November 6, 2007
POSITION STATEMENT: PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
The oldest known statement of medical secrecy is The Oath of Hippocrates: “Whatsoever things I see or hear, concerning the life of men, in my attendance on the sick…I will keep silence thereon, counting such things to be as sacred secrets.” (Healthy Minds)
When you seek private psychological treatment, only two people should know the events of each session. One of them is you and the other is the therapist treating you. An ethically challenging issue in the psychology/psychiatry profession is the principle of confidentiality and the dilemma it causes in modern society. The essence of trust is that one may tell all from the depth of one’s soul to another in a place of confidence and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the information given is safe unto death. A patient must be able to trust the person in charge of their mental care and welfare without a second thought to information being divulged to their personal detriment. Any other means of handling this situation results in broken trust; therefore, a patient is unable to seek to become healthy.
The American Psychological Association (APA) was founded in 1892. In 1938, due to some serious ethical issues that were beginning to present themselves, The Committee on Scientific and Professional Ethics was formed to informally deal with complaints, and in 1947, they developed a much needed official policy.
In 1959, after a survey and nine drafts over a three-year period, a trial code was adopted. Subsequent revisions were made in 1960, 1966, 1969, and 1982. In 1982, the APA conducted an impressive pilot survey and two major mail surveys of APA membership. A cover letter and survey form were developed to invite APA members to provide examples of the ethical dilemmas they faced in their work.
Confidentiality was listed as the issue that most concerned the psychological professional...