28 Comments to
Borderline Personality Disorder: Google-Stalking Your Therapist

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  1. Terminating a patient for googling? Feeling stalked or threatened? What century are these therapists in? Everyone googles everyone. Friends, relatives, colleagues, prospective employees and employers. If a therapist doesn’t want clients to know what’s on her facebook page, don’t have one or use the privacy settings to limit what clients can see. If you don’t want them to know what you tweet about, don’t tweet. Of course clients will google you. And, if you have an unusual name, they can find out a lot about you. Even if you have a common name, websites like whitepages.com will find you and give your age, address and the names of household members. What they can’t find out, unless you post indiscriminately on facebook, is how you think and feel.

    Clients can also find websites on the internet that rate therapists and may, if they like you, leave a positive review and high rating, which will attract other clients.

  2. I have googled – I want to know the experience and skill of the person that I am supposed to trust. Like Baseball noted – if they are on a rating site, then you get a better idea of the person as a professional. If the majority of people find the therapist to be a jerk, then that is a good thing to be aware of. You may not find the therapist to be a jerk, however, if they are then at least you will know that it’s them, not you.
    I found this a relief when an Dr of OBG that I saw was particularly “mean” for a lack of a better word. I thought it was just me that he treated like this. When I found the rating site I discovered that it was not just me, others felt the same way and this is good. The same happened with a psychiatrist – he had the worst reviews, and I felt better knowing, again, that it was not me alone.
    Sometimes Googling can be very helpful.

    • I totally agree! I want to know who they are and if they are qualified. Especially if I am going yo trust them with my mind.

      If a patient is paranoid… hmmm..psychopath or sociopath , even with anti social disorder then, yes. There’s a real stalking issue where the therapist might be in danger.

  3. Thank you for posting this article. I’d like to turn the tables for a moment. I was a long term patient of a therapist where transference occured -like a mother-daughter relationship. The relashionship became very close and boundaries were crossed on both sides. The relationship was terminated. Now, this therapist is following me online via Google and LinkedIn. I have proof of multiple logins to my profiles – several times per week over the last few months. I’m all for social media and use it daily for my business and rely on it heavily for marketing my business, research, and securing services, and I personally search people and places frequently, but I don’t feel like this particular situation is ok. I feel completely violated. Is this ok behavior on the part of a therapist? My instincts think NOT…thoughts?

  4. What century is this? Everyone Googles everyone. I encourage my potential clients to Google me. It’s called due diligence.

    It only turns into stalking when you hire a private detective. A therapist who would terminate a patient for Googling her is saying more about her own issues than about the patient.

  5. I believe the only person I google-stalk is myself, lol. With my last therapist I only looked her up on Facebook because she was retiring and I was curious if she had Facebook. I didn’t see her name, and that was the extent of it. She had been my therapist for about 13 years, so when she retired it sucked. I don’t wanna google my new therapist, because I’d like to think positively about her and I’m afraid if I googled her I might see something I don’t like.

    But letting a patient go because they google them is absolutely ridiculous and unprofessional.

  6. As I read this, I’m not seeing an understanding of the complexity of the therapeutic relationship and the complexity of transference. If the therapist isn’t willing to explore with someone what underlies the need to know about them, rich material is being missed. The therapeutic relationship is a setup for this kind of dynamic – client shares all manner of intimate detail, therapist shares next to nothing. Would have liked to see this addressed in the post.

    • Dear aclient, I have addressed the richness of the transference in the therapeutic relationship in my other 135 posts on the subject. In my other posts I address my relationship with my therapist and my need to know who she really is and how that helped me achieve who I am. I wish I could have addressed more in my recent post but it was over 1000 words as it is. Sonia

  7. The one doctor I hadn’t done any google searching which generally includes reviews on Avvo.com, the States’ medical websites to check for any misconduct, I ended up sitting in the office of a pharma sucking doctor who after checking found he was #9 in the whole U.S. for taking pharma money according to reporting companies. I only checked after he prescribed me a bunch of medication which was all brand and provided plentiful samples.

