Am I Allowed to Ask My Psychologist What She is Writing About Me?

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Reader’s Question

I’ve been seeing a psychologist for depression for a few months now, and I’ve noticed that like most (if not all) therapists, she takes notes during our sessions. I was just wondering, am I allowed to ask her what she is writing about me? I’m just curious as to what sort of impression I make and how I come across. I know if there was something important she would have brought it up already, but I just want to know what she thinks of me. I understand that all the things in my file are confidential, but I really want to know what’s in there! Will my therapist tell me if I ask her?

Psychologist’s Reply

You are allowed to ask your therapist anything and everything you want. That is true throughout your therapy, and I hope you take advantage of it. As for notes, you are the holder of privilege. That means you have the right to see the notes unless the therapist thinks there is something in there that would either harm you or require interpretation. In the latter case, you could use your session time to discuss her notes (and note taking) with her. Further, I think you should talk to her about your hesitancy to ask her directly. Perhaps she just didn’t explain her practice in the beginning, and you just need to go over that. Or perhaps you have difficulty asking other people for things too?

Not all therapists take notes, or they do so only at special times. For example, some therapists take notes when a patient is describing a dream. Sometimes the language of dreams requires a note or two to keep all the elements straight in your mind. For myself, I agree that note taking is distracting, and I don’t want another thing getting between me and my patient. The whole purpose of therapy, after all, is to be able to make a personal contact with each other. That is not assisted by notes.

In contrast, when I’m doing a psychological evaluation, I take notes constantly. A bit of separation from the patient is appropriate, and the format of the evaluation demands it.

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