What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

The first step in starting therapy is always looking over and signing a consent form about the treatment you will be receiving. By nature, most people skim over these documents and go right to the signature line, but do you really know what you are signing off on? These treatment agreements outline how therapy can help, what to expect about your confidentiality, your fee for services, and so much more. Today, I want to focus on the “No Secrets” policy that is often included in consents for couples or family therapy services.

woman in green top whispering to a man in a gray tank top

Who does a “No Secrets” policy apply to?

This policy is in place for couples or families participating in therapy together. If you are in individual therapy, this policy most likely wouldn’t affect your treatment. However, if you are entering into therapy with someone else to work on a relationship, this policy may be in place.

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

This terminology is used by therapists to describe a unique policy in place for couples & family services. It is intended to prevent information important to a relationship from being hidden from either party participating in services. It comes from the understanding that when a couple or family are participating in services the “relationship” is the client, not one or the other participants. So in order to uphold what is best for the “relationship” the therapist will not hold secrets for one or the other participants.

Where would I find information about a “No Secrets” policy?

Now this is one of those questions where “it depends” is the only answer. Personally, I include this policy in my informed consents because I want clients to be well informed about this aspect of therapy prior to starting services. However, every therapist has differing ideas on how or when to tell a client about a “no secrets” policy. Some only verbally inform their clients of this policy once they enter into therapy, some will post this policy online or in their office without actually including it on a consent form. While other therapists may not utilize this policy at all, and are open to keeping certain “secrets” a secret.

When would a “No Secrets” policy be implemented?

The policy only gets implemented when something pertinent to the relationship (or detrimental to the relationship) is shared with the therapist by one participant in treatment, but not the other participant. For example, therapists may separate a couple for two individual sessions to assess for certain dynamics within the relationship. If one spouse discloses that they are having an affair in this individual session a therapist may invoke the “no secrets” policy because the information shared would be detrimental to the treatment if not shared with both parties of the relationship.

Why would a therapist have a “No Secrets” policy?

Ultimately, it is to keep the therapy space an open and honest one. When two people consent to participating in therapy treatment it has to be a space where they can both trust the therapist. If the therapist is holding a secret from one participant, it can become a breech of trust not only between the partners, but in the therapeutic relationship as well. Rapport and trust is the foundation of any therapy relationship, so upholding these things are of the utmost importance.

Understanding the consent forms is an important first step in starting the therapy process. Check out my understanding therapy consents series by reading more of the blog here. If you are interested in starting couples therapy reach out for an initial consultation here.

peace, love, happiness, Lee