My Commitment to Confidentiality
I have a legal obligation as a Professional Counsellor to uphold client confidentiality. This means that I will not disclose any information concerning you as a result of our work together. I am also obliged to uphold client confidentiality as a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). This means that I am legally and ethically accountable for my management of Client confidentiality. Moreover, I have a personal and moral commitment to Client confidentiality as an inseparable part of Counselling.
Why is Confidentiality Necessary
The legal obligations and my moral commitment to uphold Client confidentiality reflects the importance I place on the safety of the Counselling space. The fact that our work together is confidential can really help build a sense of security and trust in me and the space in which we work. There may be many reasons why safety and security is important and will be based on a person’s individual circumstances. Forming a boundary of confidentiality is designed to ensure that the work can be framed in a way that respects your individual needs. Confidentiality and Counselling go hand in hand.
What does Confidentiality Cover
Any material generated as a result of my working with you whether written or verbal will be confidential. A condition of my membership of BACP is that I keep written notes outlining the basic content of every session we have together. It is very rare that I would be required to share these notes with anyone and these circumstances are outlined below. Notes are drafted manually and held in secure storage filed under a pseudonym. Only I am able to identify the individual from this pseudonym. I use a database to aid the efficient recall and processing of Personal Data which is held on an encrypted computer server. I fully comply with the rules of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) regarding storage of any data generated in my work.
What are the Boundaries of Confidentiality
I am ethically bound by BACP to review my Counselling work by consultation with an experienced Counsellor who has a specific role. This requires me to collaborate regularly with designated individuals within the Counselling profession. This means that in order to work with you as safely, ethically and effectively as possible I may need to share some aspects of our work together. This is called Supervision and is done in a confidential setting away from the Counselling Room. I will only ever use first names to refer to the people I am working with. Normally this is done verbally and session notes are not usually required for this purpose. In this way the work is framed within specific boundaries of confidentiality. It allows my professional standards and therapeutic effectiveness to be monitored whilst reflecting my commitment to the safety of the space for you.
Changes in the Boundaries of Confidentiality
Generally there are a number of ways that this can occur and informed consent is always sought.
The first is an extension of confidentiality with permission which is usually to accommodate a need based on fulfilling the person’s best interests. This is not uncommon and may involve a disclosure to a third party where permission is given beforehand. It may for example, enable me to contact a GP on behalf of a person concerning a specific subject. This will always be discussed and no disclosure will be made without the person’s informed consent in writing. Only the specific subject consented to will be discussed with any outside parties.
The second reason is to extend confidentiality without consent and applies if I consider that someone is at risk of harm. I will always endeavor to explore this course of action with you and seek your permission to extend confidentiality. Very rarely, it may be that I consider the risk to be so acute that I may see a need to contact a third party without consent. I will always discuss why I think this potential exists and invite the person to explore how they feel. Very often the discussion helps to alleviate the risk and the situation may ease. It may also be that the person instigates disclosure to their GP through their own volition or informed consent is given for me to contact their GP on their behalf.
The third reason is much less common and indeed very rare. It involves a legal obligation I have to disclose certain specific and serious illegal practices to the authorities. These items are few and relatively unlikely to come up in our potential work together. Nevertheless I am duty bound to pass on specific information which it is deemed to be so serious that its disclosure is in the public interest. I will always make you aware of the need to disclose this kind of information as and when it arises. I will not disclose it without your knowledge.
In extremely rare circumstances certain authorities may deem it necessary to seek disclosure of written material for legal reasons. I would not usually make any disclosure without a court order. I would never seek to disclose anything in these circumstances without the informed consent of the person involved. My default position would be to decline any acknowledgement of our work together and not disclose anything about anyone I may be working with. I would inform the authorities that to confirm my work with anyone would be a breech in confidentiality. If such a request is made, I would speak to the person I am working with in order to evaluate the appropriateness of disclosure. I would then seek the informed consent from the person to disclose the material. If for some reason this is not given, the authorities may issue a court order for the material to be disclosed. Then and only then must I make the material available and I will inform the person of the situation before any material is passed.
I feel it is of the utmost importance to always discuss any changes to confidentiality with the people who I am working with. The aim is to support you through what may be a difficult and challenging part of our work together. I can explain all these aspects of confidentiality when we meet. If you would like to know more I would welcome you to get in touch using my details on the Contact page.
Confidentiality with Regard to Safeguarding
This is a specific area of responsibility and involves the protection of all parties involved with the people I work with. I have a duty to look after the interests of any person who I become aware of as being at risk. This can be for many reasons and very rarely I may need to disclose information in an effort to protect the safety of another individual. It will usually be necessary to seek informed consent before I engage on any such intervention on someone's behalf. It may be that I need to act in a way that does not rely on informed consent and in such cases I will always explore the situation with the person involved. Where there is acute and imminent risk it may be that I still have to act without consent. I would only do this in such circumstances that indicate a distinct likelihood that someone could be harmed and no other suitable alternative exists.