How many times this week did you break your Client’s Confidentiality?
This is an article intended to stimulate you and your mindfulness, as a practising therapist, towards actively thinking about concepts of confidentiality.
Protecting a person-in-therapy’s confidentiality might seem simple enough (simply don’t talk about the client in public, surely?) … but therapists who are not mindful – or, perhaps, lapse – about actively thinking about a client’s confidentiality may find that the unintended consequences of not thinking about confidentiality is quite shocking.
Not all forms of therapy need to practice all forms of confidentiality, of course. A massage therapist, aromatherapist or hypnotherapist (for example) may not need to be prepared to keep a client’s deep secrets contained. Nevertheless, perhaps still being mindful of the potential for what might be told in confidence whilst, say, in a state of deep relaxation could be a good position to be in.
Professional Bodies Requirements of Confidentiality.
It should not surprise any of us to find that all therapy-related professional bodies make some for of reference to confidentiality – some more than others. Interestingly, whilst the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)’s Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (pdf) is a detailed construct of working with people in counselling or psychotherapy, it doesn’t contain an explicit definition of the terms confidential & confidentiality.
So, let’s refer to a couple of other sources.
Confidentiality: Clinical and counseling psychology.
[...]information shared by the client with the therapist in the course of treatment is not shared with others. [...] exceptions to confidentiality, namely where it conflicts with the clinician’s duty to warn or duty to protect. This includes instances of suicidal behavior or homicidal plans, child abuse, elder abuse and dependent adult abuse.
(ii) The Oxford Dictionary:
Definition of Confidential.
- Intended to be kept secret: confidential information
- [of a person’s tone of voice] Indicating that what one says is private or secret: he dropped his voice to a confidential whisper
- [attributive] Entrusted with private or restricted information: a confidential secretary
Member of the BACP are required to adhere to the Ethical Framework in order to practice safely and ethically, protecting their clients during and after therapy.
Here are some citations from the BACP Ethical Framework :-
- The fundamental values of counselling and psychotherapy include a commitment to [...] protecting the safety of clients (p 2)
- Practitioners [...] (must) 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. (p 3)
- The practice of counselling and psychotherapy depends on gaining and honouring the trust of clients [...] careful attention to client consent and confidentiality.(p 5)
- Any disclosures of client confidences should be undertaken in ways that best protect the client’s trust and respect client autonomy (p 7)
- Practitioners should be willing to be accountable to their clients and to their profession for their management of confidentiality in general and particularly for any disclosures made without their client’s consent (p 7)
- Exceptional circumstances may prevent the practitioner from seeking client consent to a breach of confidence due to the urgency and seriousness of the situation… (p 7)
- Any confidential information disclosed during the referral process will be adequately protected (p 9)
All citations from the June 2012 version of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (link).
Definition of Secret.
- Not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others: how did you guess I’d got a secret plan?
- [attributive] Not meant to be known as such by others: a secret drinker
- Fond of or good at keeping things about oneself unknown: he can be the most secret man
With all this this in mind, and it is a lot to keep in mind, I would like to ask you a question as one therapist to another:
How many times this week…
…did you break your client’s confidentiality?
Rate this Article.
Tell your friends about "Are you Protecting your Client’s Confidentiality?".
Or tell us what you think by adding your own comments (below)…
Therapists who work with: Mindfulness.