Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Therapist Confidentiality and Substance Abuse
The relationship between a therapist and a client is a special one. It involves sharing information that the client would probably not normally divulge to anyone else. Such personal revelations put the client in a vulnerable position. They need to be confident that that the therapist will keep such information private. If they do not have such trust then they will be unwilling to divulge their inner thoughts and feelings. This therapeutic relationship totally depends completely on trust; if this is not present then the sessions are unlikely to prove fruitful. Client confidentiality helps to ensure that a therapeutic relationship can develop.
Confidentiality is an ethical principle that holds some types of information as privileged when it is shared between a client and a professional. This type of communication often involves things that the client will not want to become public knowledge. If such information were to be leaked it could cause embarrassment, or possibly even make life difficult, for the individual. Such private data can only be divulged to third parties if they are authorized to have it. Confidentiality is not purely an ethical concern. There can also be legal and professional penalties for those who abuse privileged information.
Those individuals who attend group sessions can feel more vulnerable in regards to confidentiality. While the therapist will be professionally and legally obliged to protect any information the same will not be true for other members of the group. There are plenty of personal stories shared during these sessions and some of this could be potentially harmful to the individual if it were to become public knowledge. This is why there is an expectation that group members will not talk about what goes on inside the group with anyone else. The therapist will frequently remind the group of their obligations in this regard. Most will be happy to respect this as they have also likely divulged information that they would prefer to be kept private. It is surprisingly rare that such information ever leaves the group.
A big fear for people who are entering rehab is what other people will think. By seeking help for their problem they may worry that this is going to damage their public or business reputation. It is understandable that the individual does not want their personal difficulties becoming the subject of gossip. This is why a quality rehab will always pay strict attention to keeping client information confidential. Those people who do not wish to for their attendance at rehab to become public knowledge will be able to keep such information private. It is even possible for them to use a pseudonym during their stay to further ensure privacy.
The relationship between a therapist and their clients is based on confidentially. This means that they are not allowed to even share this information with the loved ones of the client without permission. The situation does become more complicated where the client is underage though. Legal guardians may have a right to know what has gone on in the therapy sessions. This is changing. In many states in the US a child is treated similarly to adults in regards to client confidentially. If an employer is paying for therapy sessions it does not mean that they will have the right to information about what goes on.
In the modern world a great deal of confidential information is held electronically. There are many good reasons for managing data this way, but there are also some negative consequences. One of the biggest challenges is data protection. It is vital than any information held this way is kept secure. This can be done by using encryption and making databases completely secure to outsiders. It also involves ensuring that any outside entity who is handling such sensitive information will respect confidentiality. The onus for this will be therapist who is initially responsible for the gathering the information. They need to be sure that any information they keep electronically is secure.
There are a number of situations that justify the breaking of client confidentiality. These include:
* If there is a good reason to suspect that the client will harm themselves if they are not stopped.
* If there are criminal proceedings the court may demand to see all the documentation in the possession of the therapist relating to the client.
* If there is the risk that the client might be about to commit violence against another person.
* Where there is good evidence of abuse against children or anyone else in the care of the client.
* Other health care professionals may be given access to this data so that they can provide suitable care. They too will be obligated to respect client confidentiality.
* Sometimes insurance companies will often have access to some of this information.
* If the client has signed a consent form to allow the information to be shared with a third party.
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