We at Royalton Psychological Associates have identified an interesting dilemma recently. We work diligently to destigmatize mental health. Our lobby is a relaxed area that does not resemble a doctor’s office and encourages conversations among staff and families. Our office coordinator, Katie Lane, does not sit behind a sliding glass door, and we have a variety of comfortable sofas and chairs. We all make an effort to talk with clients and families in the lobby to exchange pleasantries, family updates, and general news. Just today I went up front to get my client and noticed how she was talking with three of the staff. We love a relaxed and comforting atmosphere.
When you come to RPA, there is a good chance you will know someone else. A friend of mine who sees one of our psychologists commented to me that every time she comes to RPA, she knows at least one if not two people. She thinks that is wonderful as everyone is getting help and taking care of themselves. We make a point to discuss lobby confidentiality, especially with our teenagers. I will often say, “Remember confidentiality extends to the lobby too. No one needs to know who else comes here.” My favorite time was when two adolescent boys saw one another in the lobby. The both of them just nodded and said, “Uh, huh.” Next week they were adamantly talking about sports with one another when I went out to the lobby. I enjoy when I go to the lobby and see an unrelated toddler and adolescent acting goofy together because the toddler lights up when the teen enters the lobby.
We had not thought there could be a downside to a comfortable atmosphere. We perhaps have become dare I say, too comfortable. Recently we have had a few instances of people who are not clients or family members in the lobby. We have had teenagers dropped off waiting for a ride, a parent brings their child and their child’s best friend to the lobby, and a boyfriend come into the lobby waiting for his girlfriend. On those occasions we have requested that the individuals leave as they are not clients and are not compelled to protect confidentiality the way that our clients and their families protect confidentiality. Please remember that we want you comfortable coming to session, and we want all clients and families feeling comfortable coming to RPA. To safeguard that we need to ensure that confidentiality extends to the lobby and only clients and families come into the office. Thank you for taking this matter seriously and ensuring everyone’s comfort and confidentiality.