Questions clients ask – ‘Confidentiality’

“I would like to try counselling but my privacy is very important. Can you guarantee that anything I might say will be kept confidential?”

There has been much discussion and concern about today’s ‘big brother’ society and whether our privacy can be protected. folderSometimes people who are considering counselling feel concerned that the things they talk about in their sessions might not be kept confidential. In this article we will examine confidentiality and consider in what circumstances a counsellor might be legally bound to break it.

Confidentiality in the counselling room is of paramount importance. Clients need to feel safe before they can begin to open up and share their inner most thoughts and feelings. As one of the purposes of counselling is to help clients to become more self-aware and hopefully empowered to make any changes that they feel might enhance their lives, they need to be able to believe that they are safe to talk without worrying that what they share might not be kept private. Thus we try to make our confidentiality contract as clear as possible and in the first session we will talk about confidentiality and give each client a copy of our contract.

It is extremely rare that the need to break confidentiality arises but there are a couple of circumstances when we are legally bound to break confidentiality. However, wherever possible we would try to talk to the client before doing so.  We cannot emphasise enough that is it very rare that a counsellor feels the need to break confidentiality. This would normally only be if it were felt that the client was about to endanger his or her life or that of someone else.

All counsellors are ethically required to have regular supervision where a client’s case may be discussed. However, clients are always kept anonymous. For those interested in knowing more about what happens in supervision, please look out for our next article, where we will be discussing this in more depth.