This is the third of four posts about safe haven therapy for children.
If the parents intend that their child have safe haven therapy, how is that accomplished? A written agreement spelling out everyone’s understanding of the arrangement is the best way to ensure your child has her privacy in a counseling relationship. Often the agreement is provided by the counselor before the counseling starts, so that everyone knows the ground rules for the sessions.
A safe haven agreement should have at least the following provisions:
- The therapist should be permitted to communicate with the parents (or the court) if the therapist believes it’s appropriate, about treatment and the purposes and goals of treatment.
- The therapist will determine the process, meaning who should be involved with the treatment, and when. The therapist should be able to requests sessions which include one or both parents if the therapist thinks it’s necessary to help the child.
- The therapist should be the one to determine when and if to share or discuss an issue with the parents. The parents should not be able to demand to know what’s going on in the child’s sessions.
- Neither the parents nor the parents’ attorneys shall have access to information about the content of the therapeutic process. That means the child’s therapist-patient privilege is preserved.
- The parents should agree not to subpoena the therapist’s file or subpoena the therapist to a deposition or for trial testimony.
- The therapist should agree to speak with a court-appointed custody evaluator or another type of professional appointed by the court to assist the family relationship (this could be a therapeuetic interventionist, the parents’ counselors, or a parenting coordinator).
- The child’s therapy can end if both parents agree.
- If the therapist receives documents, emails, or letters from one parent, all those documents must be copied to the other parent at the same time.
A safe haven agreement should NOT have these types of provisions:
- That the therapist will not talk to the parents at all.
- That the therapist may speak with a parent only if the other parent is present and may never speak with an individual parent.
- That the therapist may not be subpoenaed to trial or deposition to speak about therapist’s communications with the parents or third parties. The therapist’s communications with the parents or third parties are NOT protected by the child’s privilege.
See the next post in this series, Part IV, “How safe haven therapy is misused.”