Confidentiality

It is my privilege to serve the students and families of Love Hall. Trusting relationships are the foundation for all of my work. So, after your child talks with me about something that’s on his or her mind, will I call you immediately and tell you everything? No. My primary relationship is with the child. A school counselor keeps information provided by students confidential.

But shouldn’t parents have the right to know what their children are saying at school? Shouldn’t the school counselor share what has been discussed? Indeed, there are times when parents should know exactly what their children are saying, and when appropriate, I will contact parents right away. However, what a student tells me is confidential unless he is being hurt, wants to hurt himself, wants to hurt someone else, and/or gives me permission to share. To come to me, students must be able to trust me. They must trust that I will help them — and if that means getting help from another adult, including parents, it is my obligation to help them however I can. Below is an excerpt from a 2008 article entitled “What Parents Need to Know About Confidentiality” that explains more.

“While respecting the rights and responsibilities of parents/guardians for their children, the school counselor works to establish a mutual relationship with parents/guardians to maximize a student’s development. … School counselors also adhere to laws, local guidelines and ethical standards of practice when assisting parents/guardians experiencing family difficulties interfering with a student’s effectiveness and welfare. School counselors are sensitive to diversity among families and recognize that all parents/guardians, custodial and noncustodial, have certain rights and responsibilities for their children’s welfare. School counselors also make reasonable efforts to honor the wishes of parents/guardians concerning information regarding the student, and, in cases of divorce or separation, exercise a good-faith effort to keep both parents informed with regard to critical information, with the exception of a court order.”

The guiding body for school counselors in the United States is the American School Counselor Association. The ASCA position on confidentiality is as follows: “School counselors recognize their primary obligation for confidentiality is to the student but balance that obligation with an understanding of the family or guardians’ legal and inherent rights to be the guiding voice in their children’s lives (ASCA Code of Ethics, 2010, A.2.d).” To read the full statement about confidentiality, click here.

You know your children better than anyone else knows your children. I work to establish trusting relationships with students and with parents, consulting also with mental health providers outside of Westminster to deepen these relationships. I will share with you what your child gives me permission to tell you, and if I feel it would beneficial for you to know more, I will gently encourage your child to open up to at home. In some situations, this encouragement will take place over multiple days.

So, in my room, students can unburden themselves and tell me whatever they’re thinking and feeling. They can feel safe knowing that I’ll share their thoughts with others only if one of the four following situations applies:

  • Someone is hurting you
  • You want to hurt someone
  • You want to hurt yourself
  • You give me permission to share with a trusted adult

I am in the process of visiting all classes to explain the confidential relationship between student and school counselor. I discourage the word “secret” when we talk about confidentiality; I encourage students to understand that what they tell me is private. Below is a poster that hangs in my office. Parents, if you have questions about confidentiality or if you’re curious about any part of a school counselor’s job, please email, call, or stop by anytime. I look forward to partnering with you.

What you say in here stays in here POSTER

Confidentiality poster in Ms. Strother’s room

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