Informed Consent….

Defining Informed Consent

The American Counseling Association states that clients have the freedom to choose whether they will enter to and/or remain in counseling (ACA, 2014, p. 4).  Therapists are responsible for protecting this client right by providing them with the adequate information to make an informed decision.   The APA (2017) adds the following:

 “(a) When obtaining informed consent to therapy as required in Standard 3.10, Informed Consent, psychologists inform clients/patients as early as is feasible in the therapeutic relationship about the nature and anticipated course of therapy, fees, involvement of third parties, and limits of con- dentiality and provide su cient opportunity for the client/ patient to ask questions and receive answers. (See also Stan- dards 4.02, Discussing the Limits of Con dentiality, and 6.04, Fees and Financial Arrangements.)” (Section 10.1)

Essentially, the right of informed consent allows the client to make an independent and knowledgable decision regarding the services we provide.  The first step in protecting this rights for the client includes the review of essential bits of information the client might need in order to make an informed decision (Corey, et al, 2011).  The second step is to have the client read through and sign the informed consent documentation (Corey, et al, 2011).  The important point here, is that the client gives their consent with an understanding of the facts provided.

The Informed Consent Process…

Corey, et al, (2011), state that the informed consent is an educational process which is usefl as a collaborate therpeutic relationship-buildiing process.  Examples of common questions asked include the following:

  1. “What are the goals of the therapeutic endeavor” (Corey, et al, 2011 p. 151).
  2. “What services will the counselor provide?” (Corey, et al, 2011 p. 151).
  3. How much will it cost? (Corey, et al, 2011).
  4. What are the risks? (Corey, et al, 2011).
  5. What are limitations to confidentiality? (Corey, et al, 2011).
  6. What are your qualifications? (Corey, et al, 2011).

What does the client need to know?

 According to the ACA Code ef ethics (2014) and my old course textbook, (Corey, et al, 2011). What follows is a list of information that should be included in the informed consent document.

THE THERAPEUTIC PROCESS:   It is important to help the client understand the nature of the therapy process.  There will be frank discussions and as the client’s level of awareness increases, old anxieties and traumas may resurface.  Also make a point to explain the nature of any procedures & therapy goals

BACKGROUND OF THE THERAPIST:  What kind of training, credentials, licenses does the therapist have?  What types of clients, specialized skills, and/or theoretical orientation is utilized by the therapist?

COSTS INVOLVED:  make the client aware of the costs involved, how payments are received, and methods of payment allowed

LENGTH OF THERAPY / TERMINATION:  In addition informing the clien of the length of therapy, they should be informed that htey have a right ot terminate services at any time

CONSULTATION W/ COLLEAGUES:  Make sure the client understands that it may be necessary to consult with your therapist regarding their case from time to time.

INTERRUPTIONS IN THERAPY:  Who can the client contact in case of emergency?  Who can they see in the event that you need to take time off?

BENEFITS/ RISKS – As stated above, clients shoul dunderstand what the therapy process involves.  “Clients need to know that no promices can be made about specific outcomes, which means that ethical practitioners avoid promising a cure…” (Corey, et al, 2011, p. 169)

ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL THERAPY:  What alternatives are there to therapy?  Help the client learn aobut various community resources and support systems available to the client (Corey, et al, 2011).

RIGHT TO ACCESS FILES:  “Clients records are kept for the benefit of clients…A profssional writes abot a client in descriptive and nonjudgmental ways.  A clinician who operates in a professional manner should not have to worry if his or her notes were to become public information or be read by a client” (Corey, et al, 2011, p. 170).

RIGHTS PERTAINING TO DIAGNOSTIC CLASSIFCATION:  Therapists frequently need to give clients a diagnostic classifications for insurance purposes.  “Some clients are not informed that they will be so classified…or that the classifications…will be given to insurance companies…Clients also do not have control over who can receive this information…Ethical Practice includes informing clients that a diagnosis can become a permanent part of their life” (Corey, et al, 2011 p. 171). 

LIMITS TO CONFIDENTIALITY Must also be discussed with the client.  I will go into greater detail about the limits of confidential in a later post. 


ACA Code of Ethics as a resource for an academic work: American Counseling Association (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.
American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct (2002, Amended June 1, 2010 and January 1, 2017). Retrieved from
Corey, G, Corey M.S. & Callanan P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions. 8th Ed.  Belmont CA: Brooks/Cole.

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