May 9, 2024

Our New Series Begins Today! 

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How can I be Principled in my Practice? 

What does it mean to be principled in your practice? This is an essential competency for a mentor/supervisor… which we will be focusing on for the next few weeks. To be principled in practice means that you “adhere to core values and beliefs rooted in sound doctrine.” Every mentor/supervisor needs a code of conduct for their practice. There are likely already some set up for you, beginning with the legal requirements in the area you practise, including the denomination or professional association you are working within. 

Understanding Different Beliefs and Being Respectful

This is not to say you must be personally aligned in every aspect of beliefs. For example, if you are asked to Supervise a pastor at a Lutheran church, but you are not Lutheran, you may not agree with everything in their orthodoxy. However, you should be aware of their beliefs and respect the differences with your own. You must be able to speak about your differences with integrity and agree to adhere to the core values in your sessions. If not, and you find yourself ethically at odds with a piece of doctrine, mentoring this particular person may not be the assignment for you.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore the behavioural expressions associated with this competency. Also, you will be provided with the tools and insight to gauge your comfort and skill within this competency. We will also provide paths to grow and excel in this area. 

How to Handle Confidential Information Wisely 

As we dive into the competency of being ‘Principled in Practice,’ it is fitting that we begin with how to handle confidential information. From the moment we first meet our client, we know we are meant to keep their actions and words confidential. Even after we are finished working with this client, we must respect their privacy. This is essential in building trust and respect in the relationship because without confidentiality, your client may not feel they can be fully transparent with you. Generally speaking, everything in a session is strictly between you and your client. It is a professional courtesy that the sessions themselves are not even brought up if you happen to see your client in other settings.

If you run into a client and his family at the grocery, for example, it would be improper to tell him that you are looking forward to seeing them at their next session, as it may raise questions with his family that he is not ready to answer. It is essential to always allow a client their privacy. 

Exploring Confidentiality

Confidentiality can look a little different if you are engaged with an organisation to professionally supervise their employees. Nevertheless, the priority of privacy between yourself and the supervisee remains. Because you have been hired by a third party, you need to understand their reporting expectations and code of ethics. You should also have a clear understanding of their expectations of you and their goal for their employee. However, while you have been brought in by the organisation, your primary responsibility is to help the supervisee. This is the benefit of bringing in a professional supervisor; you are not inline management. You are working with a degree of independence that the organisation can’t offer. You are not there to spy or tattle on the employee, rather to help the supervisee gain insight and health, and grow as a person and consequently as an employee. 

Another Example

Here’s an example; your supervisee expresses some disagreement with the organisation’s code of conduct. They might feel certain expectations are unfair and share with you that they do not plan on meeting these expectations. Well, if you were part of their inline management, you would have to report this to their superior. However, you are there as an independent supervisor. You can remind your supervisee that it is their responsibility to disclose this feeling with their managers, but primarily, your task is to explore what is behind this feeling and what can be done to help them. If your supervisee feels that you may rat them out and share their opinions with the management, they will be less inclined to share anything at all. The priority should be to create a place where your supervisee feels safe. This requires that they trust you to be confidential with their information. 

Taking the Next Step

If you find the supervisee is hiding dangerous information from the organisation and refuses to work with you to reach a solution, you may reach a point where you need to step out. You can share with the organisation that you do not feel that you can ethically continue to work with this employee, while still maintaining confidentiality with your client. 

All information must be handled judiciously; your personal judgment is required to make important and wise decisions. Here are a few tips to help ensure the safety of you, your client, and the people around you. 

  • Clarify limitations of confidence. In the very first session, make sure it is clear that you will have to report any suspicion of danger, abuse or law-breaking. This should be stated clearly in whatever contract, written or verbal, that you and your client make at the beginning of your professional relationship. Also, clarify what your role will be if there is a challenge with the workplace code of conduct. 
  • Get wisdom from your own supervisor or mentor. Though it is best to withhold names and specific details, you can always seek the opinion of a mentor or supervisor. They could provide new insight to your situation. 
  • Know the proper procedure within the context of the relationship. This is especially crucial in professional supervision. If you are brought into an office or church to supervise an individual, know how they handle these situations. When is it your responsibility to report information? Who do you report to? What are the expectations of the organisation? 

Reflection Questions:

  • What are my professional expectations with this client? 
  • How have I handled red flags in the past? 
  • Who can I speak to about potentially dangerous information? 

Next Steps:

Are you confident in your ability to handle confidential information wisely? Do you think you may still need to grow within this competency? You can gauge your professional strengths here:

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