Rather than copying a great slab of complicated legal language, I am putting here in plain English how and why I collect and store information about my clients, and what clients’ legal rights are regarding that information.
Obviously I need information about clients in order to help them! My therapy is tailored to the individual client, so I need to know details of the individual’s problems, needs, and goals. This information is stored securely and is only available to me.
As in all health professions, in hypnotherapy it is sometimes advisable to discuss cases with one or more other therapists in order to get a fresh view on the client’s problems and to share knowledge to help devise the best ways of helping clients. These discussions are called “supervision.” In my case, being a very experienced practitioner, my “supervisor” is not “in charge” of my work, he is a colleague of equal standing. During these discussions I do not reveal any details that could identify the client as an individual, so that confidentiality is maintained. My supervisor at present is Dr John Campbell-Beattie PhD.
If a client requests, I will write to their GP or to any other official person or office, in which case I will give the client a copy of the letter. Under certain circumstance I will insist on the client consulting their GP or other doctor before I commence therapy. This would happen if I suspected that the client had a condition requiring medical treatment or assessment.
The circumstances in which I would be legally or ethically required to breach confidentiality and reveal information to a third party with or without the client’s consent are as follows.
If the client disclosed that they intended committing a serious criminal offence, such as murder, grievous bodily harm, arson, kidnapping, or rape, or that they intended or had committed any offences against children. Other than that I do not record in writing any details of criminal offences that clients might have committed in the past.
If the client disclosed a serious and immediate plan to commit suicide or to do some other irreparable damage to themselves. In these cases I would assume that by telling me the client was hoping I would stop them.
If the client disclosed that they had been sexually abused by some person still living, and that person was still in a position to sexually abuse children or vulnerable adults (for instance, if they were now baby-sitting your nieces or nephews), then for the protection of those vulnerable persons I would need to agree with you that you would disclose your own experience to whoever looks after the people who are now in danger.
Insurers advise that therapy professionals should retain client records for seven years after the end of therapy, or in the case of children, for seven years after they turn eighteen. After that records are securely destroyed.
Clients can see the records that I keep about them and can request that a note be added if they disagree with anything or wish to add anything to what I’ve written.
Relatives and friends of previous clients often come to me for therapy, having been recommended by their friends or relatives, however nothing will be disclosed to them about the person I’ve seen previously.
If clients have any specific wishes about how they prefer me to communicate with them, for instance if they don’t want me to phone them at home, then it is the client’s responsibility to inform me of their wishes. You should consider this carefully if, for instance, you are having therapy without the knowledge of your partner.
In the case of persons aged under eighteen, I require their parent or guardian to come to see me with the client to consent to this in person. After that meeting we can can discuss whether the parent or guardian still needs to be present on any subsequent visits. If the child or their parent or guardian wishes them to be present then I am always agreeable to that.