What you need to know about confidentiality

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What you need to know about confidentiality

Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults from harm is everyone’s responsibility. This means that although a counsellor/psychotherapist is committed to confidentiality, they may have to break confidentiality to safeguard their client and/or another person from serious harm.

Safeguarding means protecting a person’s health, wellbeing and human rights, enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect. This includes recognising when someone has a responsibility to take action to protect a client’s or person’s health, wellbeing, and human rights (especially children, young people, and vulnerable adults).

In counselling and psychotherapy your therapist must explain clearly to you the circumstances that may result in them reporting a safeguarding concern. It is also the case that counsellors/psychotherapists are legally required to report certain crimes, and this should also be clearly explained at the outset of therapy.

When making a safeguarding or other disclosures, your therapist will follow protocols to ensure that they comply with ethical guidelines and data protection legislation. Where possible your therapist will tell you what they intend to do and why. However, there may be cases where because of urgency or because of the need not to interfere with a police investigation, this may not be possible.

Safeguarding concerns can give rise to stress and anxiety and may have an impact on the therapeutic relationship. Your therapist will work within the code of ethics of ACC or another professional membership body, with support and guidance from others in the profession and relevant safeguarding advisory organisations, to make the best decision they can with the information they have. Your therapist is only responsible for reporting safeguarding concerns; it is other agencies who will investigate and if necessary action them. This means that your therapist is normally able to work with you to maintain a therapeutic relationship, and help you work through the issues that has led to a safeguarding concern.

For parents

If you have parental responsibility for a child who is undergoing therapy, the therapist may, by exception, decide not to inform you of safeguarding concerns raised by your child. This will be if they determine that doing so places your child or another person at an increased risk of harm or is likely to interfere with a police investigation.

For older children, those who are deemed competent to make their own decisions about health care (normally not until the child is at least 12), the therapist needs to consider the young person’s wishes about informing those with parental responsibility of safeguarding concerns. This does not mean that the therapist can’t raise a safeguarding concern with the appropriate agencies, but it does mean that they may not inform the young person’s parents of their intention to do so.