Policies & Forms
Privacy of personal information is an important principle to Trent University Counselling Services. We are committed to collecting, using and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the goods and services we provide. We also try to be open and transparent as to how we handle personal information. This document describes our privacy policies.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes information that relates to their personal characteristics (e.g., gender, age, home address or phone number, ethnic background, family status), their mental health (e.g., mental health history, health conditions, counselling services received by them) or their activities and views (e.g., academic or work history, religious affiliation, politics, opinions expressed by an individual, an opinion or evaluation of an individual). Personal information is to be contrasted with business information (e.g., an individual's business address and telephone number), which is not protected by privacy legislation.
WHO WE ARE
Trent University Counselling Servicces is a branch of Student Affairs.
Within the service, professional, interns, and practicum students may consult among each other in order to insure that the best service is provided while making every effort to preserve the anonymity of the person concerned. All staff employed at the Trent University Counselling Centre are required to give their signed assurance that they will follow appropriate privacy principles.
WE COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION: PRIMARY PURPOSES
Like all University based Counselling Services, we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients. For our clients, the primary purpose for collecting personal information is to provide personal counselling For example, we collect information about a client's mental health history, including their family history, physical condition and function in social situations in order to help us assess what their mental health needs are, to advise them of their options and then to provide the counselling care they choose to have. A second primary purpose is to obtain a baseline of mental functioning and social information so that in providing ongoing counselling services we can identify changes that are occurring over time. It would be rare for us to collect such information without the client's express consent, but this might occur in an emergency. Our duty to report is defined by our professional body and the Mental Health Act.
WE COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION: RELATED & SECONDARY PURPOSES
Like most organizations, we also collect, use and disclose information for purposes related to or secondary to our primary purposes. The most common examples of our related and secondary purposes are as follows:
• To invoice clients for goods or services (i.e.: missed appts; resources not returned)
• To advise clients and others of special events or opportunities (e.g., a workshop, development of a new service) that we have available.
• We review client and other files for the purpose of ensuring that we provide high quality services, including assessing the performance of our staff. In addition, external consultants (e.g., auditors, lawyers) may on our behalf do audits and continuing quality improvement reviews of our services, including reviewing client files and interviewing our staff.
• The Coordinator of the Trent University Counselling Centre is a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers. Therefore, this regulatory body may inspect our records and interview our staff as a part of their regulatory activities in the public interest.
• Clients or other individuals we deal with may have questions about our goods or services after they have been received. We also provide ongoing services for many of our clients over a period of months or years for which our previous records are helpful. We retain our client information for a minimum of seven years to enable us to respond to those questions and provide these services (our regulatory College also requires us to retain our client records).
PROTECTING PERSONAL INFORMATION
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
• Paper information is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area.
• Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area at all times. In addition, passwords are used on computers.
• Paper information is transmitted through sealed & addressed envelopes
• Electronic information is transmitted through a direct line.
• External consultants and agencies with access to personal information must enter into privacy agreements with us.
RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
We need to retain personal information for some time to ensure that we can answer any questions you might have about the services provided and for our own accountability to external regulatory bodies. However, we do not want to keep personal information too long in order to protect your privacy. We keep our client files for about seven years. We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding.
YOU CAN LOOK AT YOUR INFORMATION
With only a few exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. Often all you have to do is ask. We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g., short forms, technical language, etc.). We will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with this access. We reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests. We may ask you to put your request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will tell you within 30 days if at all possible and tell you the reason, as best we can, as to why we cannot give you access.
If you believe there is a mistake in the information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. Where we agree that we made a mistake, we will make the correction and notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we have made a mistake, we will still agree to include in our file a brief statement from you on the point and we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the earlier information.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?
Our Information Officer is Sue Bartsch and she can be reached at:
Susan Bartsch, Privacy Officer
1st floor, Bata Library
748-1011 extension 1499
She will attempt to answer any questions or concerns you might have. If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may make it in writing to our Information Officer. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly and that you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing.
If you have a concern about the professionalism or competence of our services or the mental or physical capacity of any of our professional staff we would ask you to discuss those concerns with us. However, if we cannot satisfy your concerns, you are entitled to complain to our regulatory body:
ONTARIO COLLEGE OF SOCIAL WORKERS & SOCIAL SERVICE WORKERS
80 Bloor St.West; Suite 700
Toronto, ON, M5S 2V1
PHONE: (416) 972-9882
This policy is made under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act which took full effect in Ontario and most other provinces on January 1st 2004. Trent University has adopted new a new administrative Policy on the Management of Personal Information in Commercial Activities which is available on line at www.trentu.ca/admin.html. In addition, The Council of Ontario Universities has provided A Communication Guide to explain the federal privacy legislation and highlights of this document are also available on the web site.
