At Teenage Mental Health we abide by a strict confidentiality policy within our service. It is
important to us that our clients can relax in knowing that Teenage Mental Health is a safe and
a private place to express themselves and tell us about their experiences.
We offer our clients the highest level of confidentiality consistent with the law and the ethical
framework of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Confidentiality within
our service means that anything a client tells their counsellor is kept entirely private within the
Teenage Mental Health team, subject to a few exceptions outlined below.
All our counsellors meet regularly with a professionally trained supervisor to ensure that their
work is to the highest standard. Our supervisors are included within the confidentiality of the
1. Confidentiality within Teenage Mental Health
1.1 Teenage Mental Health offers confidentiality within its service. This means that
information given will not go outside of the Teenage Mental Health team.
1.2 Teenage Mental Health offers its clients the highest level of confidentiality consistent
with the law and the codes of ethics of the BACP. This protects a client from the
voluntary disclosure of confidences without the client’s permission unless legally or
professionally required to do so.
1.3 The respecting of client confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for keeping trust.
The professional management of confidentiality requires the protection of personally
identifiable and sensitive information from unauthorised disclosure.
1.4 Counsellors must be willing to be accountable to their clients and to their profession
for their management of confidentiality in general and, particularly, for any disclosures
made without their client’s consent.
1.5 The requirement to respect client confidentiality is also obligatory upon all members
of Teenage Mental Health staff and workers, whether paid or voluntary. It includes all
office staff, fundraisers, educators, and trustees as well as face-to-face and helpline
team members and those contributing in any other therapeutic or organisational
capacity to our work with or without direct client contact.
1.6 The obligation to maintain confidentiality also continues after the counselling
relationship has ended. Teenage Mental Health undertakes to ensure that all client
records are kept secure so that only authorised persons can gain access to them.
1.7 All members and ex-members of Teenage Mental Health staff or volunteers, whether
counsellors, trustees, paid workers, or volunteers are required to protect the
anonymity of all individuals who have been or still are clients of our service. This
includes an obligation to refrain from all verbal or written references by which our
clients may be identified unless the client has given consent to do so.
1.8 The majority of our clients are children under the age of 18 who are accompanied to
the centre by parents. Parents are welcome to stay in the waiting areas but are not
usually permitted into counselling sessions with their children, unless the children
specifically request it. Our counsellors are still bound by confidentiality not to disclose
anything to their client’s parents about the session. Parent’s may be given an overall
update that things are progressing well or that the child needs a little more time to
explore things, but no specific details will be offered. This is important to preserve the
counselling session as a safe space for children to express themselves without fear of
their disclosures being relayed back to their parents and care givers.
2. Boundaries of Confidentiality within the Counselling Team
2.1 In a situation whereby two or more Teenage Mental Health counsellors are seeing
different members of the same family or other close-knit relationships (e.g. a
supporter and the survivor), it is best practice for the Teenage Mental Health
counsellors not to talk to each other about their work with the linked clients.
2.2 If it is thought to be therapeutically beneficial for the counsellors to talk to each other
about their client work, then this should first be discussed with the counsellors’
supervisor and Teenage Mental Health’s Clinical Director to agree what is appropriate
to divulge and who will be best to communicate this information. For example, it may
be best for the Clinical Director to be the channel of communication between the
3. Rights to Confidential Client Records
3.1 There are situations in which counsellors may be required by law to submit their handwritten
counselling process notes for investigation. However, The Police and Criminal Evidence Act
1984 provides explicit and wide-ranging protection for counselling records during police
investigations. Section 12 of the Act specifically defines personal records. These are excluded
from the powers of the magistrate to issue search warrants, which must be issued by a circuit
judge. The aim is to preserve confidences from invasion of privacy by the police.
3.2 A solicitor’s letter requesting disclosure of client information is not sufficient to
obtain disclosure of confidential client records. A court order is required before
disclosure of such material can be obtained.
3.3 Following the Data Protection Act 1998, it had been widely accepted that a client had
legal entitlement to information and that the therapist had a legal obligation to provide
it. However, a new ruling has now established that a client does not have a legal right
of access to the handwritten process notes made by the counsellor following
…the client’s right to insist on access to his or her records is currently restricted to those that are held
electronically or have been made on behalf of a public service, such as education, health and social
services (Freedom of Information Act 2000). Clients who have been receiving services in any other
context no longer have a legal entitlement to their handwritten records. In the absence of any legal duty
to disclose records to clients, therapists are entitled to use their own judgement in deciding whether to
disclose records in response to [a request from solicitor on the client’s behalf]. This is fundamentally an
ethical decision to be made in accordance with the ethical principles that inform your work.
