This policy sets out how I work within the GDP Regulations 2018 for data protection. I take my responsibility for protecting your information seriously and I am registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO*) Data Protection Registration.
Information about you
In order for me to be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a counsellor I will need to record personal information about you. This information includes your name, address and contact details, and GP practice. I keep details of an emergency contact for you so I can exercise a duty of care whilst you are in a session with me. Under an identifying code I will also take notes of ‘assessment information’, that is relevant medical information and aspects of your personal social and family history that you choose to share with me. This information will be retained in separate locations (keeping your name and contact details apart from the assessment notes) in a locked filing cabinet and password protected files on a password-protected computer which has virus protection software installed.
Your contact details will be used to contact you. Other personal data such as your name, address and /or date of birth will be used to verify your identify if there is a need to contact your G.P. or a request for access to personal data from yourself or your representative or legitimate legal instrument such as a court order.
Your contact details alone will be shared in exceptional circumstances with my clinical executor in the event that I am incapacitated so that they can contact you to explain the situation. The details of this arrangement are set out in my clinical will.
Information about counselling sessions and our work together
Also I will record notes of each therapy session under an identifying code. These notes will be a brief, factual record of the session. This set of notes will include any agreements made with regard to for example, cancelled sessions or changes to the way the therapy is conducted. The notes are held in a locked filing cabinet in my home.
I may make information from these notes available to legitimate third parties under the following conditions:
- Receipt of a request from you or your representative, and where the release of the notes is not judged by me as likely to cause you significant harm or harm to another person
- Where there is a specific legal requirement for me to do so (eg. police investigation or court subpoena)
- Where there is an ethical duty for me to do, for example to avoid serious harm to yourself or another person, including the safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults.
- If you have been referred to me by a third party (Employee Assistance Programme, Insurance provider etc) then I may be obliged to share contact details, dates of our counselling sessions and a brief overview of the themes of counselling (I will not share personal issues).
Records of contact between us
I will hold your name and telephone number on my mobile phone until our counselling relationship ends and then I will delete it from my contact list.
If we agree to communicate by text or by email, these records may be kept for the same duration as your counselling notes. My mobile phone is a smart phone and could therefore also have your texts, and email and email address available on it. The phone is password protected and details are stored in ‘the cloud’ so they can be restored if my phone is lost or stolen.
How long I store information
My insurer requires me to keep my data about you for five years of the ending of the professional relationship. On this basis your data (contact details, emails and texts, case notes etc) will be held for 5 years after the completion of counselling and will then be destroyed. If you are under 18 they will be kept for 5 years from the date when you reach 18, allowing you time to mature and make adult decisions. The exception may be where there is a mutually agreed decision to retain them for longer or where I believe that it is in my best professional interests to do so.
You have the right to ask to see any information held by me about you. To do this please either ask me, or submit a request by writing. You also have the right to ask for information that you believe to be incorrect to be rectified. I will endeavour to provide you with the information requested within four weeks.
You have the right to have your data deleted but this does not apply to case notes as they are my clinical responsibility.
If I become aware of a situation where your personal information may have accidently or maliciously been obtained by a third party I will notify you and the ICO within three days.
Before starting counselling you will be asked to sign a Counselling Agreement to indicate that we have discussed and agreed how your personal information will be held for the purposes of counselling. Without your agreement to my holding your personal information it will not be possible to proceed with counselling.
If you are concerned about the way that your information is being held or want to know more please feel free to discuss this with me. If you are still unhappy, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioners Office*.
* Note: ICO can be contacted at https://ico.org.uk