?

On rare occasions, when theres a concern about a students health and safety, students may be
required to see a counselor. Also, all students who are placed on probation are required to have at
least one meeting with a Graham House counselor.

What are house counselors, deans, and teachers told when a student comes to the counseling
center?

All counselors are bound both ethically and legally to maintain the confidentiality of students seen
in a counseling relationship. In instances where a students house counselor and teachers might need
some information in order to work effectively with and to support the student, the counselor will
discuss with the student what information might be passed on and receive his/her permission before
speaking to anyone. However, from both an ethical and legal standpoint, confidentially must be
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waived in those rare instances when a students health and safetyor that of othersare
endangered.


Is there anything put in a students record when he/she sees a counselor?

All counseling records are confidential and do not become a part of the students permanent record.
Nothing is noted or put in a students school record indicating that he/she has been seen at the
counseling center. In accordance with Massachusetts state guidelines, all counseling records are
destroyed 10 years after a student graduates.

Does seeing a counselor put a student at risk for being placed on a required leave of absence?

While students and parents do request leaves of absence when a students emotional and
psychological issues significantly interfere with a students well-being and ability to meet the
academic and residential demands of the school, it is only under rare circumstances that a student is
required to take a leave of absence. Many students work with their counselors with highly troubling
issues and are able to cope with all the many demands of Phillips Academy. In those rare instances
where a students health and safety are at risk and/or they are unable to meet the minimal
requirements of being a student at Phillips Academy, the Student Response Team (composed of the
dean of students, dean of studies, school physician, and director of Graham House Counseling
Center) will determine whether a leave is necessary.