+ Is what we say in the room confidential?
Yes - but there are a few circumstances where I would break confidentiality. One of these is a statutory requirement, the others are required for me to practice safely and to ensure I am always working ethically in your best interests and within my capabilities.
+ What does breaking confidentiality mean?
It means passing on information about you to others, in a way that might identify you.
+ When do you legally have to break confidentiality?
Legally the only time a counsellor or psychotherapist is statutorily bound to break confidentiality without first informing the client is under the Terrorism Act. This states that if I have reason to believe you may be about to commit an act of terrorism or be enabling terrorism or I come into possession of information about terrorism from you I have to inform the police. In all other circumstances Schedule 3 of the Data Protection Act applies (See the section on the Data Protection Act below).
+ What are the other circumstances you may break confidentiality?
- If I feel there is a risk of significant harm to yourself and/or others.
This means that if I feel that you may attempt suicide or harm others I would break confidentiality by informing your GP, Local Authority Crisis Team, or the Police. I also reserve the right to discuss the situation with my lawyer to ensure any action I take is legal. Disclosure is only done in exceptional circumstances where there is imminent danger of serious injury or loss of life and ideally after discussion with yourself.
- If served with a warrant by a court.
In this situation I may be legally required to turn over my case notes and may be summonsed to appear in court. I would not be add any additional information from our sessions. I reserve the right to seek legal advice from a lawyer, who may also see the notes.
- If you threaten me or people connected to me with violence.
In this situation I will immediately end therapy, discuss the situation with my therapeutic supervisor and may, if we agree the threat is real, inform the police. If the threat is not made by you, I will attempt to maintain as much confidentiality for you as possible when informing the police, however once in the hands of the police the situation is out of my control. I will attempt to contact you before breaking confidentiality, however this cannot be guaranteed.
+ Are there other circumstances where you might use information from sessions?
Yes, there are some situations where your case may be discussed. Some of these are optional, others not. In these circumstances, no personal information such as name, address and contact details are used and strong efforts are made to ensure you remain anonymous and unidentifiable.
- Supervision (Not Optional)
I will have professional discussions about our sessions with my therapeutic supervisor. This is an essential part of working ethically and is a requirement for all accredited therapists. Consequently if you do not accept me sharing details of our sessions with my supervisor I would not be able to work with you. My supervisor is there to ensure I am always working in your best interests and giving you the best support that I can. I may occasionally seek advice from a specialist supervisor. Supervisors are highly trained and covered by a stringent code of conduct around confidentiality.
- Peer Supervision & Supervision Groups.
As well as having a therapeutic supervisor I may also take part in Peer Supervision Discussion and Supervision Groups. This is where groups of Counsellors and Psychotherapists get together to support each other's work by discussing cases and professional issues. Members of peer or supervision groups are all covered by professional codes of practice around ethics and confidentiality.
- Accreditation purposes and professional examinations (Optional - your written permission would be required)
I improve my practice by undertaking professional development. This can be short courses or longer academic qualifications that lead to higher levels of accreditation or certify my fitness to practice in new areas. Professional written and oral examinations and submissions can include discussions of anonymised individual cases and include Case Studies, Recordings, and Session Transcripts. Everyone involved in this process is a member of a Counselling or Psychotherapy accrediting organisation and is therefore covered by a professional Code of Ethics and Confidentiality
- Presentations at conferences and events (Optional - your written permission would be required)
Fully anonymised case information is sometimes used in presentations at professional events to help other therapists learn. I have yet to make a conference presentation but hope to be invited do so at some point in the future.
- Research (Optional - your written permission would be required)
Research Journals have tough policies to ensure anonymisation and signed evidence of client permission is also required before a paper is accepted. Though I have not yet submitted a research paper to a journal I hope do so at some point in the future.
- Statistical information to improve my practice. (Not Optional)
I gather information from CORE forms to help me objectively assess how my practice. This information may be collated with other therapists information to assist professional bodies to support a funding application or lobby government.
+ Do you have to tell the police if I have committed a crime?
