Q: I know that counselors take notes during psychotherapy sessions. What happens to those files when the counselling is done?
A: The answer to your question is both simple and complex and depends on a number of factors: 1. It depends on where the counsellor practices. In Canada, this varies as to province.
2. It will depend on the professional designation of the counsellor. As a social worker I can tell you about my obligations. Others who provide counselling are from other professions—each one has its own rules. Still others are not legislated as a professional and thus the rules do not apply to them.
3. It depends on the age of the client. The rules are different if the client is a child as opposed to an adult.
4. Lastly, it will depend on the capacity under which the counselling was provided—if the therapist’s agency is one that has policies that require a longer storage period; if the file may be required in the future for a purpose such as court or other legal defense; or if the therapist has no professional obligations.
Looking at each of these individually, I can only speak to my own obligations and so I will provide the answers for a Registered Social Worker, in the province of Ontario.