Confidentiality is one of the most fundamental ethical obligations owed by counsellors to their clients. A confidentiality policy is necessary to protect clients, employees, and volunteers from the possibility of information about them being passed on to individuals or organisations who have no right to that information. It is also important to provide guidance to employees and volunteers on the extent to which confidentiality is to be preserved, circumstances in which it may be breached, and measures to be taken in either eventuality.
2. General Confidentiality Statement
2.1. Penny Birch and Harrogate-Counselling.com are expected to respect the right of clients and of other employees and volunteers to privacy and confidentiality as far as possible within the constraints of legal requirements and the safety of other people.
2.2. It is a basic right of a client to know the extent and limitations of the confidentiality that they are being offered by their therapist, and to be told the circumstances in which the therapist may wish to breach confidentiality. The client should be given the opportunity to discuss with this the therapist at the outset of the work together.
2.3. Where it is thought necessary to pass on information to another individual or organisation this will be on a strictly 'need to know' basis. The consent of the person about whom the information is to be passed on will be sought if at all possible, and that person will be informed that the information has been passed on and to whom it has been passed, preferably in writing.
2.4. This policy covers not only information given deliberately by the person concerned, or by other people about the person, but also information acquired accidentally or through observation.
3. Duty of care
Penny Birch and Harrogate-Counselling.com owes a duty of care to the users of its services. It may therefore be necessary to breach confidentiality where a client is acting, or likely to act, in a way that could cause serious harm to him/her, or put others at risk of harm.
Penny Birch and Harrogate-Counselling.com also owes a more general duty of care towards members of the public. It may be necessary to inform the police or statutory authorities where there is the possibility of serious risk to a particular person or persons, or to the public in general.
Penny Birch and Harrogate-Counselling.com share with all citizens a duty of care towards minors and people whose mental or physical condition makes them particularly vulnerable. If Penny Birch Counselling know or suspect that a child or vulnerable adult is being sexually or physically abused, the Child Protection Unit of social services (or NSPCC, or other social services team in the case of an older person, or person with learning difficulties) must be informed.
3.1. Giving information to the police, social services, or the NSPCC
This should preferably be achieved with the knowledge of the person concerned and their co-operation. It is expected that the issue will be discussed beforehand with a senior BACP counselling supervisor, especially in circumstances where the person concerned is unwilling to co-operate or where the risk to others is too great for this to be advisable or possible.
3.2. Where counselling takes place in a primary care setting, the counsellor is seen as working within a team and may therefore consult, as appropriate, with members of that team also working with the same client/patient. Wherever possible this should be with the knowledge and agreement of the client.