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Therapy Patients’ Bill of Rights

831325_21590848The American Psychiatric Association and others adhere to a mental health bill of rights,  which is important for every patient/patient’s advocate and mental health/addiction professional to read.

The bill is comprehensive but quite legalistic in language and content, so we decided to create a list of some practical and relatively easy-to-put-into-practice patient rights, some of which are based on the good work of the APA.

No matter what methods or techniques your therapist uses, there are universal recommendations for the process of therapy.  In themselves, these are not revolutionary in the least, but when taken in context of what some views of accepted practice are, they may very well be.

Also, it’s important to note that there are exceptions to every rule and not all of these rights may be applicable in every situation.

In honor of National Mental Health Month, here’s our user-friendly Therapy Patients’ Bill of Rights:

1. A therapy patient has the right to know their therapist’s credentials, experience, and professional background. 

2. A patient has the right to ask any therapist their outcome rates. These rates are determined by doing follow-up tracking with a reasonable percentage of patients after they leave therapy to see how they are maintaining. One year follow up is ideal. Outcome rates (successful or not), should be made available to all potential patients/clients upon request but of most use to the patient are outcome rates that are specific to the patient’s disorder.

3. A therapy patient has a right to receive a comprehensive and thorough psychosocial evaluation/history.

4. A therapy patient has a right to a diagnosis and prognosis at as early a stage of therapy as possible. Additional experts including, but not limited to, psychiatrists, addiction specialists, and so on may be required to assist the therapist in reaching a diagnosis.

5. A therapy patient has the right to a written treatment plan that should be created together with the therapist and utilized, with necessary amendments and changes, throughout the course of therapy.

6. A therapy patient has a right to understand the costs of individual therapy sessions and projected costs of total therapy sessions upon request, before committing to a course of therapy.

7. A therapy patient has the right to a beginning, middle and an end to therapy. If protracted or ongoing therapy is required, then the patient has the right to understand why their diagnosis might warrant this course of action.

8. A therapy patient has the right to expect to achieve specific goals and objectives by agreed-upon target dates.

9. A patient has the right to have his or her own treatment responsibilities explained thoroughly as well as understand the therapist’s responsibilities to the therapy process and to the patient. This includes the responsibility of the therapist to try a different course of treatment and/or refer patients to another therapist if therapy is ineffective after a reasonable period of time.

10. A patient has the right to complete confidentiality as provided for by state and federal laws and regulations.

Did we leave out any essentials? Do you have an addendum? Should we get rid of anything? We want to hear from you!

Therapy Patients’ Bill of Rights

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2013). Therapy Patients’ Bill of Rights. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 28 May 2013
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