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Terms and Policy

Client Service Agreement
Due to the nature of the therapeutic relationship, it is important for us to maintain clarity regarding client services. Please read the following and feel free to discuss any part of it with me. We will discuss the Informed Consent and Client Service Agreements during our first session.

You as the client understand that distance therapy is a different experience as compared to in-person sessions, among those being the lack of “personal” face-to-face interactions and the lack of visual and audio cues in the therapy process, which you may have previously come to expect.

You understand that telephone/online psychotherapy with me is not a substitute for medication under the care of a psychiatrist or doctor.

You understand that online and telephone therapy is not appropriate if you are experiencing a crisis or having suicidal or homicidal thoughts. If a life-threatening crisis should occur, you agree to contact a crisis hotline, call 911, or go to a hospital emergency room.

• GEOGRAPHICAL LIMITATIONS: You understand that I follow the laws and professional regulations of the state of California (USA) and that psychotherapy treatment must take place in the state of California. I do not conduct online therapy with clients whose permanent domicile is located outside of the state of California.

As a part of the counseling orientation process within California, I will collaborate with my clients to identify an appropriately trained professional who can provide local assistance, including crisis intervention, if needed.

• AGE REQUIREMENTS: I am not treating minors using Online Therapy at this time.

• FEE: Current rates for therapeutic services are posted on my Online Therapy website. Fees are due at the time of your appointment and payments are processed online. I do not participate on insurance panels as either a preferred or out-of-network provider. I will not communicate with clients’ insurance companies at any time for any reason. Upon request, I do provide my clients with a Superbill that summarizes my services. Clients are responsible for ascertaining what services, if any, are reimbursable from their insurance companies.

• TELEPHONE & EMERGENCY PROCEDURES: If you need to speak with me between sessions to alert me of an emergency, please call 323 549 5377. Your call will be returned as soon as possible. Messages are checked daily (but never during the night time). If an emergency situation arises that requires immediate attention, you may call the emergency National Suicide Hotline at 800-784-2433 or dial 911. If a life-threatening crisis should occur, you agree to contact a crisis hotline, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room. 

• CANCELLATION: If you must cancel your appointment, a 24-hour advance notice is required in order to avoid being charged the full fee for that session. I appreciate knowing about cancellations as early as possible. Missed sessions may not be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.

• CONFIDENTIALITY: All information disclosed within sessions and the written records pertaining to those sessions are confidential and may not be revealed to anyone without your written permission, except where disclosure may be required or is required by law. Likewise, you are expected to keep our communications confidential and you understand that all records of communication between client and therapist remain the property of Lucy Cotter, MFT.

When Disclosure Is Required By Law: All information between the client and the therapist is held in strict confidence. Exceptions to confidentiality include: 1) suspected child abuse, 2) elder abuse, 3) if a client intends to do harm to her/himself or others, and 4) if the client signs a release authorizing the therapist to speak with a designated individual.

When Disclosure May be Required:  Disclosure may be required pursuant to a legal proceeding. If you are involved in a custody dispute or if you place your mental status at issue in litigation initiated by you, the defendant may have the right to obtain the psychotherapy records and/or testimony by me.

Confidentiality of audio and video communications in individual and group therapy is protected by encryption and on a secure site. Please limit the contents of email to me from your personal email account to housekeeping issues such as appointment times, cancellation or change in contact information. I will not respond to personal and clinical concerns via regular email. If you call me, please be aware that unless we are both on landline phones, the conversation is not confidential.  Likewise, text messages are not confidential. Any computer files referencing our communication are maintained using secure and encrypted measures. A secure site to maintain confidentiality handles the information on the intake questionnaire.
I make every effort to keep all information confidential. Likewise, if we are working online together, I ask that you determine who has access to your computer and electronic information from your location. This would include family members, co-workers, supervisors and friends. I encourage you to only communicate through a computer that you know is safe, i.e. wherein confidentiality can be ensured. Be sure to fully exit all online counseling sessions and emails.

• CLIENT IDENTITY: Identification, such as a California Drivers license, birth certificate or passport may be required. In situations where it is difficult to verify the identity of the Internet client, steps will be taken to address impostor concerns, such as by using code words or numbers.

• PROCEDURES SHOULD WE ENCOUNTER TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES OR DISRUPTIONS IN SEVICE: It is understood that when communicating by Internet or other electronic means, disruptions in service or other technical difficulties may occur from time to time. Should a disruption occur at a time of crisis, the patient agrees to immediately phone me at 323 549-5377. If we are unable to connect or are disconnected during a session due to a technical issues, please try to reconnect within 10 minutes. If reconnection is not possible, contact me to schedule a new session time.

• MISUNDERSTANDINGS OR CONCERNS: It is understood that sometimes the written word can be misunderstood. If we are communicating with text, and you have questions about the meaning of my statements to you, you are asked to bring these to my attention as soon as practical and possible so that any misunderstandings may be explained and any ensuing problems may be averted or avoided.

• TERMINATION: During the initial intake process and the first couple of sessions, we will assess if I can be of benefit to you. If you have requested online counseling, our assessment will include your suitability to psychotherapy delivered via technology. If we decide that Online Therapy with me is not a match for you, I will give you a number of referrals that you may contact. If at any point during psychotherapy, I assess that I am not effective in helping you reach your therapeutic goals, I am obliged to discuss this with you, up to and including termination of treatment. In such a case, I would also provide referrals. If you request and authorize it in writing, I will talk to the psychotherapist of your choice in order to help with the transition. You have the right to terminate therapy at any time.

• LITIGATION LIMITATION: Due to the nature of the therapeutic process and the fact that it often involves making a full disclosure with regard to many matters which may be of a confidential nature, it is agreed that should there be legal proceedings (such as, but not limited to divorce and custody disputes, injuries, lawsuits, etc.), neither you (client) nor your attorney, nor anyone else acting on your behalf will call on me to testify in court or at any other proceeding, nor will a disclosure of the psychotherapy records be requested.

• DISPUTE RESOLUTION: All disputes arising out of or in relation to this agreement to provide psychotherapy services shall first be referred to mediation, before, and as a pre-condition of the initiation of arbitration. The mediator shall be a neutral third party chosen by agreement of Lucy Cotter, MFT and the client(s). The cost of such mediation, if any, shall be split equally, unless otherwise agreed. In the event that mediation is unsuccessful, any unresolved controversy related to this agreement should be submitted to and settled by binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association which are in effect at the time the demand for arbitration is filed. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that your account is overdue (unpaid) and there is no agreement on a payment plan, I can use legal means (court, collection agency, etc.) to obtain payment. The prevailing party in arbitration or collection proceedings shall be entitled to recover a reasonable sum for attorneys’ fees. In the case of arbitration, the arbitrator will determine that sum.

I understand and agree to the above Client Service Agreement.
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