Students’ Rights to Confidentiality
The curriculum prepares professional social workers to be effective in helping clients and in collaborating with others on clients’ behalf. In the context of the School’s curriculum as contrasted with personal therapy, personal growth and self-awareness are not ends in themselves; they are means toward the ends of effective practice skills. Contrary to a contract for personal therapy, the educational contract may not require students to reveal personal information either to fellow students or instructors. Therefore, any course which requires self-disclosure as a teaching/learning methodology must be optional for students to elect, make explicit at the outset any requirements for expectations of self-disclosure, and provide a rationale acceptable to Curriculum Committee that the nature of self-disclosure required can reasonably be expected to improve practice and that application of such experiences to practice will be made explicit for students. Self-disclosure, for the purpose of this document, is defined as disclosure of personal or family relationships or history.
The following specific guidelines must be followed with respect to students’ rights to confidentiality.
- A student’s reactions to or feelings about clients and fellow workers are a legitimate concern of social work education. Students may be asked to examine these matters either in written assignments, practicum supervision, advisement, or liaison conferences.
- Students may not be required involuntarily as a part of class or practicum to reveal information about their personal or family relationships or histories with the exception indicated in item 3 below. An assignment asking for personal or family information may, however, be utilized if an alternative assignment is available and given equal credit. For example, describe family relationships in literature instead of one’s own family or describe a person’s problem rather than one’s own problem.
- A practice course may be offered which requires students to describe personal or family matters either in class or other assignments. Such a course may be offered under the following conditions:
- Methodology and content of the kind described in (3) must be approved by Curriculum Committee as necessary for achieving course objectives.
- Written course materials defining expectations of students regarding sharing of personal information must be made available at the outset of the course. The nature of the self-disclosure to be required and the context in which the self-disclosure will occur (e.g., assertiveness training, sharing of sexual experiences) must be made explicit in the course materials. The course materials must also contain a rationale for the types of self-disclosure expected indicating the specific ways in which such disclosure is expected to enhance practice skills.
- Any information about him/herself which the student does choose to divulge must be treated by faculty and by fellow students with the same respect for confidentiality as that accorded to clients. That is, no mention of such confidences may be made unless directly connected with the education or practice of that student.
- A breach of policy regarding student’s rights to confidentiality by either faculty or students shall be considered a violation of professional ethics and academic misconduct.