CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
Your confidentiality and privacy is of the utmost importance to me. Everything you tell me is confidential and is only discussed in confidential supervision which all therapists have and where your identity is anonymous.
In an ideal situation you would not know me and I would not know you in or from any other context in life. We would meet, work together and then part ways never to encounter each other again. This ideal is not as achievable in 2020 as it used to be and we need to consider how to manage the ways in which we may stumble across each other. When we contract for therapy part of the assessment is to ensure these boundaries. However, in life, just as in social media, we can hear information about each other that we do not wish or intend to. Whether it is bumping into each other unexpectedly at an event or out shopping, realising at a later date that we have a mutual acquaintance or whether it is via social media, such unexpected blurring of boundaries are not a disaster by any means and can even be surprisingly therapeutic to some, however if they happen we will discuss them. I appreciate it if you raise issues like this that I may not be aware of.
Note: When I refer to ‘Your Data’ I mean your name and contact details on your Registration Form. When I refer to ‘Your Notes’ I mean anything I record during or after our sessions as an aide memoir for myself. When I refer to ‘Your Communications’ I mean any contact between us via email, text or message.
All clients and supervisees consent to me to storing their data when they fill out the Registration Form and submit it. This includes personal mobile, email, postal address, GP details and medication / medical conditions and a contact person, which are stored on my mobile phone which is password and finger print locked / protected and on a file on my computer which is also password locked.
In the event of my sudden death or incapacity I have made arrangements for these details to be passed to my supervisor and a colleague therapist so you can be contacted.
In the event of medical emergency concerning yourself during a session these details would be passed on to first responders or medical professionals.
These details will not be passed on to or used by any other person than me except in the circumstances detailed. When our contracted work has ended your contact details will be deleted from my phone and laptop.
Financial records are kept for 7 years but if you book by acuity your name will not appear on my bank statements or accounts.
I will only hold the minimum of information I need about you to carry out my duties, and will regularly audit and clear such data.
What is discussed between us in your sessions is kept secure and does not have your name or contact details on it or nearby. I keep minimal notes for reasons stated below and I destroy these records after 5 years of closing our work.
Under rare circumstances, notes can be subpoenaed in a court of law. Because of this, I try to keep my notes to a minimum.
Your emails and messages are kept for 5 years also.
My digital policy aims to address and contain the most likely eventualities that may arise by way of digital exposure, with reference to maintaining privacy and data protection. This document acknowledges the complex world of digital media and tries its best to address issues that may impact the therapeutic relationship. The guidelines are based on my own experiences of online work and on the training I have received about this, most specifically this document is from training with Aaron Balick (ref) I am open to changing my positions on it. In the meantime, I ask all my clients to read through this document so they can be familiar with these positions.
Email: I am not currently using an e-mail encryption programme, so any emails we send to each other may be vulnerable to viruses or human error. For this reason, it is best to be thoughtful about what you include in emails to me, and which email address you choose to use with me. It is best to rely on email for non-confidential communications like setting up appointment times. In an effort to keep confidential and psychological material “in the room” it is best avoided in emails. If you choose to communicate with me by email, be aware that all emails are retained in the logs of Internet Service Providers. Furthermore, they can be vulnerable to viruses and unintended forwarding or replication. I check emails only at fixed times during office hours – I avoid checking them on weekends and holidays. I endeavour to respond to all emails within 48 hours upon opening them. If I am away for an extended period, you will receive an automated response.
Text messages: You may feel free to contact me by text message to alert me if you are running late for a session or for similar reasons. However, other discussion is best done face to face or in a telephone conversation.
Emergencies: As a private practitioner I am unable to offer an emergency service. Should you experience an emergency please contact either the emergency services or if you are feeling suicidal, ring The Samaritans: 116 123.
