Your Counselling Bill of Rights

If you are attending counselling with a sincere heart, this is an act of emotional vulnerability; you are trusting in the counsellor to help you through whatever difficulty, or difficulties, that brought you to counselling. This takes great strength.

When we are emotionally open, it is important to choose a therapist who will not misuse this vulnerability but instead, will create a safe environment where our openness can be a vehicle for our own personal growth.

When committing to counselling, it is important that we know our rights. I list here my thoughts on the matter; I may miss something or your very specific situation may not “fit” exactly with what you I’ve written. You may even disagree. Above all else, I always encourage people to use their “spidey senses,” –i.e. if something feels “off,” strange, or your intuition is raising red flags, step back and take whatever time is needed to make a decision that is right for you.

In no particular order,

You have a right to…

  • Refuse to attend counselling, even if important people in your life feel that it’s necessary
  • End counselling at any time, for any reason, unless you are court-mandated to attend
  • Decline to work with a particular counsellor if you do not feel comfortable with her or him, or the counselling office, even if it is for reasons you are unclear about
  • Request to work with a counsellor of a particular gender
  • Have the content of your sessions kept strictly confidential and exceptions to confidentiality explained to you before proceeding with therapy
  • Ask the counsellor questions about her or his experience, training and approach
  • Refuse to answer any question the counsellor asks that you are not comfortable answering
  • Provide the counsellor with feedback about your session
  • Ask the counsellor questions and/or request clarification
  • Have all fees and policies explained to you prior to starting the counselling process
  • Have a therapist that provides you with emotional support – not the other way around. A counsellor should not share their personal problems with you. Any time a counsellor shares her or his life experience, it should be specifically related to your therapy in a way that makes sense to you and furthers your goals
  • Be spared from questions that solely benefit the counsellor, for example, if you have expertise in an area or have a particular skill set which is not related to your reasons for attending therapy
  • Bring a support person with you to your sessions or to refuse another person’s attendance, if requested
  • Work with a counsellor that you do not know personally from elsewhere. In counsellor speak, this is called a “dual relationship.” This means that you do not choose a counsellor who is a friend, acquaintance, neighbour, family member, congregation member, employee, student, business associate, etc.
  • Have a counsellor who respects your ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, age and religion
  • Have a physically safe environment free of sexual harassment, innuendo or the expectation of a sexual relationship. Ethical counsellors never have sex or engage in sexual touching with their clients
  • Have professional boundaries respected; your therapist does not initiate social contact with you outside the counselling relationship
  • View your counselling file. In certain jurisdictions, information obtained from third parties may first need to be blacked out
  • Ask the counsellor to make factual corrections to your counselling file
  • Not have information about you released without your signed consent
  • To request a second opinion
  • Disagree with any diagnosis you may have received, or disagree with your counsellor’s assessment of your situation
  • Have your messages returned or have been provided with information about your counsellor’s policies about between-session contact
  • Request information about your progress or planning around your therapy

I wish you all an empowered therapy experience!