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Standard of privacy and confidentiality

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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists


Psychologists should::

  • Keep appropriate records.
  • Normally obtain the consent of clients who are considered legally competent or their duly authorised representatives, for disclosure of confidential information.
  • Restrict the scope of disclosure to that which is consistent with professional purposes, the specifics of the initiating request or event, and (so far as required by the law) the specifics of the client's authorisation.
  • Record, process, and store confidential information in a fashion designed to avoid inadvertent disclosure.
  • Ensure from the first contact that clients are aware of the limitations of maintaining confidentiality with specific reference to:
    • potentially conflicting legal and ethical obligations such as the need to protect the client from harming themselves or others.
    • the likelihood that consultation and supervision may occur with colleagues in order to enhance the effectiveness of the service provided
    • the possibility that third parties, such as translators or family members, may assist in ensuring that the activity concerned is not compromised by a lack of communication.
  • Restrict breaches of confidentiality to those exceptional circumstances under which there appears sufficient evidence to raise serious concern about:
    • the safety of clients;
    • the safety of other people who may be endangered by the client's behaviour
    • the health, welfare or safety of children or vulnerable adults.
  • Consult a professional colleague when contemplating a breach of confidentiality, unless the delay occasioned by seeking such consultation is rendered impractical by the immediacy of the need for discIosure.
  • Document any breach of confidentiality and the reasons compelling disclosure without consent in a contemporaneous note.
  • When disclosing confidential information directly to clients, safeguard the confidentiality of information relating to others, and provide adequate assistance in understanding the nature and contents of the information being disclosed.
  • Make audio, video or photographic recordings of clients only with the explicit permission of clients who are considered legally competent, or their authorised representatives.
  • Endeavour to ensure that colleagues, staff, trainees, and supervisees with whom psychologists work, understand and respect the provisions of their relevant ethical code concerning the handling of confidential information.


NB The above standards are based on the Code of Ethics and Conduct published by BPS in 2006.

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