Counselling and the Law

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THE COUNSELLOR AND THE LAW
The law would seem to affect the counsellor predominantly over issues of confidentiality which cause ethical dilemmas in a variety of areas. It would seem the counsellor tends to end up torn between their responsibility towards their clients and the law or doctors/other health officials/organisations and society in general. The counsellor must weigh up client confidentiality against that of public interest and the guidelines of what is or is not in the public interest are not always clearly defined. For example, if the court decides that a counsellor must produce notes of their sessions with a client, this may not only become problematic from a confidentiality point of view but also as the counsellors’ notes are subjective and the law deals in facts – any changes within the client’s thoughts/feelings which result in ‘conflicting’ portral of events could be mis-interpreted as false testimony.

The private unobserved nature of therapy and the importance of confidentiality between counsellor and client can result in concerns over whether this provides power to promote personal change or power to abuse the privilege. Evidence of bad practice in sexual abuse and allegations of false memories from clients seem to be all too common in the USA and one has to ponder to what extent in the UK, especially in the light of the recent publicity of the alleged abuse cases of Saville. If any counsellors or those in a counselling role were involved in any way with the children he had contact with – it begs the question - were they aware of something amiss and afraid to come forward because of who he was or for fear of repurcussions within their organisation? Thus, the counsellor can be put in a legally vulnerable position whereby they are liable to pass information on to the employer under their contract and potentially liable to their client for breach of confidentiality.

Counsellors may not only find themselves in an ethical dilemma...
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