What Is Informed Consent?
Boundaries can be extremely important in every aspect of our lives – and therapy is no different.
For any type of treatment or examination, you must first consent to the process, and you should feel comfortable and well informed on what you are really consenting to. This consent is an essential part of both medical ethics and international human rights laws. That is why we need Informed Consent as it involves a therapist explaining the benefits, risks, expected outcomes, medications (if applicable), and therapeutic approaches to their clients.
Today, I will be taking you through the ins and outs of Informed Consent, what the other forms of consent are, and why they are all so important for us to practice within our line of work.
Informed Consent is all about safeguarding the well-being of patients. When a patient needs an operation, doctors are legally obligated to inform them of the procedure, any risks they should be aware of, the desired outcomes, and what they can expect once the procedure is finished. Counselling doesn’t tend to differ much from other medical procedures in terms of consent; it is a counsellor’s responsibility to communicate the rights and responsibilities of a client before they go to sign on the dotted line. This is something we will go through in your initial appointment.
Not only is Informed Consent beneficial for establishing the patient-therapist relationship and a treatment plan, but it also allows room for clients to decide if this is the best course of action. If a client thinks that their treatment plan needs to be altered in any way to better suit their specific needs, this is the perfect opportunity for them to communicate this before proceeding.
Other types of consent
The NHS lists three different types of consent, one being Informed, the other two of which are:
Voluntary consent relates to a person consenting, or not consenting, to undergoing treatment. This consent relies solely on one person, who must not be influenced in any way, shape or form by observing healthcare professionals, medical staff or even friends and family for that matter.
A person must be capable of giving consent and have the capacity to understand Informed Consent so that they can digest information and decide whether to consent to treatment. In rare cases, healthcare professionals do not need the consent of the person they are treating. For example, if a patient is unconscious and therefore unable to consent to care, the responsibility falls on the healthcare professionals to keep them alive and subsequently safe.
For those who don’t have the mental capacity to provide consent and understand the treatments and options being explained to them, the responsibility is then given to someone else instead. This person acts in the best interest of the individual, such as a guardian, doctor, or next of kin.
There are other forms of consent as well, such as the following:
- Implied – For research studies that provide anonymity, such as opinion surveys, Implied Consent is needed; but it could possibly lead to non-compliance in some situations.
- Explicit – Explicit Consent is when someone is presented with a decision on whether they authorise the collection, use, or disclosure of their personal info before data is collected.
- Active – Consumers that are given a statement to agree on, giving consent to do so, is referred to as Active Consent and can be defined as another form of Explicit Consent.
- Passive – Passive Consent is another type of Implied Consent where the consumer is assumed to have consented unless they explicitly state otherwise that they do not.
- Opt-Out – The ability to decline consent at any point is also known as Opt-Out Consent, and is usually done in writing; it is a favourite of businesses for marketing purposes.
How consent is given
Consent can be given in the following ways:
- Verbal – A person can verbally consent to treatment by saying whether they are happy to proceed, giving them enough time to opt-in or out of said treatment.
- Written – A person undergoing treatment will be given a consent form to fill in, which they can sign if they are happy with the information given to them if they wish to proceed.
- Non-verbal – A person can demonstrate a true willingness to consent without using words, examples of this include a person nodding their head or offering a thumbs up.
Why consent is key
Informed Consent is important for both the client and the therapist who will be treating them. It allows the client to understand what is expected of them, what to expect from the treatment they will be receiving, and any policies regarding their rights, confidentiality and/or payment.
This can help to establish a sense of trust and collaboration between the client and therapist. For the therapist, it helps them lay down a foundation of respect and trust which will be extremely beneficial for conducting therapy sessions. If trust and boundaries are set, it will allow clients to feel secure in sharing their thoughts and feelings, promoting an overall positive outcome.
Ultimately, your safety and comfort are paramount as someone who is actively seeking therapy. Being able to consent to treatment regarding your mental health is extremely important, not only for a sense of autonomy but actual control over the best course of action for your wellbeing.
If you are looking to start your journey in bettering your mental health and overall quality of life, then please do not hesitate any longer to book an appointment.