As you are likely aware, there is a demand for counselling which sometimes results in students needing to wait for an appointment. It is also true that some students do not give us adequate notice that they will not be keeping their appointment. This results in lost appointment times that could have been used by other students.
We would therefore request that if you cannot attend your appointment, please call Counselling Services(748-1386) AT LEAST 24 HOURS IN ADVANCE to cancel. Voice mail messages can be left at any time of day. Failure to do so will result in a late fee of $ 25.00 per appointment. If there are clearly extenuating circumstances, please call or come in and ask to speak to the Coordinator.
The staff at Counselling Services welcomes your contact. We also value your privacy and time. Therefore, we want to let you know the options you have to reach us so that you can make the best decision. We take your time and confidentiality very seriously and we want you to understand the limitations of the use of email.
While we will do our best to keep your communications private, we cannot guarantee that your email will remain confidential. There are many ways that an email message can be intercepted. If you are concerned in any way about your email being read by someone other than the person you are contacting, please consider other methods of reaching us.
When we respond to your email, we will reply to the address from which it was sent. If you have concerns about other individuals having access to your email, please think about reaching us by telephone or stopping by our offices in Blackburn Hall, Suite 113. All email communication will be copied to a client file or otherwise saved in a miscellaneous file, if the sender or student referred to is not known to counselling services.
We do not believe that email is an appropriate medium for personal counselling so we do not offer on-line counselling through email. We would much prefer you to contact us in person or by telephone.
Response Time for Your Emails?
We try to check our email regularly. However, if you send us an email, you will not know how soon we will be able to get back to you. We may be on vacation, experiencing an illness, having problems with our network, or some other reason that does not allow us to check our email. This means that your message may not be read immediately.
If you need a timely response, please telephone us or drop by The Centre.
[Portions of these guidelines were adapted with permission from the University of Waterloo]
Trent University Counselling Services (TCS) strives to ensure that conditions are fair and consistent for all students, and that individual students are not disadvantaged by adverse personal circumstances beyond their control.
All extenuating situations resulting in an emotional upheaval will be reviewed and a determination rendered as to the level of disruption to a student’s academic progress. There is however a clear distinction between longstanding illness or difficulties which prevent a student from attending class or completing required work; and short-term or acute adjustments that may prevent a well prepared student from achieving his or her potential (e.g. environmental or situational trauma). Students with cyclical and episodic psychiatric symptoms (e.g. mood or anxiety disorders) that have persisted for over one year, may qualify for accommodations based on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These students are encouraged to register at Student Accessibility Services as well as Trent Counselling Services, although the latter will not provide a student with chronic mental health issues a letter of support for academic consideration beyond the student’s first year registered at Counselling Services.
- As a first step, students are expected to consult their professor(s) to request academic leniency prior to approaching the TCS for support.
- The TCS may require up to seven days to process a request for supportive documentation. In many instances a face-to-face meeting with a therapist will be required to validate a student’s concern and solicit consent to share information. Depending on the time of year, students may have to wait up to ten days for an appointment to see a therapist for this purpose.
- All supportive documentation will be provided at the discretion of the primary therapist and/or manager. The academic decisions and responsibility to ensure the essential requirements and integrity of a given course of study are met rests with the academic department
- All requests to support academic leniency (e.g. extensions) will be processed at the discretion of the primary therapist.
- All requests to support retroactive course withdrawal, incomplete standing, aegrotat standing, and academic suspension will be completed by the manager based on a file review and consultation with the primary therapist (if available). The student making this request must have had previous involvement with Counselling Services.
- In reviewing a file and determining the validity of the student’s request for support, the Manager will take into account the acute nature of the student’s situation, the overall effort the student invested to resolve his/her emotional challenges, and determine if it’s in the best interest of the student to support the request.
- It is usual practice to collaborate with the student’s senior tutor particularly when the documentation is needed for the Committee on Undergraduate Petitions (CUP). Student consent will be solicited for this purpose.
- The need for supporting documentation will not be considered “a crisis” that would warrant the use of one of the TCS emergency appointments.
- If a student requests and consents to the release of attendance records only, the therapists at counselling services will include the following statement in their letter of attendance:
Please note that a request for attendance information only does not permit Counselling Services to offer an opinion as to the presence of extenuating personal circumstances which may be used to establish the validity for an appeal. In addition, limited consent does not permit Counselling Services to offer an opinion as to what would be in the best interest of the student