Simplifying Your Informed Consent

Informed consent is a whole process, not just a form. And it very easily gets convoluted, long and confusing. But it doesn't have to! 

We can make the process a lot more simple and easier for both ourselves and our clients (I mean, it's really for them so we may as well make it simple, right?!). I've got some tips below to help you cut out the confusion.

Make it a conversation

Informed consent is NOT a form... it's a process and a conversation you have with your clients. So use the key points you want to highlight and think of them as talking points instead. These are ways to introduce your clients to the parameters of the therapeutic relationship.

The paperwork is just a representation of the conversation you have.

Give examples and explanations

Since it's a conversation, make sure you use stories and examples to explain the concepts. For example, confidentiality may be a bit ambiguous to some clients. But if you provide some common scenarios that relate to your client it can become much more clear, opening up the opportunity for clarification before a situation gets awkward.

For example, if you notice that your client's address is very close to your own you may bring up the scenario of how you would respond if the two of you saw one another in public. Or you may discuss with a client who prefers texting the possibility that others may see their appointment reminders on their phone's home screen.

And if you work with children or teens, I definitely recommending having a detailed conversation about what kind of information will or won't be shared with parents and how that might happen.

Use layering

The things you need to include in your informed consent constitute a loooooonnnnnnggggg list. It's not realistic, or even preferable, to review everything in the first session or two. Instead, choose what is important to discuss based on what your client presents.

Yes, there are certain things you should discuss with everyone right away, like confidentiality, how to get a hold of you and how much you charge for a session (and a missed session). But most of the rest you can adjust as needed.

Highlight the main points in your informed consent and clarify any questions. Then use your clinical judgment about the areas in which you may need to go more in depth. 

Your client mentions they'd prefer texting reminders? Go in depth about that topic. Your client says nope, no texting? Then no big deal. Remember, this is a process, not a form. So you will revisit things as they come up... like when that client eventually DOES text you they're running late ;)

Ask your clients about different topics to see what matters most to them. See if they have any questions about your policies. Talk to them about any prior experience in therapy and if they have questions about things you may do differently. These are all great ways to get the conversation going while simultaneously reviewing informed consent. 

If you still want some more details on this topic, check out the webinar I did with Roy Huggins from Person-Centered Tech. You can earn one CE credit for watching and get even more great tips!

And let us know in the comments below... how do you review informed consent?

Like the tips in this blog post? This blog is part of the compiled tips in the ebook Workflow Therapy: Time Management and Simple Systems for Counselors.