Parent Authorization for Minor’s counselling
This is Enso Psychological Counselling Centre’s (EPCC’s) policy with regard to seeing a minor child in counselling. As a parent, you have to authorize counselling for your child. In order to authorize counselling for your child, you must have either sole or joint legal custody of your child. If you are separated or divorced from the other parent of your child, please notify us immediately. At EPCC we will ask you to provide us with a copy of the most recent custody decree that establishes custody rights of you and the other parent or otherwise demonstrates that you have the right to authorize counselling for your child.
If you are separated or divorced from the child’s other parent, please be aware that it is our policy to notify the other parent that we are meeting with your child. We believe it is important that all parents have the right to know, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances, that their child is receiving counselling.
Individual Parent/Guardian Communications with Counsellor
In the course of counselling your child, I may meet with the child’s parents/guardians either separately or together. Please be aware, however, that, at all times, your child is the client – not the parents/guardians nor any siblings or other family members of the child.
If I meet with you or other family members in the course of your child’s counselling, I will make notes of that meeting in your child’s counselling records. Please be aware that those notes will be available to any person or entity that has legal access to your child’s counselling record.
Mandatory Disclosures of Counselling Information
In some situations, the counsellor is required by law or by the guidelines of our profession to disclose information, whether or not the counsellor has your or your child’s permission. We have listed some of these situations below.
Confidentiality cannot be maintained when:
- Child clients tell the counsellor they plan to cause serious harm or death to themselves, and the counsellor believes they have the intent and ability to carry out this threat in the very near future. The counsellor must take steps to inform a parent or guardian or others of what the child has told them and how serious they believe this threat to be and to try to prevent the occurrence of such harm.
- Child clients tell the counsellor they plan to cause serious harm or death to someone else, and the counsellor believes they have the intent and ability to carry out this threat in the very near future. In this situation, the counsellor must inform a parent or guardian or others, and may be required to inform the person who is the target of the threatened harm and/or the police.
- Child clients are doing things that could cause serious harm to them or someone else, even if they do not intend to harm themselves or another person. In these situations, the counsellor will need to use their professional judgment to decide whether a parent or guardian should be informed.
- Child clients tell the counsellor, or the counsellor otherwise learns that, it appears that a child is being neglected or abused–physically, sexually or emotionally–or that it appears that they have been neglected or abused in the past. In this situation, the counsellor may be required by law to report the alleged abuse to the appropriate state child-protective agency. In India, current child sexual abuse must be reported to the police.
- The counsellor is ordered by a court to disclose information.
Disclosure of Minor’s Counselling Information to Parents
Counselling is most effective when a trusting relationship exists between the counsellor/psychologist and the client. Privacy is especially important in earning and keeping that trust. As a result, it is important for children to have a ‘zone of privacy’ where children feel free to discuss personal matters without fear that their thoughts and feelings will be immediately communicated to their parents. This is particularly true for adolescents who are naturally developing a greater sense of independence and autonomy.
It is EPCC’s policy to provide you with general information about your child’s counselling, but not to share specific information your child has disclosed to the counsellor without your child’s agreement. This includes activities and behavior that you would not approve of — or might be upset by — but that do not put your child at risk of serious and immediate harm. However, if your child’s risk-taking behavior becomes more serious, then the counsellor will need to use their professional judgment to decide whether your child is in serious and immediate danger of harm. If the counsellor feels that your child is in such danger, they will communicate this information to you.
- If your child tells the counsellor that he/she has tried alcohol at a few parties, the counsellor would keep this information confidential.
- However, if your child tells the counsellor that he/she is drinking and driving or is a passenger in a car with a driver who is drunk, the counsellor would not keep this information confidential from you.
- If your child tells the counsellor, or if the counsellor believes based on things they learn about your child, that your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the counsellor would not keep that information confidential.
- If your child tells the counsellor that he/she is having voluntary, protected sex with a peer, the counsellor would keep this information confidential.
- However, if your child tells the counsellor that, on several occasions, the child has engaged in unprotected sex with strangers or in unsafe situations, the counsellor will not keep this information confidential.
You can always ask the counsellor questions about the types of information he/she would disclose. You can ask in the form of ‘hypothetical situations’, such as: “If a child told you that he or she were doing ________, would you tell the parents?”
Even when we have agreed to keep your child’s counselling information confidential from you, we may believe that it is important for you to know about a particular situation that is going on in your child’s life. In these situations, the counsellor will encourage your child to tell you, and the counsellor will help your child find the best way to do so. Also, when meeting with you, the counsellor may sometimes describe your child’s problems in general terms, without using specifics, in order to help you know how to be more helpful to your child.
Disclosure of Minor’s counselling Records to Parents
By signing this agreement, you are agreeing that your child or teen should have a ‘zone of privacy’ in their meetings with the counsellor, and you agree not to request access to your child’s written counselling records.
Parent/Guardian Agreement Not to Use Minor’s Counseling Information/Records in Custody Litigation
When a family is in conflict, particularly conflict due to parental separation or divorce, it is very difficult for everyone, particularly for children. Although the counsellor’s responsibility to your child may require them helping to address conflicts between the child’s parents, the counsellor’s role will be strictly limited to providing counseling to your child. You agree that in any child custody/visitation proceedings, neither of you will seek disclosure of counselling records or ask the counselor to testify in court, whether in person or by affidavit, or to provide letters or documentation expressing their opinion about parental fitness or custody/visitation arrangements.
Please note that your agreement may not prevent a judge from requiring the counsellor’s testimony, even though the counsellor will not do so unless legally compelled. If the counsellor is required to testify, they are ethically bound not to give their opinion about either parent’s custody, visitation suitability, or fitness. If the court appoints a custody evaluator, guardian ad litem, or other appropriate person, the counsellor will provide information as needed, if appropriate releases are signed or a court order is provided, but the counsellor will not make any recommendation about the final decision(s).
Furthermore, if the counsellor is required to appear as a witness or to otherwise perform work related to any legal matter, the party responsible for their participation agrees to reimburse them at the rate of Rs. 5000/- per hour for time spent traveling, speaking with attorneys, reviewing and preparing documents, testifying, being in attendance, and any other case-related costs.
By reading the above document in full, and authorizing EPCC to provide counseling to your child, you are agreeing to abide by EPCC’s policy listed above.
Thanks to Sherry Kraft, Ph.D., clinical psychologist for The Center for Ethical Practice, for use of some the examples and concepts in the child/adolescent portion of this template informed consent. http://www.centerforethicalpractice.org