Are Therapy Sessions Confidential?
Therapy confidentiality can either make or break a relationship between a therapist and their client. If the client doesn’t believe that their therapy sessions are confidential, then they won’t necessarily trust their therapist when it comes to sharing any private and personal information. That’s why confidentiality and its limitations need to be made transparent and clear before sessions take place in order to avoid any misunderstandings and ensure the client feels comfortable disclosing their true feelings and experiences.
So, what are the guidelines surrounding confidentiality? What needs to be disclosed? What remains private? And what is a typical therapy session like? Before starting therapy, it is very wise to do your due diligence and know what the therapy sessions will be like. Read on to find out more:
What are the laws surrounding confidentiality?
Currently, as of the time of writing, there is no statutory regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists in the UK. However, highly-skilled and qualified counsellors and therapists are bound by professional and ethical standards – such as confidentiality. BACP members (including myself) have to abide by an Ethical Framework for The Counselling Professions. We must put clients first, work to professional standards, show respect, build an appropriate relationship with clients, maintain integrity, and demonstrate accountability as well as candour.
Confidentiality tends to fall primarily under the ‘show respect’ commitment. If we do not protect our clients, then we are failing at our job. By protecting our client’s confidentiality within the parameters discussed at an assessment session and agreed upon within the therapeutic contract, we can uphold our agreement with them and show full respect where appropriate. This includes not revealing client information on voicemail or text, not acknowledging to outside parties that a client has an appointment, and not discussing the contents of therapy with a third party without permission.
What exactly needs to be disclosed?
There are four types of self-disclosure:
Accidental self-disclosures happen outside of sessions and are either verbal or non-verbal. Unavoidable self-disclosures occur due to distinguishing characteristics such as race or gender. Client-Initiated self-disclosures happen when a client seeks out information on their counsellor. Deliberate self-disclosures occur in sessions when a counsellor uses them as a purposeful tool.
Information disclosed by the client is kept confidential by the therapist within the agreed parameters of the therapeutic contract between the client and counsellor. There are few laws surrounding confidentiality other than disclosure of acts of terrorism and fraud. However, if the client has disclosed information that tells of a threat to another person’s life or indeed their own, then the therapist or counsellor may call upon the police. During the start of the therapeutic relationship, the therapist should make it clear what the limits of confidentiality are. This can help avoid any issues down the line.
What else will always remain private?
Any information that the client wants to remain private tends to remain confidential between themselves and the therapist, apart from when the therapist’s notes or the therapist themselves is subpoenaed by a court of law. Confidentiality can include certain thoughts and feelings, experiences that have happened in the past, and current events which are affecting the client. For example, one client may be experiencing loneliness while another may have had a traumatic life-altering event when they were young. Wherever possible, this type of information will remain private and confidential.
In rare situations where the therapist believes it is in the best interest of their client, then they may break confidentiality in order to help them. Clients that have disclosed information relating to them planning to commit suicide or kill someone else may end up forcing the hand of their therapist. As a result, the therapist may break confidentiality so that they can protect the health and safety of their client. Therapists don’t do this lightly, but they may feel they have to if it is to protect their clients.
What are typical therapy sessions actually like?
Depending on the type of therapy you want, the sessions will be tailored to you and therapy confidentiality will remain. Altogether, there are a number of different types of therapy:
During Individual Therapy, for example, there will be an initial assessment session which aims to identify factors contributing to your current difficulties. Then we will devise a plan together for an individually tailored therapeutic intervention. After this, our therapy sessions will commence, and I will provide a supportive, empathic, respectful, challenging and non-judgemental place. Confidentiality is part and parcel of the process with these sessions.
The information that you disclose to me will be kept private and confidential as described in the Ethical Framework for Counselling Professions. Whatever issues you are experiencing, therapy may be an effective solution for you – and your information will be kept confidential.
Who to turn to for therapy in Warrington, Cheshire.
Therapy can be scary and daunting, but it’s incredibly powerful and effective nonetheless. Visit my website today to learn more about my Zoom or in-person appointments. If you are experiencing any issues relating to your mental health, then confidential therapy could be exactly what you need to improve your life.
Get in touch to book an initial consultation with me today!