Confidentiality in Counselling

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DENISE AMPS
November 2006
Essay on ‘Confidentiality’

CONFIDENTIALITY IN COUNSELLING

Confidentiality in counselling means, to me, providing a secure, trusting relationship with a client who knows that, within certain limits, he or she can speak to you about anything at all in the knowledge that whatever has been said will go no further. It is an intrinsic and imperative part of the trust that is required to develop a good working relationship between a counsellor and their client. My client will know that, excepting those limits noted below, I will hold safe everything they share with me; their thoughts, their worries, their deepest secrets, their life story and they will leave our counselling sessions with the surety that they have a safe haven within which to explore their issues or problems.

Similarly, if I speak to a friend, relative, or work colleague ‘in confidence’ I expect that what I have said will go no further than between ourselves unless I have told the listener otherwise and, by the same token, what they choose to tell me confidentially will not be shared by me with anyone else. If any acquaintance of mine, in any capacity, chose to talk to me about issues that may appear to be of a confidential nature, then I would implicitly consider that communication to be confidential unless that person advised me otherwise. In a work situation or in any other role where I may have access to confidential information, e.g. pupils, personnel, various group members, governing body discussions; I need to be aware of the confidential aspects that are a part of that information and ensure that I do not ‘share’ with any other person or agency that does not have access to the same details. When I am given confidential information the person or organisation giving it to me needs to feel sure that it will be kept as confidential and not imparted to a third party. “Confidentiality is fundamental to the trust and integrity of the counselling relationship. It creates a safe space for the client to explore difficult and challenging issues and clearly signals that the client has control over any subsequent disclosures of that information or insights derived from it.” (Bond P152 Para1 Lines 7-10)

The following is an extract from the current BACP Ethical Framework: “Fidelity: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner
Being trustworthy is regarded as fundamental to understanding and resolving ethical issues. Practitioners who adopt this principle: act in accordance with the trust placed in them; regard confidentiality as an obligation arising from the client’s trust; restrict any disclosure of confidential information about clients to furthering the purposes for which it was originally disclosed.” There are, however, situations that may arise which would create exceptions to the basic rule of confidentiality in counselling. "Confidentiality becomes the professional management of personally sensitive information disclosed in confidence.” (Bond P152 Para 1 Line 1). The very nature of counselling means that a client may make disclosures which would lead me to consider breaking confidentiality and passing details of the disclosure to supervision.

“In actual practice all the national professional organisations for counsellors stress the importance of confidentiality but do not suggest that it should be absolute. To make it absolute would prohibit disclosures made in order to prevent serious harm to clients themselves or to others and would frustrate the requirements to receive counselling supervision.” (Bond P153 Para 2 Lines 1-5) In such cases I would feel ethically and/or legally bound to report such a disclosure keeping the client informed of the process. The limits of confidentiality will have been explained to my client during my initial presentation of the contract between us, so that he or she would already be aware that what they tell me may be discussed with my supervisor, although their name...
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