The Staff Counselling Service recognises the importance of confidentiality for all staff using the service. It is recognised within UK law that counsellors owe a duty of confidence to the client due to the special nature of the relationship, and that maintaining the trust and privacy of personal information is a legitimate expectation for the client.
The Staff Counselling Service offers a confidential space where staff can talk about issues that may be causing concern. All the counsellors follow strict codes of ethics (BACP/UKCP/BPS) and operate within the Ethical Framework of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (www.bacp.co.uk) The service complies with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Information about all counselling clients is kept confidential. Information is stored about the name and contact details for each client, together with records of the dates of all appointments. This data is stored on a system used by the counsellors and administrators.
All staff working for the Staff Counselling Service, including administrators, are required to sign a contract to maintain the confidentiality of every person using this service. Whilst the service is located within TLC, no information will be shared with any member of TLC, or any other person within the School.
Nothing will be divulged to anyone outside the service without your expressed consent. Under normal circumstances, nothing you say goes beyond the counselling room unless you want it to, and you say so explicitly. Of course you still have the right to share whatever you like from your experience of counselling with anyone you choose.
A counsellor may only pass on information in exceptional circumstances:
- where the counsellor has the express consent of the client to disclose the information, or
- where the counsellor believes the client, or a third party is in serious danger, or
- where the counsellor would be liable to civil or criminal court procedure if the information was not disclosed.
Consent to disclose any information is sought from the client if at all possible.
The Service will also collect evaluation data from clients, using evaluation forms. None of the information supplied by any user can be linked up to their personal notes, and neither will it be disseminated in any form that may identify a client. Data from both the audit and evaluation programmes will be used to determine an overall view of the service, and this may be circulated across the School and in other public documents, such as annual reports.
Counsellors keep brief notes on counselling sessions. Other information is securely kept:
- Client contact details are held on computer
- Emails are retained
- Confidential information is stored securely within the service, kept for six years and then destroyed, by securely shredding the information
- Anonymous statistical information is kept electronically and used to aid the efficient running of the service
Under the Data Protection Act (1998), clients have a right of access to all notes kept on them. If those notes contain references to other individuals these may not be available to the client, as protection is also granted to third parties. If a client's file includes a letter or additional information from the person responsible for their clinical care, usually their GP or psychiatrist, consent from the relevant practitioner must be obtained before the correspondence is disclosed.
The service will not provide access to client records if requested by other parties, unless this is with explicit consent of the client, or unless directed by a court order. Any other request for copies of the counsellor's notes will be refused.
In no circumstances will the original copies of notes be provided to the client or any other party, even with the consent of the client. Counsellor's notes will be stored for a period of six years and then will be destroyed within a secure and confidential process.
In line with professional requirements, counsellors may discuss their work with an external supervisor. In this process, the identity of the client is not revealed. The purpose of these meetings is to help the counsellor reflect on their work. All counsellors receive supervision of counselling in accordance with BACP guidelines.