Confidentiality in Counselling
Confidentiality in counselling creates a space where the client can explore sensitive subjects in the knowledge that the counsellor will not repeat or misuse the information discussed outside of the counselling room. For the counsellor, maintaining confidentiality within certain limitations is an ethical responsibility, and it is part of what makes counselling different from other relationships.
The Purpose of Confidentiality
When a client seeks consultation with a therapist, it is important that they feel able to trust their counsellor, so they can speak freely and openly about what is troubling them. The assurance that [the client’s] feelings, thoughts and stories can be entrusted to the counsellor may allow for deeper exploration of the areas of experiencing which feel particularly difficult or shameful. This safety helps to build relational depth and facilitates the work of therapy.
Personal information (as defined by the Privacy Act 1988)
Is information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable, whether the information or opinion is true or not, and whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not.
Sensitive information (As defined by the Privacy Act 1988)
Is information or opinion about an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, membership of a political association, religious beliefs or affiliations, philosophical beliefs, membership of a professional or trade association, membership of a trade union, sexual preferences or practices, criminal record or health, genetic or biometric templates, that is also personal information.
Implies the relationship of confidence between the organisation and individuals.
Codes of Practice
As a registered counsellor with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) and a Member of the Christian Counsellors’ Association of Australia (CCAA) your counsellor adheres to these associations’ ethical codes, scope of practice and confidentiality principles as well as to the legal requirements of the 13 Australian Privacy Principles and to the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Public Health Regulation (NSW) 2012.
Collection of information
Personal information will only be collected when it is lawful to do so and when directly related to the counsellor role and the activity of managing the service. Information will only be collected from you directly when it is relevant.
Data quality, security, and flow
All personal information you supply should be accurate and up to date. Your Counselling Matters will take reasonable steps to securely protect your personal information from misuse and loss and from unauthorised access, modification and disclosure.
Storage of information
Your information will remain confidential, private and securely stored, and will be securely disposed of after seven years. It will be protected from unauthorised access, use and disclosure.
When to Break Confidentiality in Counselling
There are certain limitations to confidentiality in counselling, and there are circumstances where a counsellor may need to break confidentiality, either because of a legal obligation, or an individual or organisational policy requirement. It is important that both the counsellor and the client are aware of the circumstances where confidentiality may be broken.
The following points outline the main limitations of confidentiality in counselling:
• Supervision – our professional counselling bodies (ACA & CCAA) require that registered counsellors undertake regular, ongoing supervision of their client work. This is anonymised, and the focus of supervision is on the therapist’s work rather than the client’s material. Nevertheless, this is a limitation of confidentiality which the client needs to be made aware of.
• Risk of harm to self – If a client is expressing suicidal thoughts or intent, the counsellor will have policies to follow regarding when and how confidentiality will be broken.
• Risk of harm to others – Most organisations and therapists in private practice have policies in place designed to protect children and vulnerable people. The law in this area is constantly being reviewed and, whilst ever there is a legal obligation to report abuse, confidentiality will have to be broken. In circumstances where there may be an increased risk to a child or vulnerable person, clients are unlikely to be informed that the therapist intends to break confidentiality.
Every care has been taken to ensure the information in this policy is accurate and based on current law and best practice. Your Counselling Matters cannot accept any claims arising from error or misinterpretation.
For questions or more information on the above please contact me directly.