As in any other counselling relationship, the assurance of confidentiality is crucial in allowing children and young people to express their feelings and distress in a counselling session. It is a critical element in the development of a trusting relationship with the counsellor. Working in schools is no exception to this but there are some added boundaries which need to be clearly understood by all involved.
Boundaries and respect
There needs to be mutual trust and respect between the counsellor and school staff, between the counsellor and parents and, most importantly, between the counsellor and child or young person.
The boundaries of confidentiality are always made clear to the school at the outset of the contract.
The boundaries of confidentiality sit within the wider context of safeguarding children and young people and confidentiality and are only broken if there is a disclosure of information which puts the child or anyone else at risk of harm. This is rarely necessary but when it is, we have clear procedures to follow to involve other relevant professionals. The child or young person is always made aware of this.
At the beginning of each school year parents are made aware that the services of a Valley Trust counsellor are available in the school.
In primary schools, parental consent is required for the child to see the counsellor and there is usually contact between the counsellor and the parent with the child’s knowledge.
Counsellors working in secondary schools are also aware that parents know the service is available to children and young people. But, in line with Fraser Competence guidelines, counsellors do not require parental consent to work with the student, where a student is deemed to be Fraser-competent. This offers a higher degree of confidentiality to older children and young people.
Fraser competence works on the basis of assessing that the young person is able to understand and make decisions about their own situation with the support of a relevant professional, but not necessarily with the consent or knowledge of their parent.
Best possible outcomes
Working with children and young people is both a great privilege and a great responsibility for counsellors in schools. We take this very seriously.
Whilst confidentiality is vital to developing a trusting and safe relationship, we also recognise the need to work together with the school and parents to get the best possible outcome for their children and young people.
Counsellors have regular meetings with the Link Person in the school and keep records of their meetings with the student. This ensures good and safe practice at all times.
Children and young people are made fully aware both of what confidentiality means for them, and if we need to speak to others. This is normally with their agreement and, on very rare occasions, on their behalf and for their safety.