Are Communications With My Therapist or Marriage Counselor Admissible in Court?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • There are statutes in Connecticut that protect communications between individuals and certain treatment providers
  • The communications between a psychiatrist and patient as well as a psychologist and patient may be privileged if the communications occurred during diagnosis or treatment
  • Communications with a marriage or family therapist are privileged as long as the counselor has met certain certification qualifications

Divorce litigants in Fairfield County, Connecticut often ask whether or not statements made during therapy are subject to disclosure during divorce proceedings. Sometimes, people are afraid of saying something in marriage counseling or therapy that may “hurt” their divorce case. Most of the time, this concern is unnecessary. The laws of the state of Connecticut recognize that there are certain communications between individuals which should remain private and confidential. In fact, there are statutes in Connecticut which specifically provide criteria for determining whether communications with psychologists, psychiatrists, and marriage or family therapists are privileged. Whether or not communications are privileged really depends on the circumstances of the therapy as well as the qualifications of the therapist. For this reason, it can be helpful for potential clients to understand the nuances of the privilege in advance of engaging a marriage counselor or therapist.

Psychologist/Patient Privilege

Connecticut General Statutes §52-146(c) details exactly what is considered a privileged communication between psychologist and patient. Generally speaking, for a communication between psychologist and patient to be considered as privileged, it must have occurred during consultation for purposes of diagnosis and treatment. This means that if you have a casual conversation with friend who is a psychologist, for example, you should not expect that communication to be privileged. The statute further requires that the psychologist be licensed to practice pursuant to state law.

Psychiatrist/Patient Privilege

Similar to the psychologist-patient privilege, the privilege between a psychiatrist and patient extends to any written or oral communications, or records, related to the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. The relevant statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-142(c)(a), defines a psychiatrist as someone who licensed to practice medicine and spends a substantial portion of his or her time devoted to the practice of psychiatry.

Marriage and Family Therapist

It would be very difficult to make any progress in marriage therapy if each party was afraid that his or her words could ultimately be used against that party. Accordingly, there is a statute in Connecticut that specifically addresses those communications that are made in marriage counseling or in family therapy. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. S52-146p, communications (written or oral) with a marriage or family therapist are considered privileged as long as the therapist is certified by the Connecticut Department of Health Services as a Marital and Family Therapist.

Waiving the Statutory Privilege

Generally, in order for privileged communications to be admissible in Court, there must be consent of the patient. In family or marriage therapy, which includes more than one person in treatment, communications remain confidential unless all of the parties to the therapy consent to the therapist disclosing communications. However, the statutes provide some exceptions to the requirement for consent, in limited circumstances. One example is if a party has introduced his or her psychological condition as an element of his or her claim, such as in a custody dispute, the communications may be disclosed without consent.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are experienced in divorce cases that involve psychologists, psychiatrists and marriage counselors and have litigated issues regarding privileged communications in courts throughout the state, including Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury.