Is therapy confidential?
Are you looking for reassurance that your private therapy conversations stay that way?
Are you merely curious about how we record, store or share your information?
In this article, I’ll tell you how confidentiality works in counselling, showing you what to expect and addressing any concerns.
For all psychologists, therapists and counsellors, our professional codes stipulate that we need to keep up-to-date and accurate records of your treatment. As well as storing your contact information, we also keep session notes and questionnaires you complete.
How do we store your information?
We store your information digitally using high-grade encrypted software that complies with recommended security standards. Your information is stored in the Cloud, not on local computers, giving you additional protection. We only use approved systems for keeping your data because we can’t be sure that generic systems are secure.
Our emails and documents are sent securely from our practice management systems or organisational email accounts. We do not use personal accounts for correspondence.
We use third-party apps to provide additional services for conducting video sessions or sending newsletters. Again, your information is kept secure. Video sessions are conducted using high-security encryption that is HIPAA Compliant. Basically, it means that we follow legal requirements for healthcare organisations to protect your information.
GDPR and UK Data Protection laws guide us on how to look after your information. We are registered as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), a legal requirement for any person or organisation that processes personal information.
All your information remains private and confidential; we do not discuss you with anyone or share your information. There are several exceptions, including the risk of harm, child protection, vulnerable adults, the Terrorism Act, Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering, Court Orders and Public Interest.
- Risk of Harm: If you tell us an intention or plan to cause harm to yourself or others, we have a duty to take steps to prevent that harm. This might involve informing relevant authorities, mental health services, or others at risk.
- Child Protection: If your therapist believes a child is at risk of harm or abuse, they are legally obligated to report this to the appropriate child protection services. This is in line with the Children Act 1989 and 2004.
- Vulnerable Adults: Similar to child protection, if a therapist believes a vulnerable adult is at risk of harm or abuse, they must report this to the relevant authorities.
- Terrorism Act 2000: Therapists are legally required to disclose any information they receive about acts of terrorism or potential acts of terrorism.
- Drug Trafficking: Under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, therapists must report any knowledge or suspicion of drug trafficking.
- Money Laundering: The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 requires professionals, including therapists, to report suspicions of money laundering.
- Court Orders: Therapists may be required to disclose information if they receive a court order. This could be in the context of criminal investigations, custody battles, or other legal proceedings.
- Public Interest: In rare cases, there might be an overwhelming public interest in disclosing information, even if it breaches confidentiality. This would be in situations where the wider public is at risk.
Discussing work with a supervisor
All therapists discuss their cases with a supervisor or expert clinician. It’s important to ensure you get the best possible interventions and care. However, we only discuss the work, not your personal information, and supervisors are bound by the laws and codes of conduct as therapists.
If you have an insurer or third party paying for your sessions, we only share the bare minimum of information. They may request updates on your treatment, which are brief summaries.
How long do we keep your information?
We are required to keep your information for seven years. After that, we delete it. You can request a copy of your data. However, we cannot delete it before the seven-year period has ended.
We have a quiet, professional, comfortable space to work together undisturbed to ensure privacy during sessions. When working online, your therapist will ensure they are in a private location, and we advise you to do the same.
Do we talk to your GP?
We do not request GP details, and we do not contact them routinely. If you are prescribed psycho-active medication such as SSRIs, benzodiazepines or anti-psychotics, then we would require your GP information. We do ask for an emergency contact, such as a family member or friend, that we can contact should the need arise.
As you can tell, we implement several measures to protect your information and maintain confidentiality. We only share information under exceptional circumstances, which, in our experience, rarely happens.
If you have any questions about confidentiality, please get in touch.