Can my mother's psychologist communicate with me if I don't have power of attorney for healthcare?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 10, 2009
Dsajsa asked...

What can I expect from my mother's psychologist? Can she tell me anything about my mother's condition if I don't have power of attorney?

Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

Legally, you cannot get information from your mother's psychologist about her condition unless you have either:

  • a power of attorney for her health care, or
  • written authorization for release of information that your mother has signed while she had the proper mental capacity.

Beware that the written authorizations often have an expiration date. If expired, you would need a new one, or a power of attorney for your mom's health care.

If you don’t have either form of written authority, think about spending time with your mom to observe behavior, symptoms and patterns. If you notice things, but don't know what sense to make of them, you could ask a psychologist for an opinion; it doesn't have to be your mom's psychologist.

Also, are there others who might be able to provide their impressions of your mom? Who else does she have contact with -- neighbors, friends, relatives, caregivers? Find out whether any of these folks would be willing to answer your questions. And again, if their answers are puzzling, you could consult with a psychologist to help make sense of them.