This week we talked about Confidentiality.

Confidentiality is a fundamental aspect of counselling. It helps build a trusting relationship between client and counsellor, and this trusting relationship underpins the whole therapeutic process. The fact that everything said in that room stays between the counsellor and the client really allows the client to be honest; both with themselves and with the counsellor.

There are, however, a few reasons why confidentiality could be broken by a counsellor, and they are:

1 – When it comes to the safety or well-being of a child

2 – When a counsellor believes that a client may cause harm to themselves

3 – When a counsellor believes that a client may harm someone else

If a counsellor suspects any of those things happening, they must pass the information on to their supervisor or a safeguarding officer. Supervisors know the exact route to take to ensure the well-being of a child, the client or someone the client may hurt, and safeguarding officers are trained to recognise and record concerns about children in particular, and most importantly, know the correct way to report such concerns. There are legal obligations relating to confidentiality as well, such as if a client had knowledge of a terrorist activity, or were a driver in a road traffic collision.

One of the other examples of exceptions to absolute confidentiality is supervision. A responsible and reputable counsellor has regular supervision, in which they discuss their work with an experienced colleague, but without using identifiable details. Such interactions between counsellor and supervisor do not disclose a client’s personal details or explicitly link them to the problems discussed, but it is an example of how confidentiality is not always absolute.

Confidentiality also extends as far as record keeping, contact details and note-taking. The law has recently changed with regards to what personal data is held about a person and for how long. Confidentiality is definitely a challenging aspect of counselling, and it changes often.

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