Confidentiality when counselling children and young people
It seems that more children and young people are struggling with mental health issues than ever before. This adds to the pressure that parents are under, because part of our role as parents is to take care of our children, and try to help them to deal with the problems they face. Although many parents do their best to help their children, there are a growing number who need additional support. This can make a parent feel that they are not good enough, and sometimes, that most other parents are doing better than they are.
I believe that the restrictions that our society has faced over the past few years has left a long-lasting impact on many of our children. Some of those who previously had mild anxiety that they were able to manage, now find that it has escalated to the point where it is preventing them from doing many of the things they would really like to do. For others, the change in circumstances has opened the door for anxiety to enter, especially social anxiety, and has fostered its growth.
As a result, more and more parents are seeking counselling support for their children. Many of them, both parents and children, are desperate for things to change. Parents are very worried about their child, and often fear that they may come to harm.
One of the benefits of the counselling relationship is confidentiality. This allows trust to develop, and as this grows, clients become more relaxed and honest about what they feel and experience. For many children and young people being able to talk to an objective counsellor means they are able to share the things that they fear telling their parents. Either because they believe their parents may respond with anger, they feel ashamed and don’t want to let their parents down, or because they believe that their parents simply would not understand.
However, many parents are so very concerned about their children that they are keen to know what was covered in the session and how their child is doing. To protect the relationship the counsellor has with their young client, they are unable to reveal any of the content of the session unless the client specifically requests that they do so. Occasionally the counsellor may suggest that the parent should be aware of something and may discuss with the client, which of them might be best to talk to the parent about it. The decision will lay with the client, unless they are deemed to be at risk of harm. Then the counsellor has no choice but to inform the relevant parties. Parents are at liberty to ask their children about the session, although persistent questioning might result in the child withdrawing or losing interest in attending sessions.
Usually, if asked by a parent how their child is doing, the counsellor will let them know whether their child is engaging in the sessions, but little else. This may not feel very reassuring. However, an awareness of how your child’s behaviour and attitudes are changing at home and at school, will give you a much better insight to how they are progressing.