Confidentiality What do you think? Ethical Challenges Series


A coaching client’s manager wants a full report on what is discussed during coaching sessions.  They threaten to stop paying for the coaching unless they receive it.  The coach has completed their coach training and is a member of the ICF and accountable to the Code of Ethics. Confidentiality

Possible Responses:

  • The coach explains that the information is confidential.
  • The coach asks the client what information they want shared and shares only what they are told they can share.
  • The coach and the client co-create a report and the client gives permission for it to be shared.
  • The coach asks the client for written permission to share and asks that what can be shared be stated in the document.
  • The coach explains the information is confidential and then the manager goes to the IT department and has them get the notes.
  • What else?

Refer to the ICF Code of Ethics:

11) Maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my coaching engagements in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements.

potential value of the coaching process or of me as a coach.

18) Carefully explain and strive to ensure that, prior to or at the initial meeting, my coaching client and sponsor(s) understand the nature of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement.

19) Have a clear coaching service agreement with my clients and sponsor(s) before beginning the coaching relationship and honor this agreement. The agreement shall include the roles, responsibilities and rights of all parties involved.

24) Maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information unless release is required by law.

25) Have a clear agreement about how coaching information will be exchanged among coach, client and sponsor.

26) Have a clear agreement when acting as a coach, coach mentor, coaching supervisor or trainer, with both client and sponsor, student, mentee, or supervisee about the conditions under which confidentiality may not be maintained (e.g., illegal activity, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent or likely risk of danger to self or to others; etc.) and make sure both client and sponsor, student, mentee, or supervisee voluntarily and knowingly agree in writing to that limit of confidentiality. Where I reasonably believe that because one of the above circumstances is applicable, I may need to inform appropriate authorities.


  1. Do I have to provide client records in case of subpoena or ethical complaint?
    A: This will vary by country and jurisdiction, but generally, yes. Consider carefully what you put in your records.

Q: How long do I have to keep client records?
A: There is no ICF guideline at this time. You should check your local and national laws and regulations for compliance guidelines. If you are audited for income taxes, be sure to protect confidentiality.

Q: How should I dispose of records?
A: To the best of your ability you should delete all online and electronic records, as well as shred paper records.

Q: Is verbal permission for release of confidentiality acceptable or must I obtain it in writing?
A: It is more solid and irrefutable in writing.

Q: The supervisor of my new client has a coaching outcome that he does not want the client to know about. I am being paid out of the supervisor’s budget. May I keep this information from my client?
A: This sets up an ethical conflict. How can you coach someone without having clarity and an agreement about what is being coached? Whatever you put in your agreement that all three sign is what is acceptable.

Q: May I coach a business client who has some personal outcomes that are not shared with the sponsor?
A: Coaching for personal outcomes is an integral part of all professional coaching. Whatever is stated in the contract or agreement will govern what can be shared.

How do you recommend it be handled?


You may also like...