The BACP is a professional body which represents the interests of the counselling profession and sets standards of ethical and professional practice to which counsellors and therapists must adhere to. As a member of this organisation, I therefore adhere to the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and its Professional Conduct Procedure. For further information please visit the BACP website.
Without confidentiality, it would be very difficult to build enough trust in the relationship between you and your therapist, so that you felt safe enough to talk about your deepest feelings. It can be hard enough making the decision to talk in the first place without the fear that someone else might find out about it.
Confidentiality is deeply embedded in the BACP’s Ethical Framework to which I’m bound as a member of BACP and as a qualified counsellor. Here’s part of the detailed guidance:
“Respecting clients’ privacy and confidentiality are a fundamental requirement for keeping trust and respecting client autonomy. The professional management of confidentiality concerns the protection of personally identifiable and sensitive information from unauthorised disclosure. Disclosure may be authorised by client consent or the law. Any disclosures of client confidences should be undertaken in ways that best protect the client’s trust and respect the clients autonomy”.
I can only speak for myself and my policy on confidentiality; other therapists may differ in their approach. This is how I protect my clients’ confidentiality:
- I keep the client information sheets (containing your contact details etc) separate from the client notes from each session
- The client notes have only a first name attached and nothing that could connect the notes to that person’s information sheet
- When I talk to my supervisor, I only use first names or a pseudonym for my clients, and I don’t reveal any identifying details. (For an explanation of what clinical supervision involves, please read: ‘What is supervision in counselling?’)
When can confidentiality be broken
- This is probably the most complex ethical question that therapists have to deal with in the work that we do! After all, clients put their trust in us to help them recover from whatever has brought them to counselling in the first place, and a cornerstone of that trust is confidentiality. And whilst it might be reassuring to say to a client, “I’ll never pass on anything of what we talk about in our sessions”, that would be misleading and in fact untrue.
- When working with young people I have a duty of care to protect the person I am working with and myself. “So if you have indicated to me that there’s a serious and immediate risk of harm to yourself, someone else or someone is hurting you. I may need to speak Parents (unless they are the cause of harm), Police, to my clinical supervisor, your GP or other Health Professionals. I will always attempt to discuss this with you beforehand, but in certain circumstances (e.g where life is at risk) this may not be possible”.