A roadbump while looking for records

Last week I was speaking in therapy about the therapy I had been in during high school, this included my experience with DBT.
It inspired me to google my DBT therapist. I found his website. He’s moved to a new location very far from where I met with him.
I looked at the list of articles he’s written. There was one on psychodynamic therapy. That threw me off. Nothing about the time I met with him would have led me to guess that. It somehow made me vilify him less, because now the possibility exists that we might have some similar theoretical views.
It’s strange though because everything else on his page is about DBT and CBT, all but this one out of place psychodynamic article.

I decided to read the psychodynamic article.
Looking at the abstract I realize, “I think I’ve read something else that cited something similar”.
I continued reading, “No. I’ve definitely read something else that cited this exact study.”
It only took looking up two recently-ish read articles to find the one I was thinking of.

I’d had this other article folded open on my desk for weeks to the page he’s cited on and not had a clue.
I had that particular page open, because I’d highlighted some interesting quotes. I’d been thinking of writing about it here. I feel the quotes address the key problems I had in DBT.
The highlighted quotes had nothing to do with his contribution to the article, but what a strange coincidence that he would be on the same page.

I decided I want to contact him for my records. The idea is in my head. I’m stubborn and don’t want to let go of the idea once it is there.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am collecting my psych records bit by bit. It started as a effort to get closure with the therapist who kicked me out of school and then spread to all my other treatments as well.

Private practice records are harder to obtain, so I have fewer of those, but gathering as many as I can is a project I pick up from time to time.

I called the number on his website. It was disconnected. Maybe I dialed wrong, I tried again and again and again. Definitely disconnected.

Double checked the website, looks like it may not have been updated since 2008.

I checked the whois info, but it was set to private via a third party.

After some debate, I decided to send an email. Less than ideal for this situation, but I included my phone number and address so he could contact me.
I don’t have anyway of knowing if he still actively checks this email address. It is associated with his domain name and if he’s not updated the website enough to fix his phone number, I have doubts that he would also check the email.

The next day I received two phone calls from a “withheld” number. They didn’t leave a message and I was unable to answer at the time. I wondered if it was him. I’ve been waiting since then to see if this “withheld” number will call again, but they haven’t. I’ve been kicking myself mentally for not excusing myself to answer the phone.

I decided to pursue other options, while waiting.

I looked up his lisence. It’s active and was renewed in Jan 2010, so I know he didn’t just decide to stop practicing.

I called a former employer to ask if they knew a way to contact him. They didn’t.

I called his state license organization to see if they could help. They had information, but couldn’t disclose it due to privacy reasons. Understandable.

I called ABCT(his website said he’s a member). They said that for $54 I could join and gain access to their member database which maybe had the information I was looking for, but couldn’t guarantee.

I realized I could look in the APA member database for him. I ran a search. He showed up, but I received a notice saying “This Member has opted not to publish information in the directory”.

I’ve google searched his name and location in every imaginable combination, including yellow page searches. I only find his old office and the new number that is disconnected.

I googled for obituaries to make sure he’s not dead. Nothing came up, so I assume he is alive.

I’m tempted to send him another email asking if the “withheld” number was him and if so apologizing for not answering and then listing times I am more available to answer the phone. But I don’t feel confident enough that it was him. I have a guess of someone else it might be. If it was him why wouldn’t he send me an email saying he’d tried to reach me by phone unsuccessfully?

It’s funny. A reason I left was because he wanted me to call him whenever I was going to cut. I objected. He said he couldn’t meet with me if I couldn’t agree to that. Now here I am trying to find a way to phone him.

Besides sending him another email, I am out of ideas.
It’s a strange situation. I have a right to my records, but what is one to do when the person holding the records is unreachable?

18 thoughts on “A roadbump while looking for records

    • I called the HIPAA people to see if they had advice. They told me to contact the BBB, which is useless advice because the BBB is a joke and even if I did contact them I would need an address to file a complaint.

      I tracked down another former employer and sent an email, but no reply. I have a phone number (two actually) I can try, but I think if she didn’t reply to the email it probably means she has no answer.

      Reply
  1. good luck….!! let us know how it works out.

    i am curious – in the US, you’re entitled to your records, but psychotherapy notes are handled very differently. In a nutshell, therapists have huge discretion on whether or not or how much of your records to give to you.

    Is the law different in canada?

    Reply
    • I’m not Canadian so no clue there.

      I’ve read through much of the HIPAA rules regarding getting records.
      HIPAA doesn’t require that I have access to notes specifically, but I gather that I do have access to a record of treatment in some form.
      In the US my understanding is that if they think seeing the records (not notes) would cause you to be a danger to yourself or others they can refuse. It’s easy enough for them to make up some rational about why you might be a danger to yourself from reading them and give an excuse to refuse. One place insisted the records had to be sent to my therapist and couldn’t be given directly to me. I think they thought if they made enough hoops to jump through I would go away.
      Getting the full notes from a private practice therapist is hard. I’ve only managed to get full day by day notes from when the therapist worked as a part of a larger institution. Best I’ve gotten from private practice is a summary.
      I would be okay with a summary letter as an alternative, but I figure start out asking for the best possible outcome and then negotiate down if needed.

      Reply
    • http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/administrative/combined/index.html

      If you read page 64 there’s a clearer definition of what “notes” are.
      Basically there’s a lot of info that is excluded from the definition of notes, that isn’t part of HIPAA’s exclusion of notes. So some of the info that may be in the therapist’s notes is info that is excluded from the definition of notes in this legal sense. So it’s complicated. If he refused notes he’d still have to put that info into a summary format.

      Reply
  2. Oh, I’m so sorry – I have no idea why I thought you were canadian.

    Yes, I’m quite familiar with HIPAA (unfortunately…). It could be that I’m just not as fluent in it as you are (seriously) but it does state pretty clearly that psychotherapy notes are an exception to PHI rights. You’re right, there are some exceptions insofar as that definition, but in practice it basically comes down to medication regime and changes, dates seen, billing.

    I had the world’s worst psychiatrist who was guilty of professional misconduct at the least, gross negligence at the worst several years ago. I looked into all of this with a lawyer who specialized in the field from a big name east coast firm and we still couldn’t get the info (though that may be because his notes, if they exist, probably are not corroborated by reality). At any rate, I imagine you’ve done more research on this then I have, but just wanted to toss out that he’s really only legally obligated to give the absolute bare minimum…and I mean really, really bare.

    It sucks. HIPPA isn’t supposed to protect the consumer from him/herself!

    Good luck, and keep us posted.

    Reply
    • The definition also excludes “diagnosis, functional status, symptoms, prognosis and progress to date”.
      Which is really quite a lot of stuff. So all that stuff then falls into the general PHI category.
      I’m not specifically asking for notes, I’m asking for “records” and seeing how that gets interpreted. If it means notes, that’s stellar, but if not a summary with that PHI would be great.

      But yea, it’s very easy for them to only give as much as they want. There’re a lot of loop holes for them. I don’t have any reason to believe this DBT therapist will give me too hard a time, once I track him down.

      Reply

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