Can I legally and ethically write a memoir about this particular topic?

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Gloaming

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So here's what I want to write my memoir about:

I have been in a therapeutic treatment program for teens and young adults ages 18-26 for the past 2 and a half years. It's a residential facility, but it's not the psych ward or a mental hospital. It's a program - something that most people know nothing about. The amount of treatment programs is surprisingly large in the United States, but unless you were in one or have a family member or friend who was in one, you probably don't know about it. I want to share my experiences being in treatment with the world. Many of the other residents of the program have stories that I could include as well. I think it would be a very valuable book, and people would learn a lot about the American system of mental healthcare institutions.

I don't know if it is legal, though. With HIPPAA, a confidentiality contract I was told to sign when I entered the program, I can't legally talk about any other program resident's treatment plan until 2 years after we part. Does this mean I can't write this memoir? Is there a way around the rule?

Also, is it ethically right to write about such a thing? Let me know what you think.
 

cmhbob

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I'd get an opinion from someone who specializes in HIPAA and contract law about the legality. I'd suspect that if you contacted them personally and got written permission to write about them, that would override anything else, but IANAL.

As far as ethically, it's your memoir about your treatment and your situation. There are about half a bazillion memoirs about things like that. I don't think there's an ethical question about the personal aspect.

And there's nothing wrong with writing chapters about other people as long as you're prepared to axe them.

Best wishes on your treatment.
 

cornflake

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So here's what I want to write my memoir about:

I have been in a therapeutic treatment program for teens and young adults ages 18-26 for the past 2 and a half years. It's a residential facility, but it's not the psych ward or a mental hospital. It's a program - something that most people know nothing about. The amount of treatment programs is surprisingly large in the United States, but unless you were in one or have a family member or friend who was in one, you probably don't know about it. I want to share my experiences being in treatment with the world. Many of the other residents of the program have stories that I could include as well. I think it would be a very valuable book, and people would learn a lot about the American system of mental healthcare institutions.

I don't know if it is legal, though. With HIPPAA, a confidentiality contract I was told to sign when I entered the program, I can't legally talk about any other program resident's treatment plan until 2 years after we part. Does this mean I can't write this memoir? Is there a way around the rule?

Also, is it ethically right to write about such a thing? Let me know what you think.

You can write your story. Writing other people's stories or treatment plans is legally likely to be a mess and ethically to me, completely out of bounds.

Why can't you write about you? Their stories are not yours to share.

You could just write a novel.
 

Chris P

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Recovery memoir is a genre unto itself. Many people have written books like you dscribe, so why not you? The water's warm, so jump right in. I don't know what other authors did to protect themselves legally, but they did it sucessfully.
 

cornflake

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Recovery memoir is a genre unto itself. Many people have written books like you dscribe, so why not you? The water's warm, so jump right in. I don't know what other authors did to protect themselves legally, but they did it sucessfully.

Some of them fictionalize stuff, some likely get clearances, some may chance it, I dunno.

That is another point btw. There may be some people unaware of residential treatment programs for stuff but I don't know any. It's pretty well-trod territory.
 

JJ Litke

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That is another point btw. There may be some people unaware of residential treatment programs for stuff but I don't know any. It's pretty well-trod territory.

Yeah, that was my reaction—who doesn't know about residential treatment programs?
 

Siri Kirpal

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EMaree, I read the OP to say that he/she was IN treatment. That doesn't sound to me like a therapist, but a patient.

So, yeah, if you focus on your own story and don't talk about the other patients, it should be okay. But do check a lawyer if you're concerned.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gloaming

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Thanks everyone. I wasnt actually aware that there were other memoirs like this already published. Maybe I should have realized this. Could anyone suggest books of this genre to me? I suspect that my book will be different but it is hard to say before reading any others.

As to the idea to talk to a lawyer for HIPPAA advice - I would but I would have to ask program authorities for permission and the answer will be no once they know why. perhaps I could write it first then ask? Would that be worth doing?

I would rather not fictionalize my story to protect people. It is true and real and it is mine, and I am not willing to dumb down my experiences. Also people need to be made aware of how bad my program is for people who are in it. I think it should be shut down for illegal activity but there is no proof. My memoir could be proof or at least testimony. I don't want other kids going through the same thing as me.

I need to find a way to express everything without breaking the law myself.
 

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Do not count any of this as legal advice: I am not a lawyer, and cannot advise you on the law.

1) If you want legal advice, please ask a lawyer, not a bunch of random internet people.

2) You signed a non-disclosure agreement prior to treatment: this means you are not allowed to disclose what happens in the programme, so you almost certainly can't write about your experiences and publish it.

3) There's a huge ethical problem with you writing about the other people in the programme. That really is not on. It's intrusive and inappropriate.

4) If you think the programme should be shut down, you're not likely to get permission from them to publish your writings.

I've closed the thread. We are not qualified to give you the advice you need.
 
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