My rights: Confidentiality and privacy



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Puzzle Pieces - What

Consent is a term used to talk about how decisions around your medical care are made. Consent means having choice and the ability to say yes or no to different treatment and service options. According to the Health Care Consent Act, a person of any age can agree to (or refuse) mental health treatment and choose the type of treatment they want, as long as they have capacity—which means they are considered capable of making this decision.

Consent must always be given willingly. That means the choice you make should be your own, and nobody should force you to make the decision.

You must be able to consent to your treatment. This means that you understand the information you are given about your medical care. If you don't understand, you are allowed to ask questions. You should be able to get answers in words that you understand, so you can make a decision you are comfortable with. You should also be able to understand the risks and benefits of making this decision.

Sometimes, you may not be able to choose or agree to your treatment, and you may be given treatment involuntarily. This can occur if you are unwell and unable to understand what is happening. In that case, your parents, caregivers, another family member, a doctor or a legal authority might make decisions for you. As your treatment continues and you get better, you may be able to give consent later. This is a changing process—and that is OK. When possible, you should always be involved in the decision making, even if you can’t make the final decision yourself.


Korah is having mental health struggles. Her family doctor refers her to a mental health hospital. During her first appointment, her therapist asks if she is interested in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Korah is unsure about using CBT because her friend did not have a good experience with it. Korah takes her mom to her next appointment. The therapist mentions CBT again, but Korah is still not sure. Korah’s mom now agrees with the therapist and pushes Korah toward starting CBT. Korah knows her rights and that her consent to treatment must be given willingly. Korah finds out more about CBT and how it works. She asks the therapist lots of questions and learns more about CBT. Korah is now able to make an informed decision about her care, knowing the risks and benefits. She decides she is willing to give CBT a try.


Idris has been going to one-on-one counselling for his substance use. His counsellor suggests that he join a group at the agency, where many service users talk about their challenges with substance use. Idris agrees to try the group therapy. He joins the weekly group and fits right in. He enjoys sharing his experiences and listening to others who are facing similar challenges. After a couple of weeks, Idris starts feeling very anxious and uneasy when he thinks about the group. He is not sure why he feels this way. He talks to his counsellor and expresses his new feelings. He says he would like to take a break from the group. The counsellor agrees with Idris’s idea. Idris had previously given his consent to join a group and now he has changed his mind and is not consenting to group therapy anymore.

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