The Alberta College of Social Work states that “a social worker will safeguard the confidentiality of the information obtained in the course of practice, including while teaching, providing supervision, conducting research, or other professional duties”. The B.C College of Social Workers report that it is the duty of social workers to “hold in strict confidence all information about clients. Social workers disclose such information only when required or authorized by law to do so or when clients have consented to disclosure.” The legal basis of these assertions are outlined in Legislation. For Alberta it is the Alberta Health Professions Act (HIPA); The Health Information Act (HIA); the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP); Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA); and the Standards of Practice for Registered Social Workers that guide confidentiality and privacy. In British Columbia the legislation covering confidentiality and privacy are asserted in the Privacy Ac (PA); Health Professions Act (HPA); and the Social Workers Act.
The information about a client that is defined as confidential and private include but not limited to the following:
- Clients’ name, identity and the client’s status as the counsellor’s client (or not)
- Clients’ attendance at counselling appointments
- Information disclosed by the counselling client during a therapy session
- Information about a client obtained through other means, such as via a physician, teacher, hospital, family member or other third party
- Verbal or written information – for example, information communicated during conversations or clinical notes
RELEASE OF INFORMATION
Clients may request or agree that specific information be disclosed to a third party. Counsellors will typically ask the client to sign a release using specific guidelines such as:
- with whom the information will be shared;
- what information will be shared;
iii. the intended purpose for sharing the information;
- whether the client has a right to request that identifying information be excluded; and
- any other information particular to the specific request that a reasonable person would want to know.
- when this release of information expires and
vii. how this permission can be revoked
In urgent or emergency situations, it may be acceptable for the client to provide verbal consent. A formal release of information may be considered to:
- Organize and coordinate care with another health care practitioner, particularly if the counsellor and the third party need to work together to help the client
- To obtain background information/health and treatment records from another provider to avoid the client having to run through background details again with the counsellor or other health professional
- To assist the counsellor’s understanding of the client’s situation, particularly if specialized services were provided elsewhere
Separate informed consent release’s will be required if the counselor requires information obtained through different means, usually for teaching purposes. For social workers and art therapists, separate permission is required for photographing, audio or videotaping.
LIMITS OF CONFIDENTIALITY
Clients engaged in counseling may or may not be aware that there are limits to confidentiality and should be informed of such limits before the start of counselling. Limits to confidentiality include: if a client reports or indicates there is a risk to self, others, vulnerable adults, or children and/or in the event of a court subpoena.
It is important for clients to be informed on the parameters of counseling. This information can assist in making informed decisions on choosing counseling or not. Information on confidentiality should be provided by the counselor before a client commits to counseling. Ask if you are unsure.
All counselors should belong to a regulatory college or in some cases, a professional association. Regulatory colleges are responsible for the protection of the public from harm by the professionals the college registers. A member of the public can contact the regulatory college and make a complaint about the counselor’s practice. In this situation the client file would be seized by the College and subject to a review and investigation. The counsellor would also be interviewed, and specific facts regarding the complaint reviewed as part of that investigation. If the counsellor is part of a regulatory college, an investigation is dictated by the Alberta and British Columbia College of Social Workers via the Provincial Health Professions Act and the Social Workers Act.
EMAILING AND TEXTING
Email and texting are not considered secure and confidential ways of communicating. For the protection of your privacy, please do not email information you would not be comfortable discussing in a public space. If you have a confidential matter to discuss Darlynne would be happy to confidentially discuss your concerns either in session, or if they can be addressed in the course of a 15 minute free phone or in person consultation. Texting may be mutually agreed upon as a means to support learning between appointments but not to discuss a confidential matter or to address a crisis.
Currently Darlynne Hildebrandt does have a website that provides information on her services and to schedule an appointment. Scheduled appointments are not visible to the public only to Darlynne. At the present time Facebook and LinkedIn are not social media platforms that Darlynne utilizes or will accept invitations to become part of the community.