Telephone and Zoom: While I do not generally run my practice remotely, there may be times when we have a session by telephone or video conferencing, for example, if either one of us is abroad. Any such sessions will be discussed in advance. I use the Zoom video conferencing system, which is fully encrypted. When engaging via video conferencing, we both agree not to record sessions. It is also crucial that you’re sure your environment from which you are conferencing with me is safe, secure, and private. My document Preparing for Your Online Session is available on my website www.blue-skies.org.uk and as an attachment by email.
Acuity Scheduling: I use Acuity Scheduling for payment so be aware that your bank statement, calendar / pop up reminders (if you choose the option which puts the appointment on your calendar), and email payment receipts, would show that you are meeting with / paying me if someone else saw them.
If you would like to avoid the risk of someone discovering you are in therapy then please let me know and we will organise the best system of making, paying for and recording sessions and contact information for your situation.
It is important for you to be aware that part of my working life outside the clinic is in the public domain. I have been developing my work as an author, blogger and workshop leader and speaker. As part of this work, I maintain a social media presence. Online resources such as Facebook, enable me to reach a broad swathe of people to whom I can communicate psychological concepts that I hope can be useful in their lives. I hold my duty of care and confidentiality to my psychotherapy clients and supervisees as sacrosanct and consider my media work to be related to, but completely separate from my clinical work.
The nature of an online presence can blur interpersonal boundaries, so it is important to be as clear as possible about how boundaries may be compromised. I like to keep clinical work in the consultation room as much as possible.
Facebook: I maintain a public Facebook Page as a way of promoting psychological ideas through the media, and to make people aware of workshops, conferences, or other events that I may be taking part in, or that might be of interest to followers. I frequently send across relevant links and sometimes engage in public conversations and my stance on these topics. Despite my online presence, I would prefer that our relationship remain as much as possible between us in the consultation room, therefore I will not knowingly engage with current clients, students or supervisees over Facebook.
Whether you follow my business page on Facebook or not is of course to your discretion, though I would suggest for reasons of confidentiality and preserving our therapeutic relationship that it’s advisable not to. Some clients do like to follow my business page as a way of knowing I am around in the world. If you do this and something I post, say, comment on raises an issue, or if I do not respond to your comment with a ‘like’ but I do to others, you may have feelings about this that I will not know about and these feelings will then be present in our therapeutic relationship. For this reason you need to judge your own capacity to raise concerns directly with me in the therapy room that you may encounter outside, before you engage with this page. Similarly, many ex clients enjoy the Facebook page with well-being tips, links and ideas as a way of maintaining their self-care but bear in mind there is no relationship where any issues arising can be addressed and it is not to be used as an avoidance of grieving the ending of therapy.
I, like many others, maintain a private Facebook account for personal reasons. I aim to keep my Facebook as private as possible and it would not be appropriate to be Facebook “friends” with clients or ex clients.
Twitter: Please do not follow me on Twitter, currently I rarely use it and it’s not a professional platform of mine.
Linkedin: I rarely use this platform and have not formed thoughts or policy around it as yet. I will not respond to requests to link with you at present.
Mailchimp: I have a mailing list for my newsletter on Mailchimp which you can sign up for if you wish during or after therapy. Readers are therapists, clients, any one interested in mental health and wellbeing. My newsletters include information about events and workshops I am running, tips for self care or self awareness and links to interesting articles. In the past they have included information about fee increases, the dates I’m off over Easter and so on, though of course I discuss these with clients and supervisees in session anyway. You can subscribe and unsubscribe at any point. Sign up is via my website. Similar issues may occur to those mentioned above re following the Facebook page, although my newsletters are sent only two or three times a year. When you sign up you will be on my mailing list until you unsubscribe.
Google: I avoid encountering information about you that does not come directly from you, so in general practice I do not Google my clients. I am aware, however, that clients will often Google prospective therapists as part of their process in choosing one. If you did so with me, and this produced any questions, I would be happy to address them with you. Going forward, I have found it is best to find out from each other what we need to know face-to-face.
Publications: Reading articles, blogs or books I have authored may raise issues for you, as mentioned above.