(Bond, T. and Sandhu, A. (2005) Therapists in court: providing evidence and supporting
witnesses. London: Sage).
However, this should be talked through between counsellor and client and the
counsellor will seek to make decisions in the best interest of the client.
3.4 In circumstances whereby client and counsellor are in favour of releasing counselling
notes to the police or a solicitor for a court case, this should only be done after
Teenage Mental Health’s official ‘Release of Counselling Notes Consent Form’ is
filled in, signed and the requirements written in the form are fulfilled.
4. Exceptions to Confidentiality:
There are circumstances in which Teenage Mental Health cannot legally or ethically maintain
confidentiality within the service. Wherever possible, Teenage Mental Health will make every
attempt to communicate first with the client explaining the reasons for the need to pass on
information and to whom this will be given. These exceptions are listed below and would qualify
as areas of authorised disclosure:
4.1 Safeguarding Children: If information is disclosed that a child is at risk of immediate
significant harm, Teenage Mental Health has a duty under the Children Act to pass on
this information to the Social Services and Police. The safeguarding policy is available
4.2 Serious Harm: If planned serious harm to the life of self or another person is
disclosed, we have a duty to pass this on to the appropriate authority (GP, Police,
Ambulance service etc.) in order to do all that is possible to see the person protected.
4.3 Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults: If there is a serious risk of harm/abuse to a
vulnerable adult, Teenage Mental Health has a duty of protection to such vulnerable
adults. Information may need to be passed on to the appropriate agencies in order to
protect vulnerable adults who could be at risk. See Teenage Mental Health’s Policy
P11 Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults to understand how a ‘vulnerable adult’ is defined.
4.4 Offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1987: If information is given on
any planned act of terrorism, Teenage Mental Health is, by law, obliged to report this
to the Police without informing the person who gave the information.
4.5 Court Cases: In the event of a Court case, the Judge has power to subpoena a client’s
counselling notes, or request that a counselling report is provided as evidence for the
4.6 Drug Money Laundering: Teenage Mental Health has a duty to disclose any
information given in regards the laundering of drug money.
4.7 Road Traffic Accidents: Teenage Mental Health does not have a duty to initiate
disclosure of information known in regards road traffic accidents. However, if the
Police contact us as part of such enquiries, we have a duty to pass on any information
relevant to that road traffic accident.
4.8 Hearsay witness to murder: There is no legal requirement for Teenage Mental
Health to initiate the disclosure of any information in which a client alleges being
witness to or causing murder/manslaughter. However, it may well be appropriate for
the Counsellor to encourage the client to disclose information to police. If the Police
contact us as part of such enquiries, we would have a duty to pass on any relevant
information about the alleged murder.
4.9 Complaints: If a Counsellor is formally accused of wrongful conduct, then the need
for the Counsellor to divulge information about a client is recognised in order for the
matter to be investigated. The breaking of confidentiality will be kept to a minimum,
in consultation with advisors. The Counsellor will continue to have regard for the
wellbeing of the client.
4.10 Communication with GP: Teenage Mental Health is only able to offer counselling if
a client provides the contact details of their General Practitioner or agreed alternative
medical back-up. With the client’s permission, Teenage Mental Health’s usual practice
is not to inform the GP of the commencement of counselling with this Service. No
other personal information about the client should they request we inform their GP
would be passed on, unless direct permission was given by the client. GP contact
details are given by the client for any possible future emergency situation.
5. Suicide and self-harm
From time to time a client may express a desire to end their life or practice self-harm.
5.1 We will not disclose this to the client’s parents or the authorities unless we believe
that this admission carries a risk of significant and immediate harm to the child.
5.2 Should an admission of intention to significantly self-harm or commit suicide be made
by a patient Teenage Mental Health Safeguarding protocols will be immediately
enacted, and appropriate referrals made.
5.3 We will never make referrals to the police or other health or social care services
without attempting to inform the patient first.
5.4 We will never tell a parent of a child about admissions they may make of intention to
self-harm or commit suicide without telling the child first.