Visitor Question

Psychiatrist Locked Door with Child in His Office…

Submitted By: Bella (California)

We took my 6 year old son to a psychiatrist. The doctor insisted that the mother (me) stay outside and that my son should be alone. At some point I realized I forgot to tell the doctor something and I knocked. I knocked several times without a response, then I tried to open the door and it was locked. I started calling the doctor and trying to move the door handle, eventually he opened the door.

Afterwards the atmosphere felt very strange. I do not know what happened in the room and when I asked the doctor, he said they were drawing and planning. My son was very quiet when he came out of the office, but then started being very angry later in the evening. Since that incident my son’s behavior has changed 180 degrees. He cries all the time, he is sad, and he says his life is stupid.

Is it legal for the psychiatrist to have a 6 year old in the room with him with the door locked? I hate to think that something bad may have happened. Is there anything I can do? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Bella,

We did some research and found the following:

In the State of California confidentiality between a physician and patient begins at the age of 12. That means for medical purposes and confidentiality, if your son was 12 years old he could have told the doctor he wanted to keep any discussions strictly confidential.

But your son was 6. At that age in California there is no confidentiality between your son and his doctor. You have a right to know what conversations took place in the room, locked or not, between your son and his doctor.

Go to This is the California Medical Board’s Web site. In it is a link to the California’s Department of Consumer Complaints. It also has some frequently answered questions.

We weren’t able to find a direct prohibition against doctors locking their doors, whether for adults or minors. But the implication of consent and confidentiality would clearly apply in your son’s case. The doctor did open the door, albeit apparently not quickly enough for you.

Ask the doctor what happened behind closed doors. Ask the doctor what was talked about with your son. The doctor has an ethical duty to tell you.

To prove the doctor harmed your son will take hard evidence. You must either gain that by speaking with the doctor or your son.

Inasmuch as you clearly are not satisfied with the manner in which this doctor conducted themselves, take your son to another Psychiatrist. The new one may be able to elicit from your son would took place behind closed doors.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: February 16, 2012

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