No, there is no legal requirement for me to inform the police if you have committed a crime.
+ Do you share information with social workers, the police or other statutory bodies?
No - As a private counsellor I am outside the network of organisations and individuals statutorily required to share information. I do not share information with other organisations or individuals without your consent, even if they say they have good reasons for asking for it. This includes the police, lawyers and social workers.
+ Something bad happened a long time ago that I was told never to talk about. Can you help me?
Yes - Talking about taboo subjects is often what counselling is about. This is why confidentiality is so important. It can take a while to feel comfortable and safe talking about very personal events. In this situation we might spend time talking about confidentiality and building trust. It is always your choice what we talk about and there are ways to resolve issue without talking about the past.
+ Do you keep notes and if so, how do you secure them?
I keep short case notes, mainly as an aide-memoire to help me keep track of things I feel are significant. These are kept in a locked cabinet. The notes are identified by your number and do not contain your full name or any contact details. Your contact details and ID number are kept in a separate locked place.
+ Can I see my notes?
Yes - if you wish you can see your notes.
+What happens to my notes when therapy ends?
I keep your notes for 3 years after the last session, after which the notes and your contact details are shredded. If we meet for a introductory session and you decide not to continue my notes from the session are shredded.
+ I've heard that some therapists record sessions, do you do this?
Sometimes, with your written agreement I record sessions. There are a variety of reasons for this
- To use during supervision to help my therapeutic supervisor get a better understanding of how I am interacting with you in order for my supervisor to give me advice about how best to assist you. Recordings are deleted after discussion with the supervisor.
- Some professional development courses and accreditations require therapists to play recordings of sessions to examiners and peer groups. The recording forms the basis for a discussion about how I practice therapy. Recordings are deleted after use.
- To make us a "transcript" for use in professional development courses and accreditation. In this situation what is said is transcribed into a written form and the recording is deleted after use.
+ Do I, as a client, have to keep confidentiality
No - You are free to discuss your therapy with whoever you like, but discretion is often the best policy.
+ I am being affected by events and issues that are very confidential, can you help me?
Yes - Contact me via Signal, available from https://signal.org/. We can discuss how we can adjust the boundaries outlined above to put in place appropriate safeguards for both of us to ensure anonymity, confidentiality, and personal security before we begin working together.
+ Does the Data Protection Act cover counselling?
Yes - The Data Protection Act 1998 does cover counsellors & psychotherapists. This means:
- I am registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).
- I am required to keep information secure, process it within strict limits and cannot pass it on to others without your consent and due cause.
- You can request to see all the information I hold on you
- You can request that this information is deleted.
- I am required to have a policy around how long I keep your information (3 years), and must dispose of it securely and appropriately after this.
Because the information is classified under the Act as "Sensitive" it is covered by more stringent checks under Schedule 3 of the Act. Under Schedule 3 I cannot disclose information unless you have given permission or your permission cannot be reasonably obtained and disclosure is required to protect your "vital interests". The business contract we sign at the beginning of therapy provides the framework for when I can pass on sensitive information to others.
+ You have an EU Cookie notice on your website. What is this about?
My website is hosted on Squarespace, and I use Google Adwords to promote my counselling business. Both Squarespace and Google use snippets of code called "cookies" that track you when you visit my site. These help me tune my website and my advertising to ensure my you can find information easily and my paid links only appear to people who are specifically searching for services like mine.
If you don't want to be tracked, you can do a few things, firstly don't click the "Continue" on the Cookie banner on my site. Other ways of not being tracked include using your browsers "Incognito" mode, using a non tracking search engine such as DuckDuckGo.com and regularly emptying your browsers "cookie jar" by deleting the cookies it contains.
The EU is implementing new Data Protection Regulations called GDPR in May 2018. Google has indicated it's Adwords service is GDPR compliant and Squarespace say they will be compliant by GDPR's implementation date. As a small one person business I am accepting their assurances on this matter.
If you want more information or to arrange your introductory session, please contact me here. If you are concerned about the confidentiality of the form on this site you can also contact me through SMS or Signal on 07419 211548