    We are expected to be open and honest about very embarrassing and/or our worst fears and trust their judgement implicitly yet doctor’s or therapists should be free from a background check of their own? That’s bad business on the consumers behalf. And yes, there is a line between stalking and checking. The law is very specific about this aspect….

  8. Hi Sonia:

    My 1st response to the initial posed question @ stalking was “all of the above”, even though I may identify more with one vs. another at any one time. Hence, I liked that your article touched on a few of these very different juxtapositions. You’ve given voice to some interesting points. I appreciated the writing.

  9. Sonia,

    I was relieved to see where you ended up because the title of the blog and the first sentence elicited such a strong negative reaction from me. I was also relieved to read the comments, which basically amount to “get real”.

    I’ve been with my therapist for about 5 years and have googled him about that many times. It is my opinion that the googling has more to do with the power dynamics in the relationship than with the lack of anything meaningful in my life. Albeit, I do need to work on my life. But IMO, it’s time the profession itself took a look at how the boundaries and attitudes contribute to internet stalking.

    It seems that it’s only natural as we develop relationships with people that we become curious about their lives. In fact, if someone didn’t develop curiosity about another person they were getting involved with, that, to me, would signal a deeper and more serious problem.

    Some therapists disclose less than others. Some therapists try to appear more perfect than others. Some therapists are less emotionally available than others. Some therapists are more condescending than others. Those four factors, alone or in combination, all contribute, I’m sure, to stalking.

    Where do our survival needs fit into all of this? If what we lacked was a secure attachment, and the therapist has now become an attachment figure but a distant one, how healthy could it be to terminate a client because of googling if the therapist is not emotionally available to the client? As you said yourself, you made more progress because your therapist worked with you on the issue instead of terminating you.

    IMO, a therapist who is so emotionally unavailable that he or she creates a kind of a scenario where the stalking gets out of hand is incompetent and should have their license to practice taken away. All relationships are co-created. This issue is not one-sided.

  10. I have googled my therapist…for me I wanted to know a little more about this person because I have trust issues and I think I wanted to just humanize her, I wanted to be able to connect with her. I had been shuffled through about 5 different therapist in a matter of 4 months and I was tired of putting myself out there just to have that person out of my life again. I didn’t know how to or if it was okay to ask my therapist anything about herself, but I needed to be able to trust and to know this person. I did find her on facebook and being able to see a liitle bit about her life made it more comfortable for me to open up to her and be vulnerable with her. I feel guilty that I have googled her and have seen her facebbok and have not told her, but don’t know how to tell her. I don’t want her to think I was stalking her.

  11. I say if anyone Googles and find personal information about a therapist, it is the therapists fault for having that information on the web. If it is on the internet, it is freely available to anyone. End of story. There is nothing illegal about googling someones name. If hacking is not involved then it is perfectly legal.

  12. I’ve owned two major websites since 1995 so I’m on the computer all day; if you Google my name over 100,000 listings come up. I regularly use Google and from time to time check out my psychiarist and other people I care about.

    “Google stalking” is a a contradiction in terms, the reason there’s no law against it. Stalking is strictly face to face and is 100% public. And, you put something in Facebook or LinkedIn and think it’s private? If you have a problem with it you also have a problem in paranoia. People are curious, that’s all. Frankly, it’s flattering that someone is interested enough to run my name.

    There seems to be a disconnect here. You put something about yourself on the internet and feel threatened when someone reads it? (If someone writes somthing bad about you then it can be a legal issue)

  13. Never even considered that anyone would consider merely Googling someone to be threatening or invasive. Really, wouldn’t it to be odd if you had your professional chops and a client base, and no one checked out your history? Kind of a downer? Now, If anyone is Googling one particular subject daily, and doing whatever else they can do to seek information on a therapist or anyone else – like their kid’s names or address etc – that is going around the bend, an obsession or as you say,at the least a profound indication of a hollow place in the pursuer’s life. (Does the intense pursuit of celebrities in our culture reveal a similar hole in our shared mental health?) One of the things about the internet and cell technology that sometimes amazes and other times alarms me is how easy it is for people to track others. Not to mention how many people are way too quick to publicize all the details of their lives.
    The problem is that it isn’t up to the therapist to admonish another adult to not look at their information; I would think that if there are some sort of worrisome signs that the person is not appropriate which arise in the personal interaction….

