The Consequences of Disrespecting Privacy and Boundaries

Man sits with praying hands.

The Consequences of Disrespecting Privacy and Boundaries

The Consequences of Disrespecting Privacy and Boundaries

You may be worried about your loved one in recovery, but seeking information about his mental or physical health without his permission will only hurt your relationship. 

When you disrespect a person’s boundaries and privacy, you violate the person’s trust. Everyone is entitled to his privacy and has the right to say “no” when he feels like someone crossed one of his boundaries. While you have the right to communicate your worries to your loved one and ask for information, you also have to accept that you might not get the information you want right away. It’s important to trust that, when the time is right, your loved one will talk to you about his recovery.

Client Confidentiality 

By law, treatment facilities, therapists, and other mental health professionals cannot discuss their client’s private information to anyone, including friends or family members, without the client’s consent. These facilities and professionals are compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). 

HIPAA is a national law that protects people’s right to privacy of their medical information. Unless specifically requested, it is illegal for any recovery facility or mental health professional to tell you any information involving your loved one’s recovery. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a mental health professional believes your loved one is at risk of hurting himself or others, you might be contacted depending on your relationship with the person.

Aside from the legality of confidentiality, keeping client information confidential allows mental health professionals to establish a trusting relationship with their clients. It’s important that your loved one feels comfortable opening up to not only his mental health professionals but to other patients at the facility. If he feels comfortable with his peers, it will help develop a support system that he’ll carry with him once treatment is completed.

Loss of Trust

A successful recovery requires a person to be able to trust himself, his community, and his mental health professionals. If you invade your loved one’s privacy looking for answers or constantly ask him pervasive questions, he is likely to be uninclined to trust you and may even have difficulty trusting other people in his support system. This can be especially dangerous because when your loved one feels like he’s back-peddling in his recovery, he might have difficulties trusting someone who could help him get back on his feet.

You Don’t Know

Understandably, you may want to know that your loved one is safe, making healthy decisions, changing negative behaviors, and understanding that his past actions have affected you. However, it is impossible for you to completely understand what your loved one is going through because it is not your journey — it’s his. 

Recovery is a very personal process that forces a person to look inward and analyze his life. A person may find this particularly difficult at the beginning of his journey, especially if the person is not used to opening up to others. It may take time for your loved one to process his own emotions before being able to understand how his actions have affected others. Recovery is complex and involves dissecting multiple layers of the person’s life.

Healthy Communication

While you don’t know what your loved one is going through during his recovery journey, he does not know what you’re going through in your emotional one. Let your emotional needs be known. If you feel that you need to have a difficult conversation with your loved one, let him know that you want to talk about unresolved feelings you have surrounding his substance use. If you want to be more involved in your loved one’s recovery process, you can ask him what type of support he needs and suggest keeping an open dialogue about his recovery. 

Potentially, your loved one might be hesitant to talk to you about his recovery because he is unsure if you are emotionally ready to talk about it. Both parties must be comfortable with having this conversation because trauma and emotional turmoil could be uncovered.

Respect Boundaries

Even once you communicate to your loved one that you want to discuss his recovery, he may still say “no.” If this is the case, you have to respect his boundaries. Pushing your agenda may lead to negative consequences for both of you. However, if you are struggling with events surrounding your loved one’s substance use and feel like you need to talk to someone, seek help from a mental health professional. You may need to start an emotional journey of your own.