According to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics and federal law regarding client/counselor relationships, each counselor must respect the client's right to privacy and avoid illegal or unwarranted disclosure of confidential information without specific written consent of the client. Disclosure to parents, faculty or staff or to any unauthorized person requesting information about the student or the counseling relationship is both illegal and unethical.
The right to privacy may be waived by the student or, in cases of minors, the client's guardian under the age of 18. In all other cases, confidentiality must ethically and legally be secured except for the following reasons:
- The counselor is legally and ethically bound to disclose confidential information in order to prevent clear and imminent danger to the client or to others. Specifically, confidential information may be disclosed in cases of suicide, homicide, or physical or sexual abuse of another.
- A counselor must disclose confirmation of a fatal and contagious disease to an identifiable third party who is at a high risk of contracting the disease. Before doing so, the counselor must confirm that the client has not already informed the third party of the illness.
- When a court orders confidential information to be disclosed without the signed consent of the client, the counselor must request from the court that the information not be disclosed due to potential harm to the client and/or the counseling relationship. In the case of court mandate of disclosure, the counselor must submit the minimal amount of information possible to comply with the request of the court.
- Counselors are ethically permitted to discuss a client case in supervision or treatment teams. However, information must be presented in a manner that will maintain the anonymity of the client.
- With group counseling there is less control over confidentiality than in traditional individual counseling relationships. While there is great therapeutic opportunity within group work, one must consider the risks pertaining to confidentiality.
If you have any questions about confidentiality and its limits, talk to your counselor about it.