Confidentiality may need to be broken based on certain laws and ethics of the counseling field. Those who are certified counselors are responsible to adhere to certain principles and should let group participants know under what circumstances or conditions they might need to break confidentiality. This needs to be discussed during the first meeting for closed groups and intermittently for open meetings where people can join the group at any time.
In general, it is group facilitator's obligation to protect the members' disclosures. However, some participants may not want to disclose some things if the counselor will be ethically required to tell others. It is only fair to the members to know in advance these exceptions to the rule. The following is a partial list of reasons counselors are required by law to break confidentiality:
- When a group member poses a danger to themselves or others.
- When the counselor believes that a participant who is under the age of 16 may be the victim of incest, rape, child abuse or some other noted crime.
- When the group member may need special help from a person that has been taking care of them or is ministering to them.
- When the counselor or group facilitator gets a subpoena to go to court.
Counselors should talk about the proper way to share information with others. One way to discuss something would be to keep it about the person speaking not about others. Never disclose what someone else has said in group and never use names. A group member may find out and close down. Some people never recover.
To have a healthy group, this rule needs to be honored. No genuine therapy can take place if the group members cannot trust in the privacy of their revelations.
Confidentiality is a very sensitive issue. Both on the counselor's part and the group members. Better to talk about this often than to risk the chance of breached confidentiality. Better to be safe than sorry.