127 – Recording Therapy Sessions
Reasonable Adjustments for Students – Feelings on Breaking Confidentiality
In episode 127 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes look at recording therapy sessions. ‘Check-In with CPCAB’ then looks at reasonable adjustments that can be made by centres to help establish a level playing field for all students. Finally, the presenters explore the feelings that might arise in the counsellor and the client when confidentiality has to be broken.
Recording Therapy Sessions (starts at 2.15 mins)
Recording therapy sessions is a key part of most counselling training, as a way of your tutor listening to your work to ensure that you are fit to practise before you begin your placement.
Qualified therapists may also choose to record sessions so that they can play back and learn from them, and share these with their supervisors. Indeed, Carl Rogers and his colleagues used to do this regularly.
It is natural to find recording therapy sessions stressful, especially in the early days of doing so. Ken and Rory provide tips to help you become more comfortable with this:
- Practise recording in peer sessions so that you become familiar with the feeling of having a recording device in the room.
- Use the right equipment when recording therapy sessions: neither mobile phones nor dictaphones are well suited to the task; instead, search online (perhaps on auction sites such as eBay) for ‘handheld professional audio recorders’.
- Before you start recording your session, do a short test recording and check that this sounds clear (rather than starting your proper recording with an exchange about whether or not the machine is working properly).
- Ensure that any equipment you buy is digital – so that you can upload your recording to your computer, and transfer it electronically to your tutor.
- When recording your assessed session, work with a peer who you have worked with before, so that you have already developed a therapeutic relationship.
- Don’t worry about how your voice sounds – our own voices always sound strange to us when we listen back (as we’re not used to hearing ourselves ‘from the outside’!). You might find it helpful to listen to your own voice recordings beforehand to get used to this.
- When listening back to your recording, focus on your interventions (not the client’s story), looking at your responses, the skills used, and their effect on the client/relationship.
Check-In with CPCAB: Reasonable Adjustments for Students (starts at 16.40 mins)
Rory speaks to Kelly Budd (Qualification Service Manager) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about reasonable adjustments in assessment.
Some counselling students may be neurodiverse – for example, having specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia) or physical impairments (e.g. to sight). If these affect their ability to perform in a standard assessment, CPCAB can adjust the style of this to meet the candidate’s needs and to ensure that there is a level playing field for all candidates.
While CPCAB tries hard to make its exam papers as accessible to all as possible (e.g. by using fonts shown by research to be the most legible), you might also be able to have:
- a computer (rather than hand-writing)
- a separate room
- a reader and/or scribe
- an interpreter
- extra time
- special font types or sizes
- coloured paper.
If you think you might need any such adjustments, it’s really important that you tell your tutor as soon as possible, as they can take time to organise. Communicate what your issue is, how it affects your study, and possible obstacles you can foresee on the course.
Each person’s difficulties are unique, and so – while the tutor has a responsibility to treat these with understanding and to take appropriate action – it’s up to you to make the first step by telling them if you’re struggling or expect to do so.
If you have had difficult experiences in education in the past, try not to put off by these introjects: the world of learning (in particular in a subject like counselling and psychotherapy) is very different from how it used to be in your school days.
For more information about CPCAB, please see its website. CPCAB is the UK’s only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.
Feelings on Breaking Confidentiality (starts at 33.10 mins)
Breaking confidentiality is a tricky area. Ken and Rory summarise the mechanics of explaining the limits to confidentiality and what you might need to do if breaking confidentiality becomes necessary.
Above all, working collaboratively with the client (unless this would put you or others in danger) and speaking to your supervisor straight away (if you possibly can) are important.
Aside from the mechanics, however, there may be difficult feelings both in yourself and in the client to deal with if confidentiality needs to be broken.
For example, you might feel as if you have betrayed the client’s sacred trust (despite having explained during contracting that this is necessary in certain situations); you might also feel fearful about how they will react and how you will be able to rebuild any ruptured relationship if they return to counselling.
However, we can never know for sure how the client will react. Rory describes one case where the client was subsequently deeply grateful to the counsellor for breaking confidentiality, as this was ultimately in their best interests – though the client then found this gratitude difficult to process.