The purpose of this document is to ensure that partners and clients are clear about the running of service with an emphasis on safety and safeguarding client, staff and partners.
Principles of the service
Dr McDonnell’s work is governed by the ethical principles of the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) of which she is a Charted Psychologist and the standards expected can be found here. Dr McDonnell is also a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). Produced by the Ethics Committee of the BPS, the Society expects its members to continually practice by a set of standards which lay out the precise forms of ethical conduct and behaviour which. Each of these principles is described by a statement of key values and accompanied by a set of standards which focus on four primary ethical principles; respect, competence, responsibility and integrity. For the most up to date version of the BPS Code of Ethics and Conduct (2018) please follow the link.
All therapists/counsellors at Talk Durham are members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). For a full explanation of their ethical framework please follow the link.
An initial assessment enables clients to give an extensive personal history, the issues you are dealing with and goals of therapy. Assessing risk is an integral part of any initial assessment and as part of this risk assessment I will explain the limits of confidentiality. In addition, initial assessment involves a verbal agreement covering my contact details, and the payment and cancelation policy. Clients are asked to sign a therapeutic contract to explain they understand and can receive either a paper or electronic copy.
It is important that clients understand the limitations of confidentiality within the client-therapist relationship and are clear about when breaks in confidentiality may occur. For example:
if the client is considered to be of danger to themselves
if the client is perceived to be of danger to others
under the Children Act 1989
if required by the order of a court of law
if acts of terrorism are threatened
under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994
under the Road Traffic Act 1988
under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1995.
Other situations may arise where the professional sharing of information is considered necessary, for example, if I need to discuss a case in my own clinical supervision. This will always be in the interest of the client and should not compromise the therapeutic relationship. Personal information is never passed on to third party organisations for the purposes of sales, marketing or research. If a client is referred via a workplace referral no information will be shared with the referring company without the permission of the client.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
In accordance with current data protection laws (GDPR, 2018), the ethical guidelines of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) the service will hold personal contact details and records of therapy sessions. At the point of booking personal contact details will be required; name, address, email address and telephone number as well as details of the issues clients are looking for help with. This information is stored securely on a password protected database. During the initial assessment emergency contact details will be collected which would be used if clients were to become unwell and I may need to contact a GP or a designated emergency contact.
All documentation is confidential. Clients are allocated a unique reference number to aid confidentiality. Client have the right under the Data Protection Act 1998 and GDPR to access their own records should they wish. I keep notes of each session which are anonymised and are stored in a locked filing cabinet. These notes are used to keep a track of everything that is being discussed. In line with industry guidelines, these notes must be kept securely for seven years after your therapy comes to an end. After this time, they will be confidentially destroyed.
Child Protection/Vulnerable adults
When working with young people and vulnerable adults, events could develop that may lead to a breach of confidentiality in the interests of the child’s/vulnerable adults’ safety (see above confidentiality). This only relates to those occasions when there are strong grounds for thinking that an individual might be at risk of significant harm from themselves or others. While breaks in confidentiality will be discussed fully with the client, disclosures to other agencies do can go ahead without consent from the client if it is seen as to be acting with the best interest of the client to keep them, or others, safe from harm. Professional and ongoing training is sought by myself to keep up to date with safeguarding. I currently have up to date NHS training in safeguarding adults and safeguarding children. I work with the NHS safeguarding app on my phone which gives me quick guidance and contact numbers should I need them.
The Children’s Act 1898 provides guidelines on consent and entitlement to confidentiality of children and young people in medical and psychiatric examination and assessments. The Guidance specifically states that children should have sufficient understanding to make informed decisions about their care and treatment.
The Children Act itself gives no guidance on how to determine a child’s capacity for understanding and it is accepted that the principles used in ascertaining Gillick Competence will apply. The Gillick Principle originated in the House of Lords in 1985 and concerns the rights of children under 16. The courts agreed that once a child has a sufficient level of understanding and intelligence, they are deemed capable of making up their own minds on matters requiring a decision. A young person meeting these criteria is referred to as a ‘Gillick competent child’. To assess Gillick Competence counsellors need to give careful consideration to the following:
client’s age (both chronological and mental)
developmental stage of the young person (physically, emotionally and intellectually)
the nature of their problem
the client’s ability to act autonomously and accept precedents within society.
Although the Gillick ruling requires that children and young people should be persuaded to allow their parents to be consulted, counsellors who assess children and young people as being ‘Gillick competen’ are not under any duty to consult with parents before, during or after counselling, unless they perceive their client to be in immediate danger or a high suicidal risk. Young people under the age of 16, assessed as Gillick competent, may receive completely confidential counselling without parents needing to be informed, or giving their consent.
Complaints and Grievance Procedure
In the first instance I would ask that complaints should be addressed with Dr McDonnell who would be happy to work with you to resolve any issue you have. If you feel your grievance has not been dealt with you can raise a complaint with BACP using this link.
Alternatively, you can raise a concern by contacting the Health & Care Professions Council website here.
Cancelling an appointment
For a full refund, I request at least 48 hours’ notice if you need to cancel your appointment. Where 48 hours or more notice has been given, your session fee will be refunded less a cancellation fee of £5.00. Where less than 48 hours’ notice is given, the session will be charged in full.