Privacy and confidentiality
- Your privacy is of the utmost importance. The information that you share with me is confidential by law. It will not be disclosed to anyone else without your written permission.
The limitations to this confidentiality are:
- If there are serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of children.
- You are at risk of serious physical harm, or putting someone else in serious physical harm.
- If my notes are subpoenaed by court (this is incredibly rare, but can happen for such reasons as: you are involved in an ongoing court matter that counselling is connected to; your mental health status is in legal question; or you want them yourself). *
*As my notes are not assessments, they may not be very useful in court cases. See further below ‘session notes’.
If we need to include someone else regarding a safety concern, your consent and guidance will be sought wherever possible unless there are good reasons to believe that might not be in the best interest of everyone’s safety.
You are free to share any of our discussions or words with whomever you please. I would however encourage you to be careful about who you choose to share your story with. I know it can be really exciting and empowering to start to get to know yourself in new ways, but this can also lead to more vulnerability. I am a huge believer in ‘radical empathy’, so am all about sharing our stories, but when something is still raw, it might help at first to really make sure those you are sharing with are trusted and privileged members of your chosen circle.
There may be occasions where, in Narrative Therapy, with your permission, we will invite someone else to take part in the process: someone you know or someone who has experienced the same thing as you or someone who has agreed in the past to share some of their story in order to help others. This can have many, many benefits when the time is right as decided by us. Again, written consent from both you and the 3rd parties will be sought if we engage in story-sharing processes.
As you can imagine, if we don’t have video sessions then I can’t see who you are. This can make ensuring that you are who you say you are a little more challenging. It’s actually not as much of an issue as you might think- if you choose to communicate with me as a male living with his parents, and you’re actually a female living with her partner and 2 kids it doesn’t really matter because counselling is all about you. If there’s something helpful about adopting a persona, then so be it. I will work with you wherever you’re at.
Where identification becomes important is in relation to legal issues and/or issues of safety. If I know nothing about you, then that puts my service and me at risk legally, professionally and ethically. If you are a minor (under the age of 18) then you need a parent’s permission for us to engage in counselling together.
From my end, I follow legal requirements to establish who you are by collecting your identifying details, confirming your existence via email, and requiring payment prior to consultation. I do prefer, for the best possible therapeutic outcome, that at some stage in the process we ‘talk’ or share some kind of visibility by video but it’s not essential.
By signing the agreement, you agree that you are over the age of 18, legally allowed to speak for yourself, not in an immediate high-risk safety category, and that there are no reasons why you can’t engage in and pay for professional counselling.
Confidentiality of online forms and communication
I use encryption services to make sure your online information is protected. This means that anything sent from me to you and vice versa via the Internet is scrambled and unreadable while it is in motion. No one can intercept or see a video, email, SMS/chat or phone exchange we make. If for some reason this service becomes temporarily unavailable, I will inform you and do my best to find an alternative as quickly as possible. At Unveiled Stories I make every effort to keep all your information strictly confidential and guard your privacy.
Likewise, I ask that you determine who has access to your computer and electronic information from your location. This would include family members, co-workers, supervisors and friends and whether or not confidentiality from your work or personal computer may be compromised. I encourage you to only communicate through a computer that you know is safe i.e. wherein confidentiality can be ensured. Be sure to fully exit all online counselling sessions and emails. If you used location-based services on your mobile phone, you may wish to be aware of the privacy issues. I am not liable for the release of confidential information relating to you arising from your side of our online communication, nor am I liable for the release of any confidential information relating to you arising from the unauthorised actions or omissions of any third party.
I often jot down notes during video or phone sessions. These notes are freely available to you, sometimes I will even offer to send them to you if they contain something potentially enlightening or a sparkling moment we may have missed while we were actually talking. These notes are my best efforts to capture exactly the words you use, and clients have found these very useful to reflect on over time we work together. They are not assessments or judgments and would likely be useless to anyone else.
If you ask me not to keep notes, I can honour that request, but please be aware that an element of the therapy I provide involves writing and reflecting on the journey, and may be compromised should I not take notes. I keep these notes in a locked file while we work together and destroy them once our counselling relationship ends. They are kept separate from any identifying information about you, which is stored in an encrypted folder.
All qualified professional counsellors should engage in supervision with a colleague or external therapeutic advisor to make sure clients are getting the best service possible. I provide these services to other professionals as well as engaging in them myself. As a member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) I am also required to do sessions with a qualified supervisor. However no identifying information about you will be shared in these discussions.
Unveiled Stories: other aspects of our Counselling Contract
Benefits and limitations regarding online counselling
Distance counselling is a different experience compared to in-person sessions. Some differences are:
- The lack of “personal” face-to-face interactions
- If the communication is mostly written- the lack of visual and audio cues in the counselling process, which can be important
However many people find that communicating with their counsellor like this brings real benefits, such as:
- Feeling more able to discuss very private matters
- Not having to travel to the counsellor’s office or deal with access issues to inappropriate buildings
- Removal of barriers to those who can’t talk or find talking a challenge
- Out-of-business-hours support
- More opportunity to be creative and have more control over the process
- The act of writing is beneficial in itself
Online counselling is not what everyone prefers and, whether you find it suits you or the opposite, you are encouraged to discuss the experience with me. We may be able to decide on a different combination of video/email or some other form of support that works better for you as we progress. I try my best to work collaboratively with people and am open to ideas and solutions presented by you to face any challenges we may encounter along the way.
