The Australian Psychological Society has recently produced the Guidelines for working with young people, to assist psychologists working in the complex area of child and adolescent mental health. The following questions and answers present the key legal and ethical considerations for psycholigsts working with young people and are based on extracts from these new guidelines.
Is the consent of both parents required before a psychologist can provide services to a child?
When a psychologist is engaged to provide a psychological service to a child, the consent and involvement of both parents is desirable, although not legally required. However, there are situations where obtaining the consent of both parents is not possible, or appropriate.
What about parental consent where the parents of the child are separated?
If a psychologist is aware that the parents of the child are separated, he or she may assume that the parent who organised the consultation has the legal authority to access a psychologist on behalf of the child. Even if there are existing Court Orders, the psychologist is not required to establish whether the decision to consult a psychologist has been made jointly by the parents.
If the presenting parent says that they do not wish the other parent to be involved, and the other parent reportedly opposes the decision for the child to see a psychologist, the psychologist should discuss this further with the presenting parent and child, and make a professional judgement about whether to provide services. In making that decision, the best interests of the child are most important.
Where parents are separated, what if the other parent seeks information from the psychologist about the services being provided to the child?
If the presenting parent and child have not given consent for disclosure of information to the other parent, then a psychologist must protect the confidentiality of the young person. This includes refraining from acknowledging if a psychological service has been provided at all. If the other parent does contact the psychologist for information, the presenting parent will be informed and encouraged to resolve the issues directly.
What are the limits to confidentiality when providing services to young people?
Psychologists must comply with any legal requirements to report child abuse and neglect. Psychologists must also disclose information in situations where failure to disclose information may result in clear risk to the young person or to others, in order to avert risk.
You can contact us for further information or to make an appointment.
Separation and Divorce workshop for children in Sydney.
In addition, we also run the ‘Doing the Splits’ workshop. Visit the workshop pages to make a booking:
Separation and Divorce workshop for children in Melbourne.