Confidentiality and Minors

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Confidentiality is an essential component to the counseling process. It allows for the client to build a trustful relationship with the counselor. “ Counselors regard the promise of confidentiality to be essential for the development of client trust” (Glosoff & Pate, 2002). Most individuals that seek counseling services assume that what is discussed in the counseling sessions with the counselor will be kept in confidence with limited exceptions. These exceptions become a complex balancing act for the counselor especially when their clients are minors. “Confidentiality is a widely held ethical standard a variously accorded legal right of clients and responsibility of counselors (American Counseling Association, 2005: American School Counseling Association, 2010).

According to the Ethical Standards for School Counselors and the Code of Ethics and Standards for Counseling (2010), both specify that counselors are ethically required to take appropriate action and breach confidentiality in certain circumstances involving minors. Counselors are required to breach confidentiality if there is imminent danger to self and others, if there is suspected child abuse or neglect or to protect a vulnerable client from danger. There are other limitations to confidentiality and minors as well. Some of these limitations involve parents and their right to know what is happening in counseling sessions between the therapist and their child. This problem is one that schools counselors and clinical therapists must face when counseling minors. Counselors in both clinical and school settings are faced with ethical issues with regards to confidentiality each time they encounter a client that is a minor.

School Counselors have a variety of roles and responsibilities to students, teachers, parents and administrators (Iyer, McGregor & Connor, 2010). According to the American School Counseling Association (2004), it is the responsibility of the school counselor to help a child develop effective coping skills, identify personal strengths and assets, recognize and express feelings and provide a foundation for the child’s personal and social growth as he or she progresses from school to adulthood as apart of the process. School Counselors must collaborate with all persons involved with the minor in this process, which usually includes the parents and teachers. School Counselors are also sometimes asked to be apart of child study teams within the school, which can be very beneficial to the students and those involved in their lives. School Counselors must follow the American School Counseling Association’s ethical standards for School Counselors regarding confidentiality. In beginning sessions between the client and the school counselor confidentiality should be discussed and the conditions in which it may have to be breached.

According to Lazovsky (2010), The management of student confidentiality has been described as the primary ethical dilemma of school counselors. There are various ethical and legal issues that arise for School Counselors when dealing with confidentiality. School Counselors are required ethically to report when a student engages in clear and imminent danger to themselves or others. Some school counselors base their decision to breach confidentiality on how imminent the danger is that is being presented by the situation. “Most counselors would agree parents should be informed of drug experimentation by an 8 year old. Many however, would disagree to tell parents that a 16 year old client reported occasional experimentation with marijuana” (Glosoff & Pate, 2002). This example shows that school counselors should use discretion when deciding to breach confidentiality. These two minor clients are different but each situation has a variety of ways that it could be handled. According to Lazovky (2008), school counselors are advised to consult with supervisors and colleagues before making decisions based on breaching...
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