You are here:

Counseling/Psychology/ Confidentiality


Have you ever had to breach confidentiality with a client? Can you tell me a little bit about this situation?

2.   Have you ever considered breaching confidentiality with a client, but decided against it? If so, can you tell me about this situation?

3.   Some people in the field of psychology feel that the rules for confidentiality are too strict while others think they are too lenient. What are your thoughts?

4.   What is one piece of real world advice you can give me about confidentiality?

5.    In your opinion, what is the most important thing I need to know about confidentiality?

Thank you in advance!

Dear Marie,
Thank you for your questions. The idea of confidentiality is to give the client a safe space to express thoughts and feelings. It will show through in your integrity as a counselor that you will respect their confidentiality. That means if you have a well known person as a client, they have the reasonable expectation that their personal life is protected.
Another issue has to do with courts. Like if a client admits to a crime. It can put the counselor in a dilemma, whether to come forward.
If a child is being abused, it is the obligation of the counselor to report the abuse to the proper authorities.
At the first counseling appointment, the counselor presents an agreement for the client to sign that spells out the circumstances under which the counselor may have to reveal confidential information.
1. Luckily, I never had to breach a client's confidentiality. I used several client stories in my master's thesis, just describing their artwork, but used pseudonyms and no identifying characteristics.
In my personal life I had a friend who was an addict in recovery and I learned from him the hard way why a well known person would like such details kept private.  I learned how much it can hurt a person's feelings and disrupt their life to have someone mindlessly spread their secrets. It hurts.
2. There were sometimes things I should have disclosed to a mentor, but didn't. It is good to have someone to talk to, especially during the internship. Learn from professionals what to do with all the stuff clients unload. Learning from a good mentor can prevent counter-transference.
3. Be as strict as you can. Develop a way to hear peopl's stories, then not feel the need to go repeating what you heard. Just let it settle and compost in the back of your mind. If something bothers you, have a wise mentor you can talk it over with without revealing the client's identity. Like, "one of my clients said . . ." etc.
4. Real world advice: think of the Golden Rule and give your client the respect you would want for yourself and your family.
5. Most important, if you make a mistake, which we all do, take it as a serious learning experience and be humble and sincere if you must apologize. The best way to apologize is with your tail between your legs and just say "I'm sorry I did x." Don't elaborate or make excuses.
Your're welcome, hope this helps,


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Nori Muster


Art therapy, positive thinking, and abuse recovery.


I have been an expert at since 2000. Before that, during college and graduate school, I put in approximately three hundred volunteer hours working at juvenile halls. I also worked in drug and alcohol counseling agencies. In addition, I have done art and writing therapy with young people who grew up in abusive religious groups.

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), helps families, people who grew up in cults, and people leaving cults.

Books by Nori:
Dreaming Peace: Your Thoughts Can Change the World, a history of positive thinking and how to practice it in the post-9/11 world.
Child of the Cult, a collection of stories about children who grew up in restrictive religious groups.
Cult Survivor's Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life, a recovery handbook for people who had a bad experience in a group.

For a summary of all writing, see

Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies (psychology, counseling, and criminal justice), Western Oregon University, 1991.

Awards and Honors
Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement won an award from for best selling book in its category.

©2016 All rights reserved.