Sharing client stories - ethical, professional, and legal considerations

Sharing client stories must be done within a framework of ethical, professional, and legal considerations. While the experience can prove beneficial for some individuals, programs must establish boundaries for interviews and speaking engagements, and empower clients to decline the opportunity if they choose. Some considerations might urge extreme caution:

  • Client welfare
  • Risks of danger to family/friends back home
  • Client capacity to say no 

Some, on the other hand, might lead us to encourage clients to speak:

  • Speaking out as healing, especially within treatment/recovery context (empowering)
  • Staff collusion with collective silence/denial, a primary goal of the torturers (our own discomfort)
  • Client self-determination

Other concerns might include:

  • Dual relationships with the organization
  • Ambiguity inherent in “de-identifying” a client story
  • Client concerns about impartiality of our justice system and impact on ongoing immigration case
  • HIPAA and state laws (including privacy, informed consent, and fundraising disclosure)

The process of having clients share self-chosen aspects of their story might include: 

  • Mindfully selecting a pool of clients to approach (pre)
  • Inviting those selected clients with a carefully worded letter (pre)
  • Informing clients of specific media opportunities (pre)
  • Preparing clients for interviews (pre)
  • Accompanying clients during the interview (during)
  • Debriefing with the client after the interview (post)
  • Setting limits for future involvement with the interviewer (post)

The above is just a summary of the considerations for sharing client stories. Soon, we'll be sharing a video with a full presentation on this topic here.

For examples of client stories shared appropriately and effectively, see CVT's recent report on Syrian survivors and the earlier Tortured and Detained.

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