Gillick Competence: Gillick guidelines ask the therapist to consider whether clients under the age of 16 have sufficient understanding to make an informed decision about undertaking therapy. While there’s no official minimum age for Gillick competence, most practitioners would consider that children under 13 do not have the cognitive development to fully understand the nature of the process of counselling.
Please also be aware that even though you the parent/guardian may have made the referral for counselling, the young person may not consider that e.g. their behaviour is problematic and they may want to talk about other aspects of their life, or may not want to attend the session at all. I understand this may be difficult especially if you are financing the sessions.
‘I will do all that I reasonably can to ensure that my clients are participating on a voluntary basis. Hesitant clients or clients who feel under pressure from other people or agencies to work with me will have their reservations acknowledged and taken into account in how services are offered.’
An essential feature of counselling is that the information disclosed is treated confidentially. It enables the young person to open up and share feelings without fear of blame or reprisals. It is also a time when it is acceptable to talk about concerns without fear of them being discussed elsewhere. This includes not discussing the work with parents, unless the young person request or gives consent for this. I acknowledge that this isn’t an easy situation for parents, and it is quite natural for you to feel anxious about what may be being said in the sessions, but ensuring the confidentiality of the work is crucial for establishing trust so that the young person feels confident to speak openly and freely about what is concerning them. A young person’s right to privacy and confidentiality is legally established in the Human Rights Act 1998 article B.
Although the contents of the sessions will be confidential within the counselling service, I require the right to breach confidentiality in some specific circumstances:
- The young person request and feels that it is within their best interest, that certain information be passed on.
- For the purpose of the Counsellor supervision, which is a regular meeting to make sure that I am working in a safe and effective manner. Identity will not be disclosed.
- Circumstances where I have sufficient grounds to believe that the young person is suffering or is likely to suffer harm.
- If the young person discloses that they are aware of significant harm of another person.
Experience shows that the most helpful thing a parent can do is to show an acceptance of counselling as a normal and useful activity, and to show an interest if their son/daughter wishes to talk about it, but not to press them if they don’t.
Finally, I will be asking your child to keep a journal. Please respect your child’s privacy by allowing them to keep this safe and private if they so wish.