The Limits of Confidentiality

The counseling process involves the sharing of very personal information. People will not feel safe discussing their situations and feelings with a counselor unless they are confident that their privacy will be respected, and their issues will not be casually spread around. Nonetheless, there are times when sharing such information is appropriate, or even necessary. 

Here are some clear instances

  • your client presents an imminent, serious danger to self or others
  • your client requests that you share information with others
  • another person is present in the room, clearly visible to your client (and, most often, at your client's request)


    Here are some borderline situations. You should discuss these with your client before you share their story with others. 

  • you feel the need to get input from a Craft elder, or from a counselor whose experience or insight you respect, or from another professional whose expertise is relevant to your client's situation (e.g. doctor, lawyer, teacher)
  • you are presenting your client's case as part of ongoing supervision
  • you normally share Craft concerns with your working partner, particularly when those concerns relate to a student or covener.
  • you have someone trustworthy assisting with your record keeping



    Finally, there may come times when you are under legal pressure to break your client's confidence. It's very important that you become familiar with applicable law where you live. In situations like these, you must weigh all possible legal and karmic consequences and make your best conscientious decision: 

  • a court orders release of information
  • your client is a legal minor, and parents demand disclosure
  • "mandated reporter" situations, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. These may include child abuse, suicide risk, drug use or other problems


    Our strong suggestion is that you ponder these situations, and any others that you can recall or imagine, before they arise. How do you think you would respond to them? As you understand your own reactions, you can let your clients know where your limits are. This allows them to decide how much personal information they can comfortably share with you. 

    As a rule, before sharing anyone's private information, always ask first!

    for a much more detailed treatment of confidentiality issues,
    see Judy's essay "'Tis evil luck to speak of it: secrecy and the Craft"

    go back to

  • Confidentiality
  • Counseling Basics menu
  • Proteus Library



    The address of this page is
    Copyright 2001, 2012 by Judy Harrow