Monday, April 30, 2007

Secrets? Not Here!

I never realized how small the Deaf world was until I went to Deaf school for the first time. I knew my parents had gone to Gallaudet, along with too many aunts, uncles and cousins to mention. I just didn't put 2 and 2 together and figure out that so did many of my teachers from school!

My freshman year was a tough one for me-- I had to adjust to a new school and a home away from Mom and Dad; my sister didn't want her little sister tagging along behind her and would tell me to "shoo-shoo!"; and my parents also separated that year. For a young girl, that equates to her world falling apart! I needed someone to talk to, so I went to see my school counselor. I confessed everything that was happening in my life-- my parents impending divorce, my big mean old sister, it was as if the world was against me! It felt wonderful to unload and have someone hear me and make me feel better and I just knew I did the right thing.

The next day at school, several teachers came up to me and said they were sorry to hear about my Mom and Dad's separation. Huh?? Where did that come from? No one knew about my parents getting a divorce except...for... the...*gasp!* The Deaf counselor!!! I was so upset that I went and told my Mom what happened. She asked me what the counselor's name was and it turned out that it was one of her classmates. Mom explained to me then, that many of my teachers were her and Dad's classmates from either Deaf school or Gallaudet. She took the yearbook from the previous year and pointed out all her classmates to me, so that I could be more careful with my words and who I said them to. Mom went to talk with my counselor and of course it was all denied that she said anything. I never went back to her again and switched to a hearing counselor.

Today, the Deaf world is still small. True, there are more Deaf people than ever before, but the same names come up over and over and people everywhere recognize them. You may be a friend of a friend of a friend, or so-and-so's classmate. With today's technology, events -- good or bad -- spread like wildfire faster than ever: VPs, Internet and pagers. I got a rude awakening all those years ago, and it was a lesson I have never forgotten. Be careful what you say, there are no such things as secrets here.


gnarlydorkette said...

Deaf, hearing, whatever-- they should be bound by their code of ethics, especially as a consuelor!
I feel sorry for you to have your privacy violated.

I think there is boundaries when it comes to "share", deaf-way-- gossip is not for everything!

Jules said...

Yeah, that counselor should follows ethnics and policies required at the agency where she works. She breached the confidentiality and hence you can sue her and the agency.
On the other hand, I think that's why I'm kinda glad I grew up in mainstreamed schools. I didn't develop much "links", especially with my dad being in the army, hence.. a LOT of moves throughout childhood! In some ways, it's good because many deaf folks know I don't know anyone much hence they can confide in me as a mental health counselor. Does it make sense?

mishkazena said...

That counselor broke job regulations and state laws when she shared confidential issues with her peers without your signed permission. She was lucky you didn't sue her for violations of your privacy. She would also have lost her license had you filed a formal complaint at the state regulatory agency.

Jean Boutcher said...

I am very sorry to hear that you have gone through like that. Needless to say that your counselor lacks professioanl integrity. His license should be
torn up for good. I think that
it is not too late for you to file a lawsuit against your counselor for breaching the confidentiality. The lawsuit will surely help wake up your counselor as well as teach other counselors not to violate their clients' privacies.

jenny said...

This incident with my counselor happened nearly 20 years ago and the counselor has since retired. If it had happened today, I most surely would have taken some sort of legal action against her. But I didnt and I do wish I had. Who knows what other secrets she shared from her students that trusted her. Just keep in mind that not every professional behaves professionally.

Squ65 said...

Not too good! Tsk tsk a school counselor -- I understand the Deaf Community is extremely small but she still has to follow the code of ethnics at her work. Hope all goes well for you.

Sharon Duchesneau said...

I am really sorry that your experience with the Deaf school counselor turned out so negative. As a Deaf psychotherapist, I know how important it is to safeguard clients' privacy.

I've worked in school settings before and confidentiality is not always 100% in this kind of environment. Not to defend the school counselor, but there is always the possibility that she discussed your situation in a team meeting at school (maybe without using your name), and someone else
guessed who she was talking about and broke confidentiality. Obviously that was wrong, but I just wanted to raise the possibility that someone other than the school counselor was the guilty party.

Anonymous said...

That counselor certainly had a lot of nerve, isn't that information supposed to be confidential? I had a big shock like that when I was a teenager and told another kid something negative my parents had said. Later, the kid told her parents who must have told someone at deaf club. My parents were not friends with this girl's parents although they knew OF each other. The next thing I know that bit of gossip is travelling faster than lightning all around Baltimore and my parents are furious at me for telling secrets. After that I wouldn't tell anyone a single thing if they even knew someone in the deaf community.

jenny said...

Thanks to all who commented on my post!

Call Me Betty--It is so true how the Deaf "grapevine" can be so fast and spread so wide. Part of the reason why my parents moved away from a large deaf community was to keep their lives private and raise their kids in peace. That's why I am secretly glad I am married to a hearing man because it stops the conversation cold when a Deaf person asks "Who did you marry?" Cant gossip about who I married (nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!). Thanks for your comment!

studentterp/socialworker said...

This situation definitely makes me wonder what other ethical violations beside breaching of confidentiality she might have committed. Were there other incidents you know of in which she ethically misbehaved?