In Canada (Ontario), psychologists are required to maintain all clinical notes on file for clients for a period of 10 years following the client's last contact. If the client is under the age of 18, they are required to keep records until 10 years from the date at which the individual would have become 18. At the end of that time, records may be securely destroyed (e.g., shredding).

Other types of therapists in Ontario and psychologists in other provinces have similar requirements, although the length of time varies (e.g., I believe in some jurisdictions, the length of time is 7 years).

The clinical records can NOT be passed on to anyone else without your consent, which usually means a signed authorization.

Nothing in the clinical record may be disclosed to a third party except where:

  1. there is evidence of recent or ongoing child abuse, or a significant risk of child abuse, it which case that risk must be reported to child protection authorities;
  2. the client discloses a significant risk of imminent harm to self or others, in which case the practitioner must take all necessary steps to prevent that happening including notifying the police and/or a third party at risk for such harm; or
  3. the court grants a subpoena for the clinical records, in which case the clinician had a legal requirement to comply with the subpoena or risk the consequences of being found in contempt of court.


One additional limitation of confidentiality may apply where clients are under the age of 18 or 16 depending on the jurisdiction: The parents or legal guardians of the underage client may have a legal right to access the information contained in the clinical record.

Generally, I think you'll find that most jurisdictions have similar regulations. However, if in doubt, ask your therapist or ask the licensing board for your therapist (i.e., College of Psychologists, College of Social Workers, etc.).