Obtaining Consent to Publish – Further Thoughts

Toye, J., Lloyd, J., Jenaway, A., 2009. Obtaining Consent to Publish – Further Thoughts. Reformulation, Summer, p.3.


After last year’s article published in Reformulation about consent to publish, Janet Toye wrote: “I’ve just read your article in Reformulation, and have some queries in connection with an article I’m writing, where case examples are drawn from the clients I work with on a resettlement programme for the homeless. Most of the examples I give in this paper provide mainly the exit itself, with minimal information about the kind of clinical work it was connected with, and nothing that could identify the individuals concerned. I’m keeping the information brief, partly to keep the content reasonably simple, but also because in several cases I don’t have consent forms. Some of my homeless clients have only a few sessions and don’t come for a review. It’s only at the review I ask people for consent, because I don’t want the work to be compromised at an earlier stage by raising such a question. This group are wary enough of therapy without bringing that in before trust is established.”

Janet raises an important issue likely to affect CAT practitioners offering CAT to people who do not get access to mainstream psychotherapy. For example, a CAT group which was offered through the charity MIND, and an accident and emergency service offered to outpatients who had self-harmed. If Reformulation requires too rigid a consent procedure, articles about work with such groups may in effect be excluded.

What we need is a robust system that:

  • ensures an individual described in an article would be recognisable only when consent has been given.
  • ensures that case descriptions are accurate and recognisable as truthful by the client.
  • protects clients from experiencing their issues as something to be ‘sold’ for the glory of the author.

It seems likely that these criteria could be met when consent has not been obtained, provided the circumstances described are recognisable in kind rather than historically accurate, and details that might identify the individual are omitted or disguised. In this situation a client might recognise an issue, TPP or exit as having arisen in his or her case, but there would be nothing to show whose case it actually was. Ultimately it is up to the author in all cases to satisfy the editors they have taken due care.

The two consent formats published last year are only ideas, and it is best to use consent procedures that are devised for the specific needs of clients in specific, local services. Also when a piece of work describes a series of cases, concentrating on an over-arching theme, it is unlikely to run the risk of brief examples being personally identifiable.

We are interested to receive comments from other people. Obtaining consent can be highly complex and a single procedure cannot meet all needs.

Full Reference

Toye, J., Lloyd, J., Jenaway, A., 2009. Obtaining Consent to Publish – Further Thoughts. Reformulation, Summer, p.3.

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