Breaching Confidentiality in Counseling Minors

Topics: Culture, The Culture, Ethics Pages: 15 (5037 words) Published: April 8, 2014
Assignment 2: Individual Assignment Essay
Issue One: Breaching Confidentiality in Counseling Minors
Before we move into the topic, we want to explore the issue of confidentiality in counseling. This is applicable to not just minors but also all age groups, religions, cultures and genders. Remley (1985) stated that confidentiality is an ethical standard that is a rule of practice set forth by a profession. The American Counseling Association's (ACA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice require that counselors respect their clients' right to privacy and avoid illegal and unwarranted disclosures of confidential information. The ACA code lists the exceptions to confidentiality as when disclosure is required to prevent clear and imminent danger to the client or others or when legal requirements demand that confidential information be revealed. When counseling clients who are minors or individuals who are unable to give voluntary, informed consent, parents or guardians may be included in the counseling process as appropriate. Counselors act in the best interest of clients and take measures to safeguard confidentiality.

Confidentiality should exist for the benefit of the client be it whether the client is a minor or not. Should parents or guardians be involved in the counseling process, the counselor must act with exceedingly professional expertise when disclosing confidential information. There is an ethical responsibility to obtain the minor’s permission before releasing information. For counseling to be effective and to provide an environment in which the client feels free to share concerns, the counselor must be able to assure minor clients that personal information will be kept confidential to build trust between them.

There are vacillating priorities between the rights of the child, school policy, guardians’ rights, and dictates of laws and ethical codes (Glosoff & Pate, 2002; Lawrence & Kirpius, 2000). There is a tenuous balancing act among the parents who desire autonomy in raising their children, the governmental agencies safeguarding public welfare, and the minor who deserves both privacy and protection. The ACA Code of Ethics (1995) highlights the needs for the counselor to clarify client relationships in families to directly address any possible conflicts, and to promote flexibility in the decision to involve a guardian in the counseling process as long as confidentiality and the client’s best interests are safeguarded. Recognition of the need for a thorough understanding of ethical and legal requirements also applies to the issue of duty to warn. A counselor with a flexible orientation toward confidentiality will usually make an independent decision based on merits of each separate case that promotes the moral principle of fidelity in which the child’s trust is protected by keeping the promises inherent in confidentiality issues (Glosoff & Pate, 2002). An evaluation of what is in the child’s best interest will predominate, which underscores the moral principles of beneficence. This is seen as an ambiguous process that is influenced by the counselor’s cultural background and personal values and biases.

Conversely, no guarantee of confidentiality erodes the foundation of trust in therapy, leading to increased client resistance and premature termination. In this situation, from the outset an adolescent will be reluctant to enter a counseling relationship with a professional who apparently views the referring agency, court, school, or guardian as the real client rather than the teen. An attitude of flexibility toward confidentiality offers the ability to be adaptable to various situations, but throws the counselor into the nebulous area of trying to negotiate the balance of ethical and legal dictates. A more moderate stance embraces the advice of the ACA Code of Ethics regarding clarification of counseling relationships and can draw the adolescent into the decision-making process, which strengthens...
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