Termination of counselling and referral
When we work together, we keep an open dialogue about how things are travelling. This dialogue will include how you’re going with counselling delivered via technology. I wouldn’t accept a client who I didn’t think I could help. If we don’t think counselling with me would be best option the initial consultation, I will try to put you in touch with other services that you may contact. If at any point during counselling I feel concerned that we aren’t moving forward to help you reach your wishes for counselling, I will discuss this with you and I hope you can do the same. If there are any support services that can complement our work together, I will inform and refer you if you wish. You have the right to terminate counselling at any time if you desire.
I’ve lived in small towns and big cities, and no matter what I have run into some tricky situations… It’s a small world. Boundaries between clients and counsellors rely on a professional contract, and on the counsellor to ensure the relationship is appropriate. It is not appropriate for counsellors and clients to have a sexual relationship. I will generally not accept a friendship request on my personal online spaces, and won’t be available to spend time together outside of our agreed contract.
While less likely to occur in the online world, we may run into each other in a public place. It’s a good idea we have a little chat about how you’d like situations like this to be handled when we start working together. Most people are happy to say a quick ‘hi’ and then walk past, but occasionally people prefer us to ignore each other. I am guided by you.
I want to be clear that none of these boundaries mean that I don’t like you. I truly love all the people I am privileged to spend time with in the therapeutic space. It’s more about everyone being protected, feeling safe and contained, and especially taking care of the counselling process.
You are encouraged to give me feedback while we are working together. In fact, I will regularly seek it. If you would like to make a complaint, I would ask that you share it with me and see if we can resolve it. If you feel you need to take things further, you can contact Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81
As a member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), I am required to have professional indemnity, which I have with Focus Insurance. Therefore we are both protected should something go wrong (as incredibly unlikely and unfortunate as that would be).
Code of Ethics
I abide by the ACA ‘code of ethics’ and can provide you with a copy should you wish to look through it. Additionally clients sometimes like me to work with them to write our own ‘codes’ together, which can also be helpful to break down barriers, make sure we understand each other, and even might be fun.
Keeping in contact (cancellation policy)
I will make a commitment to you to provide a regular, agreed upon counselling service. I will then provide payment details or an invoice. With emails I will endeavour to respond within 3 days, and with video sessions or booked SMS-chat sessions I will usually be ready and looking forward to our work together, even during the challenging times (sometimes those are the most transformative!). We can re-assess as we move forward should there be issues on either side or should we feel our time of working together is coming to an end.
If you can’t keep an appointment, or are struggling with the agreed upon package of online counselling sessions, please let me know ASAP.
If I need to cancel a session, I will endeavour to do so with 24 hours notice and offer a reschedule. I do expect the same of you and I will need to charge 25% of the agreed upon fee-for-service if you don’t give 24 hours notice of a cancellation. Appointments are tricky for everyone sometimes, I do understand, but all of our time is REALLY valuable, and if you don’t show up or disengage without notice but don’t want to pay, that would make my ability to serve people as well as survive really limited. Also, someone else may have missed out on time they really wanted, and if I have enough notice to re-arrange appointments I will do so free of charge.
If I stop hearing from you during an agreed upon time of working together, I will try to contact you, usually by email. Please let me know how you want this contact to happen, or if you explicitly don’t want me to contact you. If I don’t receive a response within 4 weeks, I will be obliged to end our contract.
I would really LOVE it if you tell me when you feel our time together is closing, or that you have received enough benefit, or if you want/need to stop working together for any out-of-the-ordinary reason. I’m not going to be hurt or angry- I will understand as a professional, and I won’t then be worried about your disappearance. Notice also gives me time to prepare some form of closure and you time to reflect on your journey. It is incredibly valuable in counselling to close properly. It also makes an enormous difference to our sense of self when we are courageous enough to say ‘I think I’ve finished here, at least for now. How do we go about that?’
In fact, it’s quite common for people to ‘wind down’ to occasional sessions or contact after closure for some ‘maintenance’ sessions via video or email after changes feel more incorporated into your regular life. You are much less likely to do this if you’re afraid to re-contact after a disappearing act.
Emergencies and crisis situations
While we can work together during times of crisis, this is NOT a crisis service. I am not ‘on call’ and therefore may not respond quickly enough if you are in a state of urgent need. The following services are all free and all available 24/7 should you need immediate help.
In situations of emergency in Australia always call 000.
For suicidal help try Suicide Callback service: 1300 659 467 https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/register
For all difficult times as well as suicidal help try Lifeline: 13 11 14 https://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Online-Services/crisis-chat
For sexual assault and domestic violence help try 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732 https://www.1800respect.org.au/telephone-and-online-counselling/
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If there is anything that is not clear in this document, please contact me for further clarification and I will gladly discuss any points further. We cannot proceed unless you agree to these terms, so it’s important we understand each other. If there are any additions you would like to make, we can discuss those too- many things are possible.
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