Today I received a phone call from the wife of one of my clients.
She was calling to enquire about how his therapy was going and for a general update. She
mentioned that she had been paying for the therapy and wanted to know whether I
thought it was working or not.
During assessments, I explain to my clients that unless they ask in writing for me to
provide a report regarding their counselling, that I will not divulge any details to a third
party unless I am requested to by a court of law. This extends to family members as well
and to protect confidentiality, I am ethically not allowed to confirm that a person is
actually a client of mine or not.
I gently explained to the lady on the phone that due to client confidentiality, I was not able
to confirm whether her husband was a client or not and that unless I had permission in
writing from a client, that details of their counselling would never be disclosed to a third
“But I‘m paying your wages”
The lady went on to explain how difficult it had been for her with her husband and that she
just needed to know whether he was going to be okay. I repeated what I had already
explained to her, at which point she became very angry, demanding to know how many
sessions he had attended for and what we had discussed. She stated that she had effectively been 'paying my wages' and that as such, I should tell her what she wanted to know.
I gently explained again that I could hear that she was anxious to know how her husband
was getting on and that this was understandable, but that I was ethically not permitted to
disclose information to her.
I gave her a website address where she could look up the ethical code that I adhere to and
that if she had any further questions about confidentiality, that she was welcome to call me
back, although I would still not be able to confirm whether her husband was a client or not.
The lady ended the call quite abruptly and did not call back.
Don’t give anything away.
It is really important when faced with this sort of situation that you don't give anything
away accidentally during the conversation. It's best to talk about clients in general and how
ethically, you are not permitted to give out information, rather than get drawn into a
discussion about one particular person.
Most people will understand if you explain everything to them and respect the fact that you
are working in the best interests of your clients and the general public.