Thursday, August 4, 2011

Confidentiality: exceptions

Confidentiality:  exceptions

If you want to know specifics of the legal parameters of confidentiality, then you will want to do some research for your particular field and state, but here are the exceptions to confidentiality:

Confidentiality still requires counseling professionals to report three circumstances to authorities (police, state abuse agency, state health board, spouse - to whomever the case concerns):
  1. suspecting child abuse or endangering
  2. elderly abuse
  3. an IMMEDIATE threat to your life or someone else’s life (including the individual)
Counselors, even pastoral counselors should always tell their clients when such information will be released, and to whom.  It may be a useful idea to have some sort of sheet to explain boundaries and expectations for anything resembling formal counseling.  If you have such an instrument, then you will want to explain the exceptions listed above.

I have had to report suspected abuse, and the reporting was a painless process.  After explaining to the client why I was going to report what they told me, I made the phone call while they sat with me.  This permitted them to hear everything I was saying, and permitted me to ask clarifying questions for accuracy.

I was given a reference #, and the name of the individual who took my information, along with her ID #.  I copied this info down along with the date and filed it for future reference.  It’s a good idea, during this interview, to ask what the client can expect from this point forward.  This will allow you to educate them so they can begin to prepare themselves, and minimize their fears.

NOTE:  Staying calm throughout this process and speaking softly and evenly will help the individual to stay calm. 

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