Given the recent implementation of new EU data storage regulations and GDPR, this would be the right moment to remind everyone about the principles of confidentiality in psychotherapy in general and in my practice specifically. Some clients study this section of the contract very carefully, while others just glance over it while ticking mentally: “I agree”. I understand that this is every person’s own choice, but I feel it is important for me to explain my position as clearly and distinctly as possible, giving each client the opportunity to raise the matter again, if need be.
To begin with, even before starting any kind of work – or during the first session at the latest – the client and I sign a contract, and I also ask them to fill an initial assessment form. I do not share this information with anybody. Don’t worry, the Home Office won’t receive your address, tedious acquaintances won’t get your phone number, and I’m not going to send your parents a letter with the details of your divorce. To reiterate: I am the only person who needs these papers. Nobody else. And I keep this information in a safe and secure place, applying up-to-date security measures in order to protect your privacy.
There is also the information you share during our meetings. As a rule, I keep an audio record of the whole conversation and I write in my notepad my ideas and some of the things you say. I also insert the dates of our meetings in my calendar. Similarly to other documents, I do everything in my power to protect this information from the eyes of strangers.
Sometimes I may let my supervisors listen to some of the audio recordings. Although I discuss my clients in supervision and intervision sessions, I always do my best to anonymise them. No supervisor will ever learn your name, date of birth, or address. I am the only one capable of making a connection between the specific clients and their stories.
In certain cases I may have to infringe the rules of confidentiality. A court order or a special kind of police request could oblige me to do so. I am also required to freely and willingly notify the authorities about any planned terrorist attacks or money laundering cases I become aware of.
Apart from this, sometimes I may break the rules of confidentiality for ethical reasons and inform the police or Social Services of unmistakable child abuse cases. I may also infringe confidentiality if I see that a client is in a state in which he or she risks bringing serious harm upon themselves or others. I should mention that these are not general professional requirements, but principles I adopted based on my own moral convictions and ethical position. I am prepared to discuss these points with current and potential clients. It is important that I see that we both clearly perceive the framework in which our work is taking place and that these rules are transparent and understood by both of us.
Now a few more details about what information is covered by the rules of confidentiality: everything you told me in session and everything you told me after the session, all our correspondence, all video and phone calls, all information you gave in forms and questionnaires, even the very fact of your presence in my office and your desire to undertake therapy. This means that should I meet you at a social function or among mutual acquaintances, I won’t tell everybody: “Oh yes, we already know each other, she used to be my client”. I shall not discuss you or mention your name in conversation with other clients, even if they are your friends. I hope these rules will give you a sense of security and comfort and will contribute to our working together efficiently.