Confidentiality in Group Counseling

One of the most common concerns of a participant is confidentiality. Without confidentiality the work of counseling would be problematic because participants would find it difficult to trust their group facilitator or group enough to share the most intimate details of their lives. 

Confidentiality is too important to a counseling ministry to assume that it is being done well. For this reason, we strive to do everything possible to ensure that we are protecting the stories of those who have entrusted us with them. For this reason, at G4 we believe confidentiality to be so fundamental to caring well for people that it is one of our seven core values. This blog explores two different aspects of confidentiality: (1) why confidentiality is important, and (2) how we as a ministry strive to uphold it. 

Why Confidentiality is Important

Confidentiality gives group members the freedom to express their struggles openly. While everyone at G4 has admitted they have a struggle and at some level have expressed interest in confronting that struggle, they may not be ready for it to become public. G4 provides participants with a place, perhaps even for the first time, they feel like others can understand and relate to their struggle. Our ministry provides a safe place to discuss, learn, grow, and change for those who are a part of our groups. The only way that participants feel that safety is through being confident that their information and stories are not shared with others outside of the group

Confidentiality is vital for G4 because of what it communicates to those who participate. A counseling ministry such as G4 is only as trusted as it has a good reputation for protecting the confidential information of its participants including both personal information and stories. If we are unable to keep our participants information safe, then we have failed to protect and care-well for those who have trusted us in perhaps their most vulnerable season. If G4 fails to keep participants stories safe, then we would lose the trust of those we are seeking to serve and would thereby be ineffective at out very reason for existing as a ministry.

How we Uphold Confidentiality

Because confidentiality is so important, then we must have practices in place to uphold confidentiality. This means raising the awareness and skills of both lay G4 group leaders and fellow participants. The following is how we at G4 have decided to protect our participants.

First, we make sure that we have discussed with our volunteers the importance of confidentiality and the ways in which we as a ministry uphold that confidentiality. Each volunteer receives training on what we as a ministry expect from leaders in regards to confidentiality with concrete examples of what is and is not acceptable. We also discuss the importance of reminding the group of the need for confidentiality regularly throughout their tenure, about once every twelve weeks in large group. 

Second, we explain to each participant the importance of confidentiality during our check-in process. This includes their signing of an informed consent before they are able to participate in any groups. During this explanation we ask that new participants would agree to keep any information learned in the group private and that it only be discussed within their group. We also explain that just as we are asking them to keep the stories they hear private we have asked all other participants to keep their story private as well. We at G4 rely heavily on participants’ ability and desire to honor one another through the protection of one another’s stories. 

Third, we ensure that the information that they share with us during the check-in process is only seen by the G4 director and group facilitators. These people are essential for the follow-up and care of the participants but we do not want the information to be shared beyond those select individuals. Our goal is to honor and protect anyone who would trust us through their participation in our groups.

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