What is Confidentiality?

Confidentiality is a big concern for clients.  Within a counselor’s office, the most private information is shared.  A counselor puts several things into place to keep the identity of the client confidential.

One way is through documentation.  Most therapists keep notes in session.  They may have an identifying system such as initials or a number to identify a client.  Using a client’s full name would lead to a higher chance of a breach of confidentiality.  These session notes are kept in locked filing cabinets to keep confidentiality.

In a therapist computer system, software programs are password protected so they cannot be reached by outside users.  When a therapist consults about a client, they will not use names and rarely use specific details such as city, school or company names.  A client’s issues will be discussed in general terms. If a counselor’s office has a window the shades will be drawn for privacy.  Also, it is common to use white noise makers outside of the office doors to help prevent passersby from hearing the content of a session.

There are times when confidentiality is broken.  During the intake session, a therapist explains their disclosure statement.  Within this document, the reasons are listed for breaking confidentiality.  when this will take place.  The first reason for this breach is if there is a report of child abuse or elderly abuse.  In this case, a counselor will need to contact the Department of Human Services.   The second reason is if a client is a physical threat to hurt themselves or someone else.  The third reason is if a client’s file is subpoenaed by the court.  That fourth is if a client signs a release of information.  In this case, information can be shared with whoever is on the client’s list of releases of information.

It is the counselor’s responsibility to take every precaution in place to keep documents confidential.  This is the foundation of the counseling profession.

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