- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

Ethical Complications of Conditional Confidentiality

Clients’ Rights & Therapists’ Ethical Obligations

This workshop considers the ethical and legal complications that arise when confidentiality is “conditional” rather than absolute.  How clear are your policies about exactly what you plan to disclose to whom — and when?  How ready are you to describe those policies to patients and answer their “what if . . .?” questions?


INTRODUCTION: Ethical & Legal Implications of “Conditional” Confidentiality

I. Preparing

A. When Do You Intend to Disclose?

1. Informing Yourself About the Formal Rules

Ethics Codes
Agency Policies

2. Clarifying Your Own Values

3. Weighing Your Options

4. Making a Firm Decision

B. What Will You Say About Your Intentions?

II. Protecting Client’s Right to “Truly Informed” Consent

A. Inform Clients About Your Intentions/Policies

1. Initially — To Prospective Clients

2. Thereafter — As Circumstances Change

B. Obtain Prospective Client’s Consent to “Conditions”

C. Obtain Specific Consent for Subsequent Disclosures

III. Responding Ethically to Demands for Disclosure

A. If Client Gives Consent

B. If Client Refuses Consent

1. Legal Demands for “Involuntary” Disclosures

Legal Requirements to Initiate Disclosure (Reporting Laws)
Laws Giving Others Access to Information
Subpoena (for Records or Testimony)
Other Legal Contexts (e.g., Court Case “Approaching”)

2. “Informal” Demands for “Voluntary” Disclosures

Educational Goals:
1. Describe the advance decisions necessary because one is offering “conditional confidentiality.”
2. List clients’ rights if confidentiality will be “conditional” rather than absolute.
3. Assess the components necessary for obtaining informed consent about your own policies.
4. Compare the ethical and legal implications of voluntary vs. legally-required disclosures.