Individuals, Couples & Families
It is part of the ethical demands of my profession that you can expect the things you tell me to remain confidential. You have the right to come to see me and expect that fact to remain confidential. I am sometimes asked to tell another person that you have been to see me, such as a doctor or an employer, but I can only do that with your permission, or at your request. If I do write to an employer, or anyone outside our relationship, I prefer that you have seen and approved any written communication before it is sent.
When Can Your Right To Confidentiality Be Breached?
Applies To All
I reserve the option to breach someone's confidentiality if I believe they are in immediate danger. If, on the other hand, I believe another person is in danger, I am obliged to breach confidentiality in the interest of protecting that person or persons. Breaching confidentiality in this sense does not mean I make my notes or the content of sessions available. It simply means that I might need to tell someone I am concerned about safety, and I will probably need to tell them enough to explain my concern. I have no right to make a wider disclosure about our work together or talk about anything that has no bearing on my reason for breaching confidentiality. Very occasionally, I might decide that it is in someone's best interests that I contact their GP. For example, if I know that a person I am working with is being prescribed a medication that could be used in a suicide attempt. Under these circumstances, my first step is to talk directly to the person I am worried about and suggest that they might speak to their GP themselves. If they prefer me to write on their behalf, I might take even more time to talk through the implications of me doing so. And in very rare instances, I might decide that I must make contact, even though the person prefers that I don't.
What Happens To Your Notes?
You have a right of access to your notes.
While it is true that you have a right to access your notes, I don't see it as a straightforward matter of me releasing the notes and leaving you to it. There are rules governing my use of notes and who can have access to them. If I make a copy of your notes and give that copy to you, those rules do not apply to you. Who you show those notes to is beyond my control. Once those notes have been given to another party, you too may have little control over what happens to them. For these reasons, I might sometimes delay giving you your notes, so that you have time to consider the possible consequences of having them.
Couples and Families
When I see more than one person at the same time, either as a couple or as family members, I explain before we begin working, how I take notes and who has a right to access those notes.
For each joint session, my notes can be accessed by all of those present. If I see one you alone, you have a right to access those notes, but the other person (or persons) do not – even though you have attended other appointments together. Where a third party wants access to your notes, I cannot give it without the permission of all those present. If I receive an order from a relevant court, I am obliged to comply with the terms of that order.
An important detail is that when you have seen me as a couple or a family, I do not allow one of you to prevent the other/s from having access to their notes from the joint appointments. But you can prevent access by a third party, even if the other person in the appointment has given their permission. While it is true that you have a right to access your notes, it isn't a straightforward matter of me releasing the notes and leaving you to it. There are rules governing my use of notes and who can have access to them. Once they are in your possession, those rules do not apply to you. Who you or they show those notes to is beyond my control. Once those notes have been given to another party, outside of the people that attended the appointment, you too may have little control over what happens to them. For these reasons, I might sometimes delay giving you your notes, so that you have time to consider the possible consequences of having them. This can be even more difficult if the notes are from a joint session.
Individual, couples and family counselling rooms in Horsforth, Leeds, LS18.