Tonbridge Counselling Service Privacy Statement

Who We Are

Tonbridge Counselling Service (TCS) is a Counselling Service situated in River Walk, Tonbridge, Kent. The Board of Trustees has overall responsibility for the running of the charity and they support the Counselling Manager in leading the service and its day-to-day running. We have a team of freelance counsellors who see clients working under the guidance and policies of TCS.

As you engage with our service we will request information about you that enables us to carry out our service in a professional manner. This document outlines what information we request, why we need it and what we do with it. You have a right to know how your information will be stored and processed.

If you have any difficulty understanding this document or have any questions, please email info@tonbridgecounsellingservice.co.uk or telephone 01732 605046 and our counselling manager, Amanda Hedger will respond.

Who’s Who in Data Protection?

When it comes to data processing there are some helpful terms to understand. Our clients are known as Data Subjects. TCS is known as the Data Controller, in most cases this will be Amanda Hedger or another experienced counsellor you might meet for the initial assessment. We are also the Data Processor because of how we use and store your information. Your counsellor is also a Joint Data Controller and Processor because they will be taking new information about you as part of the counselling work and will be entering into a contract with you on behalf of TCS.

Coming to TCS as a Client

What Information Do We Collect?

First Enquiries

When you make an initial enquiry with us this will most likely be by telephone or email. Despite our computers being password protected, email is not a totally secure means of communicating so please keep personal information in emails to a minimum. Please see our cookies policy on our website.

A message can be left on the answering machine giving your name and telephone number and we will return your call to discuss what you are looking for in counselling and whether we are the right service for you. Messages are stored on the telephone until we have responded to you and then they are deleted. Messages will be listened to by our Counselling Manager or Office Administrators, Jill Gibbs. Emails to our Counselling Manager, Amanda Hedger come directly to her and are stored until contact has been made and then will be deleted, unless a record needs to be kept for administrative purposes. Emails to our info@tonbridgecounsellingservice.co.uk email address are also read by our Office Administrator. Sometimes the Office Administrator makes phone calls or sends emails on behalf of the Counselling Manager.

When we speak on the phone you will be consenting to giving us your name and phone number and brief details of what brings you to counselling. Initial appointments are recorded in a diary using first name and contact number.

The Initial Appointment

If an initial appointment is arranged, you will meet with our Counselling Manager or another experienced member from our team who will ask some questions and complete an Assessment Form of both general (name, contact details, date of birth) and more sensitive information that helps us to decide if we are the right service for you. You are also able to ask questions to decide if we are the kind of service you are looking for. At the initial appointment we will also ask you for some additional information:

  • Your permission to contact your GP and/or psychiatrist, whenever possible this would be done after discussing with you but this may not be possible if we have significant concerns about your safety. If we feel it appropriate we may also contact your GP prior to the start of counselling, with your consent.
  • A next of kin or friend who could be contacted should you become in need of emergency or urgent medical attention whilst you are having counselling.

Case Notes

When you begin counselling your counsellor will keep brief notes about the work that you are doing together. These notes will not contain any names or identifying details about yourself. The counsellor is clinically responsible for these notes and as such is responsible for the security of these notes at home (GDPR compliant 2018). These notes will be kept for 5 years after which they will be securely destroyed. We do not enter into lengthy therapeutic emails with our clients and any emails beyond those concerning appointment times will be printed and stored in your counselling notes by your counsellor.

Why Do We Collect Your Information?

The Assessment Form is helpful to us in four main ways:

  • It aids our communication with you for arranging your appointments
  • It enables us to consider carefully if we are the right service for you and if so to link you with the most appropriate counsellor for you depending on expertise and availability.
  • It enables us to pass information to the counsellor you will be working with.
  • To keep anonymised statistics relating to our service.

What Do We Do With Your Information?

The Assessment Form will be stored securely in a locked filing cabinet, in our locked office. It will be passed to the counsellor that you will be working with and will not leave the premises. It may also be seen by the office administrator for the purposes of emails or contacting you by telephone to discuss your appointment or arrange payment. The Counselling Manager and Office Administrator are the Safeguarding Officers and will respond directly to any safeguarding issues. The Assessment Form will not be seen by anyone else.

