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Weighing the Risks

DILEMMA
Is it ever right to breach client confidentiality?

You are a clinical psychologist who received a call from a mother looking to make an appointment for her 14 year old son. She says that she was referred to you by their local GP when they went to see her about her son feeling depressed. She described her son as someone who until recently was quite positive and enthusiastic, who enjoyed his studies and sporting activities at school and had a busy social life. About six months ago she and her husband noticed that the boy was becoming reclusive and lacking interest in things that he previously enjoyed. This change coincided with his participation in a new friendship group, and the mother is sure these new friends are a bad influence and have introduced him to recreational drugs. She would like you to see her son and help him with his depression, and also find out (and let her know) if he is using drugs.

You start counselling the son. He is very quiet and doesn’t say much in the first few sessions, but at the third session he opens up and starts to talk with you about what has been going on for him and the issues he is experiencing. He also confirms that he has been experimenting with marijuana and begs you to promise not to tell his parents.

What do you do? Do you tell his parents (as is their wish) and risk losing the trust of their son and potentially compromise your ability to continue to work with him?


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