Social Work Programs

April 12, 2011

Therapy Sessions And Confidentiality With Teens

Filed under: confidentiality — Tags: , — admin @ 8:40 pm

One of the Standards for the Practice of Social Work with Adolescents involves the question of confidentiality. Are sessions with a social worker confidential if you are a teenager? Standard 9 states that social workers maintain a confidential relationship with the teenager but any information obtained within that relationship can only be limited to a certain extent.

When many teenagers end up working with social workers, it is because they have got into trouble. While teenagers may look like adults, in many cases they are struggling with issues that can be overwhelming. Many are under the care of social workers because of abuse at home, or have come under the influence of others who have led them into alcohol or drug abuse. A large proportion of these youth come from broken homes, may have suffered sexual abuse by relatives, and have often had no guidance through their childhoods. They find it difficult to relate to others and may feel resentful and angry.

In cases where the teenager has been sexually abused, or there is evidence of definite neglect, this information has to be disclosed to the proper authorities so that appropriate action can be taken. The social worker must inform the teenager in these situations. In the case of a teenager being admitted to a residential facility, the parent or guardian must be informed. Where federal, state or local authorities have to be informed, for the safety of the youth, the social worker must inform the teenager of that fact, and he will have to give signed consent for the disclosure of that information, along with the parent or guardian’s signed consent.


At the beginning of a social worker-teenager relationship, it will help build the relationship if the teenager is told that most of what he says is kept confidential, except when certain other circumstances prevail, such as neglect, abuse etc. If the teen may hurt himself or threaten to harm another this also can be disclosed and in Florida the person can be Baker acted.

Social workers who try to work with teenagers unfortunately are up against dwindling resources, and troubled teens can be very difficult to work with. They are often dealing with so much stress and can be uncooperative, withdrawn and sometimes show violent tendencies.

The National Association of Social Workers Bill of Rights has always been advocates for children and youth, and in a perfect world should be able to help teenagers overcome their difficulties and reach their potential, with good health care, education and a safe environment. Unfortunately, social workers often feel they are fighting a losing battle and are struggling with ever-increasing caseloads.

In the case of school social workers, the scenario is much the same and the level of confidentiality is set by each individual state. Not only does the school social worker provide a link between the teenager and his family or guardian but the social worker must also share certain information with other professionals for appropriate assistance.

Sessions, Confidentiality and Important Decisions

Balancing the level of trust between social worker, teenager and other parties can cause ethical dilemmas, particularly where intervention is required. It is far too easy to lose the confidence of the teenager, when he is told that his parent, guardian or other authority must be informed about his behavior, or regarding other factors such as abuse, neglect or criminal behavior. But, it’s important to engage with the teen and you have the opportunity to show him or her that there are possibilities that they may not have been exposed to for their own life to blossom.

1 Comment »

  1. I told my therapist that I would get red in the face at my brother for how he treated me and I pictured how I’d hit him. He told my parents which turned out to be good because we had some family sessions and that changed how he treated me. We still don’t get along great but it is much better.

    Comment by Horation — April 30, 2011 @ 11:44 am

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