If for whatever reason you decide not to proceed with TCS after the initial appointment, please let us know. The Assessment Form will be securely destroyed. If circumstances prevented you from starting with us within a few weeks, we would store the form for 2 months after which it will be destroyed. Should you wish to approach us for counselling after the 2 month period then the initial appointment would need to be repeated. We have a legal and ethical requirement to keep your information safe. We will not pass information we keep about you to a third party, with the exception of using your name, address and date of birth to verify your identity with GP’s or other relevant professionals.

Please note:

  • We will ask for your signed consent to take this information from you. Please note that by not providing the required information counselling will not take place.
  • Whilst working with you we need to keep information to fulfil our contractual commitment to you.
  • We also have a legitimate interest to keep information for up to 5 years in relation to client information that might be needed by a court of law. Withdrawing of consent means we will reduced the amount of information we keep about you and will destroy all data after 5 years.

Payments to the service can be by cash, cheque or bank transfer. Our Office Administrator will liaise with you to arrange bank transfers and will see any names printed on cheques that will be paid into a bank account. Names will also appear on our bank statement but a code can be provided if you prefer to use that.

Client Counsellor Agreement

After the initial assessment you will be asked to sign a two-way contract with your designated counsellor once therapy commences. This Client Counsellor Agreement outlines the ways in which we work together and includes our commitment to confidentiality and its limitations. This means that whilst we value highly the confidentiality of our counselling sessions with you there may be some circumstances that would conflict with our ethical and legal obligations. Such circumstances include; harm to self or others, ongoing sexual abuse of a minor, a serious unreported crime or an act of terrorism. TCS (or your TCS counsellor) may have to contact the appropriate authorities such as Police, Social Services, GP or similar. When ethically, practically and legally possible we would discuss this with you first.

After Counselling

You will be given a Client Feedback Form and a Discharge Form to acknowledge that the counselling contract has come to an end. On this form there will be an option give consent for a second time permitting us to keep your information securely for 5 years. Should you decide to withdraw your consent at this stage we will still have a legal and legitimate interest to keep records that identify you should there be a case brought in a court. Should consent be withdrawn we will keep only necessary information which is your name, address, age and date of birth and contact details, whether you have received any diagnoses, GP or psychiatrist correspondence and your original goals for counselling.

Past Clients

If the counselling with us ended before May 2018 we will keep your information we hold about you for 5 years from the date of ending after which time it will be securely destroyed in keeping with our current policy. We will not be contacting clients from the past as we believe this may not be in their best interests to receive inappropriate contact outside of the counselling relationship and could be deemed unethical.

Young People

TCS offers counselling to young people, if we consider it appropriate, over the age of 14 for which the young person and their parent or legal guardian need to give consent. We have a legal and contractual requirement to keep information that we hold on a young person for 7 years after they become 18.

Your Rights

You have a right to request to see your case notes and to correct anything you feel is inaccurate within them. Please make your request to your counsellor who will respond within 30 days. In some circumstances release of personal data may need to be denied to ensure best practice, to protect your safety and well-being or the safety or interests of another. Therefore in such circumstances you will only be given aspects of your personal information to ensure best practice, to protect your safety, your well-being or the safety of another.

If you are unhappy with your experience at TCS and you feel able to, please discuss this with your counsellor in the first instance. If this fails to resolve the matter, contact the Counselling Manager, Amanda Hedger in writing, who will address your complaint and respond within a reasonable time.

TCS adheres to the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) Ethical Framework and the ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors). Details of how to make a formal complaint can be found on their respective websites. Your counsellor will be a member of either one of these professional bodies and their website links can be found at the bottom of this document.

Social Media

TCS does not promote the service via Social Media however some search engines provide space for reviews. Please be aware we do not read these reviews – any feedback you wish us to know about can be given on the Client Feedback Form. Please respect the professional counselling boundaries by not following or attempting to friend your counsellor on any social media platform.

Training and Education

TCS runs a full training programme equipping people to train as professional counsellors. We often have students on placement with us who may need to write case studies as part of their course or even audio record sessions. You may be asked by a trainee counsellor to sign a consent form giving the trainee permission to use your coded personal details for writing a case study, or to record and write a transcript of their sessions. This is optional - you can decide not to give your permission to take part in a case study or an audio recording.

Our counsellors who offer training may discuss examples from their work to demonstrate good practice to students. No names or any identifying information is ever shared.

BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) Ethical Framework www.bacp.co.uk

ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors) www.acc-uk.org

General Data Protection Register May 2018 (GDPR: https://ico.org.uk) Ref: ZA065319

Professional counsellors and counselling services in Tonbridge, Kent
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