“Please Don’t Tell My Mum!” Confidentiality and School Counselling

Posted by: Barbara Schneebeli on February 14, 2012 4:28 pm

“Please, don’t tell my parents!” I have heard this phrase many times and, often I just need to reassure the student that my lips are sealed. Other times, a conflict arises. In the heat of the moment, I am face with “I trusted you!” because ethically and legally I need to disclose the information to a third party. 

As counsellors, trust becomes our ally in the therapeutic process. It is an important indicator of a strong relationship and helps to foster, among other things, the healing process.  The promise of confidentiality, I am convinced, helps me in gaining students’ trust. I have learned over the years to insure that students understand the realm of confidentiality. I try to hold ongoing discussions as to how, when, and with whom information is to be shared. 

I have also realized that parent need to be informed as much, if not more, than the student himself, especially if it is the parent who refers the student to my office. Parents seem to understand the concept of confidentiality and yet I always get that phone call: “So, what did he say…?  The dialogue does not cease. I understand this is coming from a heartfelt concern, rather than an inquisitiveness, nevertheless as the student’s counselor I am ethically bound to silence. I make a choice of not divulging information unless otherwise indicated by the student. 

Confidentiality is relative rather than absolute in any counseling relationship setting.  All counselors know that in certain circumstances we are legally bound to disclose information but in school settings, dealing with minors, I found myself facing ethical dilemmas more often than legal dilemmas.  A few students have told me: “decisions making can be difficult ” Yes, they are. I do not have definite answers at all time. This is when I rely on my training, my instincts, and my heart and envision how my decision will impact the student’s life.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

0 comments on ““Please Don’t Tell My Mum!” Confidentiality and School Counselling”

  1. Frank Hienz says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I highly recommend that you follow up on your legal responsibilities. There is no legal binding between a minor and a counsellor. In fact you must disclose your findings to the legal guardian when requested. There have been many causes where charges have been brought upon the counsellor because they thought they legally could not disclose.

    1. Gina says:

      HI Frank:

      I am interested in hearing more about situations where high school guidance counsellors have been charged for not disclosing information to the legal guardian? Do you have cases that you can cite or refer me to? Thank you.

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