Press Releases | California Therapists Criticize ICE’s Use of Minors’ Confidential Therapy Information

California Therapists Criticize ICE’s Use of Minors’ Confidential Therapy Information

CAMFT speaks out against  the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for sharing minors' confidential therapy information.

San Diego, CA -- The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) is speaking out against the practice of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) sharing minors’ confidential therapy information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to a recent report in the Washington Post, clinicians at ORR who provide trauma and grief therapy to unaccompanied minors have been directed by the administration to share information gathered in therapy with ICE officials, who then use the information to determine asylum eligibility. Minors who mention previous gang activity, drug dealings or criminal activity in their therapy session are at times detained, refused asylum, or have previously-granted asylum revoked.

Confidentiality in a psychotherapy session is critical for establishing trust and developing a therapeutic relationship between therapist and client. While CAMFT acknowledges that clinicians are mandated reporters who must break confidentiality if they believe their client presents a mortal threat to themselves or others, the practice of freely sharing confidential information between government agencies is against the spirit of confidentiality inherent in the patient/provider relationship. CAMFT is deeply disturbed that ICE is being given access to confidential information presented in therapy by traumatized, vulnerable minors who are in many cases not emotionally developed enough to consent to treatment, let alone consent to the sharing of the information given in treatment.

“These children are scared and alone, and the information they share in therapy should be private and bound by the confidentiality norms of mental health professions,” says CAMFT Executive Director, Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD, CAE. “To turn around and use the children’s own privately shared stories of trauma and exploitation to punish them is psychologically harmful and is simply unconscionable.” CAMFT asks this administration to end the dangerous policy of sharing confidential therapy notes with ICE officials.

About the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
CAMFT is an independent professional organization representing the interests of over 32,000 Marriage and Family Therapists and mental health workers who are experts in diagnosing and treating mental health issues. CAMFT is dedicated to promoting mental health, advancing the MFT profession, and maintaining high standards of professional ethics.