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Psychotherapy Notes - Should You Read Them?

By November 8, 2010

I found this interesting piece in the Huffington Post by a psychiatrist who wonders about his patients' reactions to what is written in their psychotherapy notes. Patients may be provided access to their mental health treatment notes, but what if the information in the notes is misinterpreted? And what if the therapist has not been careful to write in a way that is sensitive to the client's point of view? Therapists often use jargon or professional language that just isn't geared toward patients-- they generally write for other treatment providers.

For this reason, patients are not necessarily legally entitled to their mental health records. If the provider believes that something written in the notes may harm you, they can deny you access to your records (for more on how medical and mental health records are regulated in the U.S., see "Requesting Medical Records"). But, even if there is nothing in the notes that is deemed by your treater to be potentially harmful, your therapist may wish to review your notes with you to make sure you understand what is written in them.

Have you ever read your psychotherapy notes? If you did, what was your reaction? Did you discover things that your therapist had not told you directly?

November 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm
(1) Leanne Chamberlain says:

This is an interesting article. I think it is worth investigating into, a couple of things come up for me… firstly, would it help some clients/patients by reading the doctors notes? I have two minds about this. I prefer honesty and would like to trust that the therapist is not hiding anything from me or misleading me, which I’m sure most people would feel?, but when I did stumble across my therapist notes by accident, it took me by surprise to say the least. I was living in a halfway house and about 3 months into therapy. I wanted a phone number one night and the care provider gave me a file that had my referral notes in from my therapist… I didn’t stop at the phone number!…. The next time I saw my therapist I was quite upset and went of my nana! I was saying “why didn’t you tell me”? and she was saying “umm for this reason!” It’s funny, I was initially more upset about the fact that she didn’t tell me before I wanted to know what it actually meant! And this was just the diagnosis and some other doctors speak from my psychiatrist that I read, it wasn’t her private notes! In some ways it helped me by gaining knowledge about my illness, i.e. self awareness, in other ways having a shaky sense of self – it was hard not taking on the label, which can still be challenging now. I would like to know why some therapists think it’s best not to tell some clients? Maybe she was just waiting until I was coping with everything else a bit better at the time? Maybe she thought I was too stupid?

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