The data that is collected
Contact information, such as email address and telephone number
Website usage data
Other information relevant to client enquiries
How I use this data
For my internal records
To contact you in response to a specific enquiry and subsequent matters arising
To analyse client data generally (e.g. to determine the number of clients presenting with a particular issue during a particular period).
I do not lease, distribute or sell your personal information to third parties unless I have your permission or the law requires me to. Any personal information I hold about you is stored and processed in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Cookies and how they are used
A cookie is a small file placed on your computer’s hard drive to enable websites to identify your computer as you view different pages on the site. Cookies allow websites and applications to store your preferences in order to present content, options or functions that are specific to you. They also enable me to see information like how many people use the website and what pages they tend to visit.
Analyse my web traffic using an analytics package. Aggregated usage data helps me improve the website structure, design, content and functions.
Identify whether you are signed in to my website. A cookie allows me to check whether you are signed in to the site.
Test content on my website. For example, 50% of users might see one piece of content and the other 50% a different piece of content.
Store information about your preferences. The website can then present you with information you will find more relevant and interesting.
I will always hold your information securely. To prevent unauthorised disclosure or access to your information I have strong physical and electronic security safeguards. I follow stringent procedures to ensure that I work with all personal data in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Data collection and retention of records in practice
Any records relating to clients and their personal data are retained only for as long as necessary for counselling purposes. Such data will normally fall within one or more of the following three categories:
Initial assessment record – a typed record of the initial assessment with the client at our first meeting.
Counselling session notes – brief hand-written notes of the salient points of each counselling session.
Contact details and digital records of communication with the client (e.g. by email and mobile phone).
Any typed or written records, when not in my immediate possession (e.g. whilst in transit or during counselling sessions) are locked in a secure filing cabinet or similar storage facility with the key kept in a safe remote location and under my control.
All emails relating to counselling are handled on a dedicated email account with a strong private password that is regularly changed.
As a matter of general policy:
Records of individual counselling sessions are written in such a way as to prevent any third party from being able to identify the client from them. Ownership of these records remains with me.
Any other written records (e.g. a wellbeing questionnaire or a feedback form) may be retained for a period (see below) but identified by no more than the client’s initials.
Client contracts – these are the only written record from which a client can be identified as the client will have signed and added their name to the contract at the commencement of counselling. Typically, the contract is then scanned and emailed to the client as confirmation of the terms agreed to. This would normally be done shortly after the session during which the contract was signed. The paper copy is then destroyed and therefore usually only remains in written form for 24 hours or less. The emailed copy remains on record until the retention period referred to below expires (but see below also with regard to emails generally). Should counselling recommence within this period the original terms will still apply unless varied by separate agreement.
Counselling records are retained whilst the client remains my current client and for a period of five years thereafter.
In due course all paper-based records are destroyed by shredding. Electronic records are erased using the relevant function within the application so that no accessible records remain on the device in question (e.g. workstation, laptop or server). Clients are reminded that email communication is not fully secure and, whilst I am happy to communicate in this way, care should be taken with regard to any personal or sensitive information that is included. For this reason emails will be retained for a maximum of three months.
Links from my website
I do not advertise on my site. My own website is advertised on the sites of a limited number of respected counselling associations (e.g. the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy and the National Counselling Society) but I do not accept invitations to be advertised on other counsellors’ websites or enter into any other reciprocal agreements to do so. If you do follow any links to other sites (e.g. for the BACP ethical policy guidelines) do read the site’s data protection and privacy policies fully.
 For any records that, exceptionally, do not fall within these categories – such as audio recordings – a separate written, individual agreement will be made with the client about how these will be handled, such as who will be permitted to access them, how and for how long they will be retained, and how they will eventually be destroyed
 As required by professional indemnity insurance