The Interface between Mental Health Providers, Families, and Schools: Parent and Child Attitudes about Information-Sharing

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Youth with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are at an increased risk for school problems and negative consequences into adulthood, increasing the need for collaboration between families, school personnel and mental health providers. Current treatment guidelines emphasize the importance of information-sharing between providers and schools, yet few studies have addressed parents' or students' attitudes and preferences about this process or about the disclosure of mental health-related information to school professionals. Using a sample of 73 pairs of parents and their adolescents seeking outpatient treatment, this study assessed parental and adolescent attitudes about disclosure of mental health treatment information to school personnel. The majority of parents reported that the school should be informed that their adolescent was receiving counseling or medication for EBD, and that they should be the primary informant, rather than providers. By comparison, adolescents preferred more discretion about their involvement in treatment. Taken together, the study results highlight a number of implications relevant to the therapeutic relation and the process of obtaining and sharing mental health-related treatment information with various school personnel. Future research directions regarding the consultative and collaborative process with school personnel are also discussed.

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