Understanding Confidentiality and Voluntary Services
Some of the most frequent questions asked about the EAP is regarding the employee's privacy. Specifically, does the EAP staff report the employee’s use of its services? The general answer is NO.
When you voluntarily seek services from the EAP, your participation is confidential and no information is given by the EAP to anyone, including your manager and family, unless you give written permission. Even your visit date and time cannot be disclosed without your signed release. The only exceptions are those required by law (e.g., child or elder abuse or neglect, situations where there may be a threat of imminent harm to self or others). Additionally, there are exclusions when you are required to attend EAP for an assessment (i.e., Fitness for Duty evaluation or to safeguard national security). All of our psychologists are licensed in the state of California, therefore, each is legally bound by the laws of confidentiality.
If you are mandated as a Fitness for Duty referral to attend the EAP, an alternate Consent Form is used which allows EAP to communicate with your referring manager re: your attendance at EAP, compliance with treatment, work accommodations, and restrictions. This information is explained to you at the onset of your counseling visit. The appointment will not proceed if there are questions or concerns about the limits to your confidentiality. No information is disclosed about your diagnosis or details given about additional treatment that may be recommended.
The laws of confidentiality extend to your EAP record as well. Your EAP record is kept separate from all other records and is not a part of your medical record. Your EAP record can only be accessed by EAP’s licensed psychologists and administrative support. In all instances, access to your information is granted on a strict need-to-know basis. Your visits will not be noted in your personnel file or medical record.
As a matter of your personal privacy, there is no need to disclose the specifics to your manager about your seeking assistance. You may elect to simply say that you are going to Health Services. Some label the time as “personal,” “meeting,” or “medical” on their Outlook or on an “out” board. Others are comfortable in telling a trusted co-worker or supervisor, in the event that there is a work need that develops while the individual is out of the office. We can assist you to find ways that are comfortable to talk with your manager, if you prefer to disclose this information directly. As the EAP is a benefit to employees, you may charge your primary account number for the meeting time with the EAP psychologist.
There are several instances when an employee (or supervisor) is required to make a report to Central Clearance. These include: hospitalization for a mental health concern, treatment for a substance use disorder, or hospitalization for a substance use disorder. The EAP psychologist can advise employees on this reporting requirement, however, the psychologist does not make a direct report of this information, without written consent from the employee.
Currently when an employee goes through an initial clearance investigation or reinvestigation, the questions regarding one’s mental health have recently changed. The QNSP (SF-86) will ask the employee if he or she has ever been diagnosed with a major mental health disorder, if a mental health condition has substantially adversely impacted their judgment or reliability, or has alcohol use had a negative impact on any aspect of his or her life. There is no longer an inquiry about seeking counseling. In fact, there is a statement on the QSNP that reads “Seeking or receiving mental health care for personal wellness and recovery may contribute favorably to decisions about your eligibility (for a security clearance).” If DOE wants more information on any “yes” responses, they will ask for a consent to be completed. Prior treatment providers may be contacted by the investigator. They do not see the counseling record and currently have a standard question: “Does the person under investigation have a condition that could impair his or her judgment, reliability, or ability to properly safeguard classified national security information?” Dates of service and prognosis are also requested. Generally, there are no concerns raised by this process when the employee has received services to address their mental health and have demonstrated a period of time of stability. If the investigator has additional concerns, the employee may be referred to a DOE psychologist or psychiatrist for an interview.
To avoid any ambiguity, the following is the e-QIP Section 21 verbatim.
Section 21 - Psychological and Emotional Health
The U.S. government recognizes the critical importance of mental health and advocates proactive management of mental health conditions to support the wellness and recovery of Federal employees and others. Every day individuals with mental health conditions carry out their duties without presenting a security risk. While most individuals with mental health conditions do not present security risks, there may be times when such a condition can affect a person's eligibility for a security clearance.
Individuals experience a range of reactions to traumatic events. For example, the death of a loved one, divorce, major injury, service in a military combat environment, sexual assault, domestic violence, or other difficult work- related, family, personal, or medical issues may lead to grief, depression, or other responses. The government recognizes that mental health counseling and treatment may provide important support for those who have experienced such events, as well as for those with other mental health conditions. Nothing in this questionnaire is intended to discourage those who might benefit from such treatment from seeking it.
Mental health treatment and counseling, in and of itself, is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information or for holding a sensitive position, suitability or fitness to obtain or retain Federal or contract employment, or eligibility for physical or logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems. Seeking or receiving mental health care for personal wellness and recovery may contribute favorably to decisions about your eligibility.
Has a court or administrative agency EVER issued an order declaring you mentally incompetent?
Has a court or administrative agency EVER ordered you to consult with a mental health professional (for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, etc.)? (An order to a military member by a superior officer is not within the scope of this question, and therefore would not require an affirmative response. An order by a military court would be within the scope of the question and would require an affirmative response.)
Have you EVER been hospitalized for a mental health condition?
The following question asks whether you have been diagnosed with a specified mental health condition that may, particularly if untreated, impact your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness. If you answer in the affirmative, we will seek additional information about the seriousness and symptoms of the condition, as well as any applicable course of treatment. It is important to note that any such diagnosis, in and of itself, is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information or for holding a sensitive position, suitability or fitness to obtain or retain Federal or contract employment, or eligibility for physical or logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems.
Have you EVER been diagnosed by a physician or other health professional (for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or nurse practitioner) with psychotic disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, bipolar mood disorder, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder?
Do you have a mental health or other health condition that substantially adversely affects your judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness even if you are not experiencing such symptoms today?
Other questions pertain to those who hold a special certification, e.g. HRP, NFCP, SPO. For these certifications, there is an additional “layer” of evaluation regarding one’s suitability for their work. If there was a concern regarding the employee’s judgment or reliability, it would be discussed between the psychologist and employee.
For individuals who hold an SCI clearance, there are additional reporting requirements to the Deputy Director for the Field Intelligence Element (FIE) for seeking counseling. There remains encouragement for seeking help early when a problem is identified. It is only under extreme circumstances (significant impairment) that there could be a suspension of the certification or SCI. One of our psychologists can discuss what might fall within this category, even by an anonymous call to our staff.