Many people wonder about confidentiality in therapy sessions and often are concerned with it enough that it keeps them from going to counseling. Therefore, I wanted to write a blog about it, because I have had so many people wonder about it. There are 3 things that I want you to know.
1. What is said in the room, stays in the room.
Your story is valued and is respected, as we know that you do not want all of your hardships splayed out to the world. We understand that it probably took a lot of effort to come to therapy and then to have to share intimate details of your life with someone that you hardly know, is no easy task. It takes vulnerability to share such intimate details of your life and that is something that we acknowledge in you choosing therapy. My goal as a therapist is for you to know just how important and valuable your story is. It is individual and true to only you. Do people share similar stories? Sure, but your story is specific and individual to you! Some people struggle with minimizing their story and therefore do not make it important. I will tell you this though until I am blue in the face. I believe that your story is important and valuable and no one can take that away from you, except for yourself.
I want to be fully transparent with you though and say that in the therapy world, there are consultation groups with other therapists, and supervision that are usually necessary for us to attend. However, in those groups, if your story is discussed, there are minimal details given, and there are absolutely no names or identifying information given. We very much value your privacy and try to be very cautious. It is essentially us sharing general details and asking feedback from others on how we could best meet your needs. These arenas are for growth on our end to be the best therapist that we can be. Also, this is a confidential place as well, and information shared in that space is not to be shared outside.
2. Will family/friends ever be able to find out that I am seeing a Therapist?
That is a definite NO. Usually, you provide one emergency contact in the case that anything of emergency ever occurred. In that case, we would need to contact someone else, but you choose who you want that person to be. That person would not even need to know that you were in therapy, but if anything happened, they would be the source of contact. However, even if this person were contacted in a state of emergency, they still do not have the right to know anything that has been talked about in therapy.
Also, if anyone were ever to contact your therapist to try and gather information, the therapist cannot even speak to them. They cannot confirm or deny that they know you as a person, or confirm or deny that they are seeing you as a client. Many people want to keep it private that they are in therapy and we completely respect that.
3. There are exceptions to privacy
These are very important and should be laid out clearly for you, either in the Therapist's Disclosure Statement (which you should receive the first session or before), or they will be gone over by the Therapist in the first session. Why are these important? Because they take into account your safety and other's safety. These exceptions come into play if you are threatening to harm yourself or others, or if you/other's are being harmed by someone else. This may be situations of child abuse or elder abuse. We as therapists are mandatory reporters and are required to report if any harm is being caused or potentially caused to another person. These situations can get tricky, because many times people do not want others reported, but these rules are in place to protect you and others. In the end, people are often relieved that their therapist reported, so that they did not have to.
My goal in providing this information with you was to help ease some fears that you may have over the confidentiality of counseling, as well as to be transparent with you in the fact that there are times that confidentiality has to be broken. However, these few times are for safety reasons.
As humans, we often let the things that we are cautious of keep us from trying them. However, I encourage you to ask any questions that you may have of your Therapist. You deserve to have a clear understanding of what your rights are. Most likely they will be way more willing to answer them than you anticipated. I encourage you to not let your questions keep you from pursuing your healing journey through counseling.
Anticipatory stress can often be worse than actually doing the activity that you are anticipating.
Are you letting anticipatory stress keep you from pursuing counseling?
Be Your Own Advocate. Ask Questions. Take Action.
Brittany Wingfield, MS, LPCC
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am absolutely a resource for you.
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