Skip to content

Keep Counselling Confidential

Did you know that the police are routinely trying to access the counselling and therapy notes of victims and survivors of rape?

And that, once the police get these notes, they can also be read by prosecutors, defence lawyers and even the perpetrator – often with the aim of trying to find something that could make the survivor seem dishonest?

Don't think this is okay? Join our campaign with Centre for Women's Justice, End Violence Against Women Coalition and Rights of Women to #KeepCounsellingConfidential

How can you help?

Talk about our campaign on social
media – and use the hashtag #KeepCounsellingConfidential

Every tweet, post or story will help raise awareness and hopefully put more pressure on MPs to take action.

Post a tweet now in just 2 clicks
A woman stands face on, looking seriously at the camera.

Why is it a problem?

  • Counsellors and therapists make notes during sessions to help them keep track of what's been discussed – not so that these notes can be used as criminal evidence. This means that counselling and therapy notes are very rarely relevant for helping police to establish the facts of a case.
  • Often, notes obtained by the police are being used against survivors – either to undermine them in court or as a reason for police officers to take 'no further action' and stop pursuing the case.
  • All of this can be really harmful for people who have already experienced some of the worst crimes imaginable. One survivor described having her therapy notes used against her in court as being "like another trauma".
  • As a result, many survivors decide not to seek counselling or therapy until after a decision has been reached in their case. But, with rape cases taking an average of more than two years to complete in court (and many taking far longer), this can have a serious impact on their health and wellbeing.

A 'no further action' decision doesn't mean that a crime didn't happen or that a suspect isn't guilty. It simply means that the police don't believe they have strong enough evidence to take the case forward.

This image shows a quote from a survivor of sexual violence. It reads: "My therapy records were used in court to discredit, humiliate and intimidate me."

Our campaign is backed by the four largest professional bodies representing counsellors and therapists

The below statistics are based on the
results of a survey carried out by the National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society of its members.

  • Nearly 1 in 4therapists surveyed

    have had notes requested by the police

  • 86%of those who have had their notes requested

    said the case related to sexual violence ‘most' or ‘all of the time’

  • 95%of therapists surveyed

    have ethical concerns about the police requesting notes

Do counsellors and therapists have to give survivors' notes to police?

No. But, understandably, many feel conflicted between not wanting to harm or slow down a criminal case, and their ethical responsibilities towards the survivor they worked with. If counsellors and therapists refuse to hand over notes, the police can still try to access them through a court order. Or police officers might tell the counsellor or therapist that the case will be discontinued as a result.

Just 1 in 4 of the counsellors and therapists who responded to the National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society's survey on this issue said they would feel confident in making the decision as to whether to disclose notes.

Woman on laptop taking notes

"Being able to deal with the most horrific time in your life in a supported way, without the fear of a lawyer using your words against you, could be life saving."

A survivor who was advised not to have therapy until after her perpetrator's trial had taken place

Show your support for survivors
A young woman wearing a beige hoodie and blue jeans talks to a young female counsellor. Both are sitting on a sofa.

That's why we're asking MPs and peers to change the law

We want MPs and peers to support a new clause in the Victims and Prisoners Bill that would give counselling and therapy notes better protections in law – and ensure they cannot be used in most criminal proceedings.

We are calling for a process where:

  • Information in notes can only be accessed if it has 'substantial probative value'.
  • All requests for notes have to be considered by a judge and can only be made once a suspect had been charged.

⚖️ Such a process would balance a defendant's right to a fair trial with a survivor's right to access counselling or therapy without fear. And we know it works because it's already being used in Australia.

Download our briefing to find out more

The image shows a quote from the Conservative peer Baroness Bertin. The quote reads: "We should not miss this opportunity. If the situation does not change, tens of thousands of survivors will have their rights undermined..."
Keep Counselling Confidential_Baroness Chakrabarti quote


Show your support on social media

Let your friends and followers know why you support the campaign – and make sure to tag us:

A shot of a laptop with a woman's hand scrolling on the touchpad.

Are you a survivor of rape who's reported what happened to the police?

Please contact your local Rape Crisis centre to see if they can support you.

If you've been asked for access to your counselling or therapy notes: your local centre might be able to give you more information about your rights or support you in responding.

If you want to access counselling or therapy but are worried about it affecting your case: some of our member Rape Crisis centres offer something called 'pre-trial therapy'. This is therapy where details of the rape itself are not discussed between you and your therapist. However, this is only an option – you have the right to access any kind of counselling or therapy that you want.

❗ Police and prosecutors can still try to access notes taken in pre-trial therapy.

Find your nearest Rape Crisis centre
A brunette woman sits on the sofa in a counselling room. She is speaking to her female, blonde therapist.