Confidentiality in Therapy and Ethical Guidelines in Canada

Last updated on: May 17, 2024
A therapy session in progress in a warmly lit, stylish living room. Two clients, a man and a woman, are seated on separate gray sofas, gesturing while speaking animatedly. The therapist, a woman in glasses, listens intently while seated on a chair across from them, creating an environment of open communication and support

In Canada, confidentiality and ethical guidelines for therapists are crucial aspects of professional practice, designed to protect client privacy and ensure ethical treatment. 

Therapists in Canada are typically governed by provincial regulatory bodies, and these bodies may have additional or specific guidelines tailored to their jurisdiction.

Here's an overview of these guidelines in Canada: 

1. Confidentiality

Client Privacy: Therapists must keep all client information private, sharing it only with the client's consent or as required by law.

Limits to Confidentiality: In Canada, there are specific situations where a therapist is legally and ethically required to break the confidentiality clause. These exceptions are generally consistent across provinces and territories, but therapists must always be aware of the specific laws and regulations in their jurisdiction. 

  • Risk of Harm: If there's a serious, immediate risk of harm to the client or others.
  • Child Abuse or Neglect: If there's suspicion or evidence of child abuse or neglect.
  • Court Orders: If required by a legal proceeding or court order.
  • Client Consent: When the client consents to share specific information.

Record Keeping: Therapists are required to maintain secure and confidential records of their sessions with clients.

2. Informed Consent

Client Understanding: Therapists must ensure clients understand the nature of therapy, including methods, risks, benefits, and confidentiality limits.

Voluntary Participation: Participation in therapy should be voluntary, and clients have the right to withdraw consent at any time.

3. Professional Boundaries

Avoiding Dual Relationships: Therapists must avoid dual relationships that could impair their professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients.

Sexual Boundaries: Any sexual behaviour, physical or verbal, by a therapist is strictly prohibited both by law and by the College. Sexual relationships with current or former clients are strictly prohibited.

4. Competence and Integrity

Professional Competence: Therapists are expected to provide services within their areas of competence and seek additional training or supervision when necessary.

Honesty and Integrity: Therapists should be honest in their professional interactions and avoid misrepresenting their qualifications or services.

5. Cultural Sensitivity

Respect for Diversity: Therapists must be respectful of and sensitive to cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status.

6. Accountability

Therapists are expected to adhere to applicable laws and the ethical standards of their professional bodies, such as the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) or provincial regulatory bodies.

7. Handling Ethical Concerns

Therapists should strive to resolve ethical issues through consultation with professional colleagues or appropriate regulatory bodies. Ethical guidelines often include a duty to report unethical behavior by fellow professionals.

At First Session, we thoroughly screen each candidate to ensure they meet the highest standards of professional practice.. Every therapist on our platform is licensed and are also stands in good standing with their respective Colleges or Associations.

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About the Author

First Session Editorial Team

The First Session Editorial Team, composed of seasoned researchers, writers, editors, and therapists, focuses on providing content that helps​ Canadians find the right therapist.