For the past month I have been doing some reporting on competence in the field of professional psychology, and I have enjoyed talking with educators and leaders in the field about how we teach students to hold each other accountable once they enter into the profession. Psychologists, counselors, and others in the field of mental health tend to rely on self-assessment for how we’re doing, and we’re never sure when and how to intervene when we see a colleague being slightly less or even significantly less than professional.
I found myself in a similar conundrum when I saw a former colleague posting quotes from her clients or funny moments during a session on Facebook. In my opinion, even if the client’s name isn’t mentioned, and if even if the story is positive and more reflective on the therapist, it is unethical and not respectful of confidentiality. But was it my place to share my opinion with the colleague?
In the age of social media, we are all tempted to share if we have a great session or are feeling proud about the work we do. Or if we have a humbling moment that we think would be encouraging to others. But the internet is a public forum, and your comments are never as private as you think they might be.
To see how rampant this debriefing is, I conducted a simple search on twitter with the words “my therapy client.” And guess what I found? Everything from graduate students sharing their nerves about their very first session ever to seasoned professionals who were having an exhausting week and expressing their gratitude when their last client of the day cancelled. People leading groups complained about one person dominating the conversation, and others shared blunders like having their cell phone go off in session or having ink on their chin in a meeting.
Individually, these tweets share nothing personal about an individual client. But all it takes is a simple search on the part of your client to see you talking about them, and send them off wondering what else you share about your sessions and how little respect you have for the therapeutic relationship. 140 characters isn’t worth the cost of your career or the trust of people who have braved their anxieties to finally seek help and think differently about their lives.
So the next time you’re tempted to share a great moment or a bad one, ask yourself, “Would I want my client to see this? Would I want my supervisor to see this?” Chances are, your answer is no. As therapists, we must also be accountable for one another and respectively listen to the feedback we received on how we use technology for professional and personal endeavors.
Above all, tweeting about your clients makes the process about you. And when therapy becomes about you instead of the client, no one wins.
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Last reviewed: 14 Mar 2014