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  • Writer's pictureTodd Roache

Client confidentiality and the law ...

Because our clients have a different paradigm/view of the world to us, it’s possible at times that our feelings on right/wrong may be different to theirs.

For example with a client who wants to talk about how they are being unfaithful to their partner. You may not approve of infidelity, but it is not technically illegal (in the UK anyway).

But what about when our differing sense of right/wrong is reflected in the law? What is our responsibility as coaches in those instances?

One place to look for guidance could be the ICF Code of Ethics:

The ICF are the International Coach Federation, the world’s largest professional coaching body. They have spent decades researching and creating guidelines to help coaches with exactly this kind of question. There are other Coaching bodies e.g the Association of Coaching, whose Code of Ethics you could also refer to.

In the ICF code of Ethics Section 1 point 5, their guidance on this is to explicitly contract with clients “about the conditions under which information will not be kept confidential (e.g., illegal activity, if required by law, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent of likely risk of danger to self or others; etc.). Where I reasonably believe one of the above circumstances is applicable, I may need to inform appropriate authorities”.

The whole document is a valuable read, bearing in mind this is the ICF Code of Ethics and different coaching bodies may have slightly different things to say in their ethics guidance. (For example some coaching bodies are very much ‘the contract must be a written one’, whereas others are more open to the idea of an ‘agreement’, verbal or written).

Because coaching is an unregulated industry, much of what we do as coaches is follow the compass that feels right to us. This could at times be our own internal one, or we could align ourselves with/seek insight from a professional body e.g the ICF or AC, who offer structure and guidance for professional practice.


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