"Do you worry about the confidentiality in therapy?" If this is a question that has been going around your head, then have no fear! In this blog post, we will cover everything from what confidential means, to how it applies to the current situation. You'll also get some guidelines on when confidentiality needs to be broken and why so you can sleep well at night.
Confidentiality in Therapy- What is it?
The first thing you need to know is that, yes, everything said during the sessions is considered confidential. This means that not even your mother can get access to what's been shared with your therapist without written consent from you as well as an explanation for her needing such information (i.e., concern about suicidal thoughts or any other reason). In addition, all the files created by your therapist must be stored at their office under lock and key so everyone else who works there cannot have easy access to them either. It's understandable the anxiety that comes with signing a confidentiality agreement, but know that this is to protect you.
Therapists are bound by law and ethical codes to hold everything said during sessions in confidence because the information shared with them is private and personal between just the therapist and client. A lack of trust can be detrimental when it comes to your treatment, so therapists make sure they do not disclose any information about their clients or what's been discussed in session without permission from the person who came for help.
This allows people to feel secure enough to open up without fear someone else might find out what was said or take advantage of sensitive topics that were brought up at some point during therapy.
There is the reason why confidentiality is an essential part of therapy in general, and therapists go to great lengths to ensure it remains that way for clients even after they leave their care. In some states, there are laws that protect client-therapist privilege from being breached but your privacy can still be compromised if another person finds out about your sessions with a therapist outside the professional relationship between them. While most professionals will not divulge any information without permission, you should also know where you stand legally so no one takes advantage of what's been shared during treatment.
Did you know?
Therapists have ethical codes they follow!
You can read more about this here.
Some General Guidelines For Confidentiality
Your therapist should go over these guidelines with you during your first session together. However, we've included them here for further reference:
You can't tell anyone else what was shared in the sessions without written consent from the client and an explanation as to why they need such information (i.e., concern about suicidal thoughts or any other reason). This includes telling parents/guardians anything that may have been disclosed while talking to a therapist.
If there is ever a time when breaking confidentiality needs to happen it's only after speaking with their supervisor and determining if a court order would be required (and how this could potentially get complicated) but until then all communication remains confidential between yourself and your therapist. In the Indian context, confidentiality is broken for the legal system only when the therapist is subpoenaed.
Here are some of the basic guidelines for confidentiality you can try following in your first session:
Discuss confidentiality with a therapist
What does a breach of confidentiality mean?
Who has the right to break confidentiality?
The purpose of maintaining this important boundary is that it allows us to build trust. This comes up in so many ways, whether or not you feel comfortable disclosing certain personal information and how much info your therapist needs from you. The more danger there would be if someone else were able to gain access to any sensitive material shared between yourself and your therapist because it could potentially cause harm (either intentional or unintentional) either physically or psychologically which defeats the whole point of therapy! You want a safe space where all discussions are confidential as they help build better functioning coping mechanisms not just but long term too making them worth.
What are the limits of confidentiality?
Confidentiality can be broken by a therapist in certain circumstances, other times it cannot.
Except for some cases where there has been suspected abuse or neglect, therapy remains confidential between you and your therapist. If ever any information came to light about potentially dangerous behavior or thoughts that may involve self-harm, this would not remain private forever. The only time when breaking confidentiality becomes an issue is if you share something with them during sessions which makes them concerned that someone outside the session could become at risk (i.e., suicidal thoughts). At no point should anyone tell parents/guardians anything unless they have consent from their child first. Therapy works on trust for the most part. If that trust is broken, then the client will not feel comfortable opening up and sharing certain things.
Other limitations of confidentiality include if a child is being abused (specifically physical abuse or sexual abuse). The therapist would have an obligation to tell the appropriate authorities, including parents and guardians if necessary. In this case, it may also be beneficial for family therapy sessions to take place as well so that everyone involved can work together in order to help their loved one get better from whatever they are struggling with at home/school/work. If not immediately then maybe after treatment has been completed successfully. This goes back again to building trust between you and your clients because everything shared will remain confidential unless there's an immediate threat of danger somewhere down the line where others could become harmed by something said while under.
To Sum it Up...
Confidentiality is the cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship and is a foundation that should always be maintained between you and your clients. Without confidentiality, it would be impossible to build trust with one another which is essential for creating a positive environment where treatment can take place.
This also goes back again to building rapport because if there's no trust nor rapport established, there will never be any successful treatment taking place as well since boundaries won't have been set which could lead up to problems down the line later on when discussing issues outside of therapy such as among family members or friends who are close within their circle. And as we learned above confidentiality stands void if the information shared has immediate threats towards oneself/others where those others may end up becoming harmed.
Safe Space Therapy provides a safe space for its clients and practices confidentiality religiously. Book a session with us here.