1. If this was your client, what would you say and do? Be specific. Why would you respond this way?
Even though parental rights are clear and established when relating to minors and they differ from a private practice to a school setting, as a therapist my first ethical responsibility is to provide a safe and inviting relationship to the client. Therefore, I would first strive to establish a non-judgmental environment where my client feels accepted and safe to express her feelings and explore her possibilities with the goal of bridging the gap between her and her parents. Being conscientious of the ethical and legal responsibilities to my client’s parents, the welfare of my client, and the cultural background of her family, my goal would be to use the counseling relationship to 1) explore my client’s feelings of fear toward her parents and the pregnancy, 2) understand if the fear is grounded in parental abuse or her rationale of the issue at hand, 3) explore options for her pregnancy (as a Christian counselor, excluding abortion as stated in the AACC’s Code of Ethic section 1-123), 4) help the client identify reasons for feelings of hope and strength for the future, 5) arrive at a place where she would feel empowered to face her parents and arrive at a place of collaboration with them, and 6) offer to provide family therapy (if not competent in family therapy then refer to a family therapist) that can help bridge client and parents and offer a holistic approach to the situation. If these goals are not accomplished and my client continues to be reluctant to tell her parents she’s pregnant, I would have to reassess my ethical and legal responsibilities and adjust the steps to take.
2. What is an Informed Consent Form and why is it important? What would you include on your own Informed Consent Form regarding confidentiality? Why?
According to Corey, Corey and Callanan (2009) an “informed consent involves the right of clients to be informed about their therapy and to make autonomous decisions pertaining to it” (p. 160). Informed consents should be presented to clients in a coherent way being sensitive to cultural differences giving the client the opportunity to ask questions and give input on their treatment. The informed consent should be presented in the first appointment and be visited as necessary throughout the therapeutic relationship (Corey et.al, 2009). In my own practice’s informed consent I would include my professional background, confidentiality and its limits according to state laws, fees and other pertinent information about other dues, therapy benefits and risks, interruptions and termination policies, consultation with other colleagues (if applicable), policies on handling records including their diagnostic classification and how it would impact permanent files. Giving clients all these information will help start the relationship with the right expectations, a good level of awareness about their and the therapeutics’ responsibilities and would help me as the therapist to have the pertinent documentation accessible in case of a law suit.
3. What does the law in your own state say regarding how you need to handle this kind of situation?
In the case of the State of Colorado, issues surrounding confidentiality for minors are not covered comprehensively. The Colorado Revised Statutes Title 12, Article 43 states in section 12-43-214 (IV) “ The information provided by the client during therapy sessions is legally confidential in the case of … professional counselors…” (p.10).
4. What do the ACA and the AACC Code of Ethics say regarding confidentiality?
Both associations urge Counselors to secure informed consent early in the professional relationship, in fact, in the first meeting. The AACC in section 1-321 specifically asks counselors to obtain consent from parents of minors for counseling. In section 1-411 the AACC also suggests that the Client should be informed