  14. Another thought – my friends and I talk about our doctors, and sometimes about personal things that they may have told us, or that we’ve heard. Now why? I am not talking about complaints. I think it’s because doctors – and therapists – and others to whom we hand over some power over our lives – are important to us. And they seem to have a little more power, maybe? And maybe we desire to identify with them a little? This may be – like so many other behaviors – in play over a wide spectrum – ranging from the client/patient for whom there is no connection and no interest — all the way to those without any boundaries at all….

  15. I have to agree with the other comments that the therapist should take some responsibility for the Google stalking. In fact, I did make a recommendation to my old therapist to “Google” herself for her own protection. We live in the age of social media. It’s perfectly normal to Google important people in our lives out of curiosity.

    Sonia, it’s great that your therapist was mature enough to work with you on establishing boundaries. As a result, you feel more empowered from the experience. THAT is what therapy should be all about – being empowered!

  16. From the FB comment section, I have gleaned that my therapist happens to be friends with someone that I am friends with and is in a FB-posted video. There is a video that my friend posted on FB. Can I look at the video, knowing that my therapist is involved in it? Thus far I have not looked at it, however, I have known this other person, my friend, for years, so I am torn over the fact that I have a natural right to look at the video — I have a relationship with my friend, versus whether it would be considered stalking. OR, is this just me over-analyzing due to OCD and other issues? Sometimes I check out my therapists website just because I am having a bad day, don’t want to have a check-in, but for some reason it helps just to go to the website and see the photo.
    I have to agree with boundaries and intent. There is a difference between googling and discovering readily available information versus driving by the therapist’s house, address discovered on the internet, and stuff like that.

    • You absolutely have the right to look at your friend’s video.If your therapist does not want to be viewed in a FB video, googled on on Social Media in general, she should be savvy enough to refuse to be allowed to video.

      The burden is not on YOU, her patient.

      You went to your therapist for help. Don’t add to your burden.Please.

  17. I find the topic of googling your therapist very interesting. It seems to me that mental health “professionals” want to be in protected class. They want to be considered professionals and advertise their skills however they don’t want people to google them or make any comments. Interesting they expect that people will openly trust them because they say they are trustworthy. If they have nothing to hide there should be no issue with them being googled. In my experience the mental health field is filled with a bunch of sick people who are trying to work through their own family of origin issues. It only makes sense that you would google a therapist before making an appointment with them. The system is set up in such a way that the therapist “right” to make a living is protected over a consumer’s “right” for competent care.

  18. I have two separate reactions to this article/discussion. The first is one I (as an attorney) encounter often; namely, that taking “legal action” to remove something disparaging written about a person on the internet is almost always an empty threat. The word “slander” is constantly used interchangeably with the word “negative” – for a comment to be slanderous, it also has to be *factually* false and this is a very high burden to meet in a court of law. If someone writes that you are a bad/irresponsble/malicious/ugly person, therapist, parent, etc., that is a person’s opinion and it is protected under the First Amendment. This holds true no matter how severely it impacts your reputation (or career or book sales).

    Relevant to the google-stalking topic itself, I agree with those who believe in the inherent futility of setting a bright-line rule or guideline about it. I think the implications of it vary from person to person and situation to situation. The google search I performed on my last therapist was merely a function of due diligence and (later) mild curiousity. The google searchES I performed on another therapist were neither of these things, however, and I feel rightfully ashamed of them. Although I confined my cyber-stalking to basic search engines, I believe it was invasive – particularly since nearly all of this activity occurred post-termination. Although the termination of therapy was due to my relocation to another state, I dealt with the loss and resentment (for how clumsy and negligent the therapist had behaved in navigating transference/countertransference issues as well as her prolific accountability- dodging) in the worst possible way. I cried daily for nearly two years, but I can confidently state that the google-stalking of her was only ever counterproductive.

