Boundaries make relationships, including professional ones, safe and productive. And coaching depends on boundaries.
Of course, it’s imperative to maintain a client’s privacy. But at the same time, it’s also important to inform them about situations when you would have to involve a third party and break this confidentiality clause.
As a coach, you must establish the scope of services and rules for communication and privacy so clients know what to expect and feel comfortable opening up about their insecurities, limiting beliefs, and challenges. You should share these boundaries verbally, insert them in a contract, and solidify them in a consent form.
But what is a consent form?
Consent forms delineate the rules of engagement and confidentiality. Clients review this form and sign to acknowledge they understand the terms and are seeking a coach’s help of their own volition. Coaches and clients start on the same page, a promising beginning to a productive professional relationship.
Learn the ins and outs of consent forms, why you need them, and the six types of consent.
Consent forms 101
A consent form is a legal document signed by two or more parties to confirm they agree with an action and its consequences. For instance, a medical practitioner would ask a patient to sign a consent form before a medical procedure. Or researchers would ask mental health patients to sign consent forms to indicate they agree to be human subjects.
Almost all professionals who work in the direct customer servicing field where the client’s security is at stake ask clients to fill out a consent form. This ensures the client knows about the terms and conditions as well as the repercussions should something unexpected happen.
Professionals also ask clients to sign consent forms when processing or sharing data with third parties. Coaches typically ask clients to sign a consent form stipulating how the practice will use personal information.
When are consent forms required?
Consent forms are prominent across the healthcare field. For example, consent forms are mandatory across clinical trials, particular medical procedures, and tests. U.S. states and other governing bodies set the rules on consent waivers, so if you’re not sure you need to use one, research state laws and the regulations established by any organizations that guide your practice.
Although you won’t be in a situation where a consent form is “required,” as you don’t provide medical treatments or run clinical research, it’s still wise to ask clients to sign these forms for data transfers. If you plan to share a client’s data with a third party, obtain the client’s consent and provide them with clear information about how you use and store sensitive data in your coaching contract or supporting documents.
6 types of consent
Before understanding what a consent form should achieve, you must have a solid idea of the concept and ethics behind the document. These six consent types provide background on what constitutes this acknowledgment from a client. You never want to assume you have a client’s go-ahead, so familiarize yourself with the following consent categories:
- Active consent: When a client shows their willingness through a clear act of consent, it’s considered “active.” If a client signs your terms of service or clicks “I agree” on an online form, they consent to the stipulations therein.
- Explicit consent: A client must express their permission in written or verbal form to be direct. Before giving explicit consent, clients should have time to review information on how an organization will use their data.
- Implied consent: Implied consent describes a situation when a client gives permission through their actions. For example, if you ask a client to use a messaging platform and the client starts communicating with you on that platform, this action implies consent to use this mode of contact.
- Informed consent: When clients agree to the terms of an informed consent form, they fully understand the ramifications of saying “yes.” An effective informed consent process includes three parts: disclosing enough information for decision-making, answering questions and explaining the process to ensure the client understands, and reiterating that the individual’s participation is voluntary.
- Opt-out consent: In this model, you allow clients to opt out of their consent at any time. For example, if your client agrees to let you use their data for research but later changes their mind, they can sign an opt-out consent.
- Passive consent: Passive consent may seem contradictory because it involves clients directly agreeing to an action by not stating otherwise. This consent isn’t often valid, especially in privacy regulation compliance. But to avoid lawsuits, inform your clients about your practices.
4 essential considerations for consent forms
Using consent forms, whether or not required, is a good practice. Coaching relationships are based on trust and open communication, so in all process steps, coaches should make sure their clients understand engagement rules. Consider these four points when creating consent forms:
- Make an editable consent form template: Write a consent form you can customize for new clients. Leave space for personal data, such as the client’s name and contact information, and a modifiable signature field.
- Create a legally sound document: Seeking inspiration from an example consent form is a good start, but ask a lawyer to check your work. That’s because a sample letter of consent may not cover all the bases and require additional elements.
- Ask for a dated signature: You don’t want to assume a client’s consent. So after providing information on how you process sensitive data, ask the client to sign and date the agreement.
- Be clear: Avoid future misunderstandings by writing a clear consent statement at an accessible reading level. Let your coaching clients know exactly how you’ll process their data, where you’ll store it, and what protection measures you use. You can also write what you won’t do with the information, such as share it with third parties unless the circumstances demand it.
Take care of client data with Practice
When your clients sign a consent form allowing you to process their data, you’re responsible for keeping that information safe.
Hold up your end of the agreement by using a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Practice’s CRM tool, created with coaches in mind, allows you to securely store sensitive information, communicate with and send documents to clients, and receive payment. Plus, you gain access to a community and useful templates you need to run your practice and successful coaching sessions. Try it today.