Darlynne will complete counselling notes on each counselling session paying particular attention to:
- each client’s full name, address and telephone number;
- if the client is a corporation or organization, the name, address and telephone number of the corporation or organization and the name, address, telephone number and title of the principal contacts in the corporation or organization;
- a brief description of the professional services requested and provided and the location and dates when those services were requested and provided;
- any fee arrangement;
- a copy of all reports and other documents prepared or received as part of a professional relationship;
- clear identification of the author of any documents and reports in the record;
- reasons for professional involvement, the assessment, interventions, goals, progress toward the goals, and relevant information arising from the informed consent process;
- clear identification, including name and contact information, of the source of any client information not provided directly by the client; and
- clear indication of when and why the file was closed
- will maintain professional records for 10 years following the last entry for a professional service.
Once the file has reached its expiry date it will be destroyed by confidential shredding.
Many counselors obtain clinical supervision to ensure they are getting the support and guidance to help clients to the best of their ability. Clinical supervision is when a counselor seeks out a more experienced and knowledgeable clinician to learn, and improve on their therapeutic skills. Clients should be informed by the counselor if they are receiving supervision. Different types of therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Dialectical Behavior Therapy; and Art Therapy; require that a therapist seek ongoing clinical supervision to develop their skills within that therapeutic modality. For example, the comprehensive model of Dialectical Behavior Therapy requires that the counselor participate weekly on a consultation team with other DBT counselors to improve their skills and receive support and feedback on how to further assist a client.
ACCESSING AND CORRECTING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
Clients have a right to view or receive a copy of their file, or portions of the file. Darlynne Hildebrandt has 30 days to respond to your request unless she is out of the office. As per PIPA, any information either given by third parties, or about third parties that is contained in the file, is requested to be blacked out, to preserve the third party’s privacy. Requests that take longer than 15 minutes to organize, are billed in 30-minute intervals according to the current fee structure for paperwork. If you have been engaged in couples counseling one or both parties may want copies of the file, the written and signed consent by both parties is required to release information. On some rare occasions, Darlynne Hildebrandt may believe that the release of your file would result in harm to either you or another party, Darlynne Hildebrandt has the right under PIPA to refuse the release of a copy of the file.
In the course of your review if you discover factual information that is inaccurate, Darlynne Hildebrandt will put a correction on the electron or paper files with a single strike through of the objected information and the correction beside It, signed and dated. Darlynne cannot make corrections to her clinical assessment/impression unless this assessment has changed in light of the corrections.
CLIENT BILL OF RIGHTS
When you commit to counseling it is important that you know your rights. Darlynne has provided a list of her values related to counselling rights. However, she may have missed something or your very specific situation may not “fit” exactly with what Darlynne has provided here. You may even disagree. Above all else it is important to trust your “gut” and respect your values when engaged in the therapeutic process with a counsellor.
You have a right to,
- Speak with a counselor before starting counseling
- Refuse to attend counseling, even if important people in your life believe that it is necessary
- End counseling at any time, for any reason, counseling is voluntary
- Decline to work with a counsellor you do not feel comfortable with
- Request to work with a counsellor of a particular gender and/or orientation
- Have the content of your session kept strictly confidential and exceptions to confidentiality (risk to self, others or where children are at risk) explained to you before proceeding with therapy
- Ask questions of the counsellor, such as training, experience and approach
- Refuse to answer questions by the counsellor if you are not feeling comfortable
- Have all the fees and policies explained to you prior to counseling beginning
- The counsellor provides the client with emotional support not the other way around
- The counsellor should work on your goals explored at the beginning of therapy
- Bring a support person to session or refuse another person’s attendance
- To have the counsellor listen to you and be heard
- Work with a counsellor that you do not know personally from somewhere else
- Have a counsellor who respects your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, age, religion, culture, ethnicity, race
- Have a physically safe environment free from racism, sexism, sexual harassment, innuendo, or expectation of a sexual relationship. Ethical counsellors never expect sex or engage in sexual touching with their clients
- Ask the counsellor to make factual corrections to your counselling file
- Not have information about you released without your signed consent
- To request a second opinion
- Disagree with a diagnosis you have received or disagree with the counsellor’s assessment of your situation
- Have your messages returned in a timely manner and based on the policy about between session contact
- To view your counseling file. In certain jurisdictions, information obtained from third parties may first need to be blacked out
- Have professional boundaries respected meaning your therapist does not try to initiate social contact with you outside of the counselling relationship
- Request information about your progress, planning or evaluating your treatment goals