  19. I don’t mind my clients googling me. But I would prefer that my home address and property information were not on there. In contacting the websites I was told that I can only get my name off of the site if was a prosecutor. I have a patient who I worked with in a psychiatric unit finding my home address. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  20. I find the title of this blog post creepy and the post Creepy in general.
    “Google Stalking your therapist?”
    Your are projecting psychopathology onto your patients because they are engaging in a behavior that 99,9 % of the population under the age of 12 engages in every day?
    My 3 year old great-nephew navigates an iPAD with ease.As far as I know, he doesn’t have a therapist, but I am sure if he ever does, he will google him or her, though by that point there will be some newer technology.
    If you don’t want your patients to google you, stay off the internet. (It’s a bit later for that, though, is it not?)
    At the very least, do not project blame onto your patients. I can’t even believe you would suggest that a therapist terminate a patient if the patient so much as types the therapist’s name into a search engine. People google people before they go on blind dates. People google physicians, attorneys, accountants, contractors,classmates,artists, poets, and just about everything these days. The fact that you even use the term “Google Stalking your therapist’Implies that YOU have an issue with this.Perhaps you should discuss this with YOUR therapist?,
    If therapists were to terminate patients the minute patients type the therapists name into a search engine ,as a routine matter, what that would do, first and foremost,would be to foster an environment in which a patient would not feel that he or she could be honest and open with a therapist. It would also preclude numerous patients from receiving HELP, which is ,of course the reason people enter therapy.
    What is really ironic is that you have posted this under Borderline Personality Disorder. If you hadn’t noticed, Border-Line Personality Disorder is characterized by impulse control issues.
    Would you suggest that cardiologists terminate patients if they have heart attacks?
    Your entire premise is ridiculous. You presume that patients seeking help have some kind of iron clad will power that 99.9% of the population does not.
    For goodness sake, do not post photos of yourself in a bikini , or whatnot.Dr. Keely Kolmes has written extensively on Psychotherapy and Social Media and recounted the story of a man who felt the need to terminate the patient after coming across a photo of his female therapist in a bikini online,
    What possessed a therapist to post a photo of herself online wearing a bikini?
    Yet you would suggest that it is the patient who should be terminated?
    “Physicians”-or in this case “Therapist..Heal Thyself”

  21. What about a therapist that is stalking you? There is an LCSW in Louisville, Kentucky that is stalking me. I don’t know what to do.

    She even contacted my ex-husband whom I have a DVO against and talking with him to get and exchange information about my personal life.

    She DOES have a license. What do I do? I have had an attorney to contact her already and advise her to stop, but she continues. This is creepy. She is supposed to help people and needs help herself.

  22. After almost 3 months of therapy I googled my therapist for the first time. THings weren’t good and I wondered what I’d find. I didn’t care about his personal business. It was his professional or lack of professionlsim I was concerned about.
    He acted very mean after that. I wondered if he found out right away. It was only one time. And I still cannot believe he has managed to hide his stuff so well. He is close to a creeper and in the wrong business. I was hurt & still getting over it.

  23. I actually got my therapist’s name from my primary care physician, and google’d her to see if i could find any info before i scheduled an appointment. Her website came up and her facebook profile did,t oo, and i looked at both. Keep in mind, this was before i had even scheduled a session with her.

    This is the age of the internet, folks. What is the very first thing you do when you meet somebody, ANYBODY? You google and facebook them. Heck, i facebook them first actually. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    I ended up finding her website (which just has a picture of her and a little info about her philosophy on therapy), and her personal facebook just has a few family photos, she definitely has her profile under lock and key.

    In our first session, our very first session, i told her i found her by googling her name and her website. She just said that she needed to add some more things to her website. She wasn’t bothered by it.

  24. If a client is goggling their therapist in a self-destructive or obsessive way, then certainly the client needs to take responsibility for this. But the profession also needs to look in the mirror and ask whether the process induces such behavior. To have an intimate relationship with another person, where that person self-disclosess little or not at all, but who acts in an understanding and even loving way, and maybe is meeting some old unmet needs from early childhood… it is a setup for extreme feelings and behavior.

    Seems the default position of the profession is client blame and pathologizing.

  25. Stalking is a serious crime where I live. I find it sad to see that someone equates a simple act of research to the real definition, ie: parking yourself outside someone’s home and spying on them at close range. I would not feel threatened if someone were to Google my name.


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