A common question in coach training is: During a coaching session, who takes the notes? The coach? The client? No one? Both? The answers to this include all these options. Some say no notes – this protects confidentiality and means the coach and client both stay completely focused. Some say yes to notes to keep track of information, insights, goals, and successes. Some say the client takes the notes because it is their information, and the work belongs to them. Some say the coach takes the notes so the client can do the work and think and plan. Some say both – each noting what they think is important to note.
The next questions become: Where are the notes kept? How are they shared? The ICF Ethics Interpretive Statements say:
ICF Professionals should make sure that their documentation of the coaching process is protected to safeguard confidentiality and in compliance with the relevant data protection rules. This applies in particular to the use of digital media and means of communication. They should make sure that they have an expert lawyer in their reach to consult on the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for working in the EU.
The ICF Professional should keep in mind that notes, messages, text messages kept on a company-owned computer, company-accessible platform, company-owned email or company-owned mobile phone are the property of the company and is therefore, not confidential. Unless otherwise determined in the coaching agreement, internally employed or contracted coaches should be particularly aware that IT resources and equipment that are owned by the organization, may give them (the organization) full rights to access information and communications that were assumed private.
This means that if the coach takes notes, it is done on their privately owned device, kept secure and protected, and if they are shared with the client the coach and client discuss the confidentiality of how they are shared.
An additional point that is discussed during coaching certification is agreeing how long notes are kept. Generally, the timeline ranges from not keeping notes to up to 6 months after the last coaching session.