Internet Matters etc…
To provide some guidance, containment and clarity for clients and supervisees with regards to social networking, online or media presence.
My core training took place at a time before the internet evolved and became such an integrated part of daily life. Though therapists are generally trained to keep their personal lives out of the consulting room for the benefit of their clients, the massive availability of information about us on the internet means that this, virtually at least, can no longer happen. The complex world of digital media must be addressed and this is my attempt to acknowledge issues that may impact the therapeutic relationship. The information presented is based on consultations with colleagues and remains alive to change. In the meantime, I ask all my clients and supervisees to read through this page to familiarize themselves with these positions.
My social media activities: It is important for you to be aware that I maintain a social media presence. Online resources such as Twitter / Facebook / Linked In. I hold my duty of care and confidentiality to my psychotherapy clients and supervisees as sacrosanct and consider my contributions to be related to, but completely separate from my clinical work.
Keeping Boundaries: The nature of an online presence can blur interpersonal boundaries, so it is important to be as clear as possible about how boundaries may be challenged when, as a general rule, I like to keep clinical work in the consultation room as much as possible. However, the nature of the digital world can sometimes stretch these boundaries, so I offer the best clarity I can below.
Email: I am not currently using an e-mail encryption programme, so any emails we send to each other may be vulnerable to viruses or human error. For this reason, it is best to be thoughtful about what you include in emails to me, and which email address you choose to use with me. Often, it is best to rely on email for non-confidential communications like setting up appointment times and things like that. In an effort to keep confidential and psychological material “in the room” it is best avoided in emails unless we discuss it beforehand. I will always request your preferred email address from our first session. If you choose to communicate with me by email, be aware that all emails are retained in the logs of Internet Service Providers. Furthermore, they can be vulnerable to viruses and unintended forwarding or replication. If you are concerned about the confidentiality of your emails, you may wish to contact me by telephone instead. I check emails regularly. I endeavour to respond to all emails at the earliest opportunity, usually within one working day. Emails should never be used in the event of an emergency, in which case you should contact emergency services.
Text: You may feel free to contact me by text message to alert me if you are running late for a session or for similar reasons. However, because of the lack of context of text messages, it is generally not the best method for communicating with me about more important matters, so please do phone and leave me a message.
Emergency service: As a private practitioner I am unable to offer an emergency service, even by phone. Should you experience an emergency please contact either the emergency services or if you are feeling suicidal, ring The Samaritans: 116 123. If you feel that this may be an issue, please discuss it with me.
Telephone and Vsee: As my practice expands an increasing number of sessions will be offered by telephone or video conferencing. Any such sessions will be discussed in advance. I make every effort to choose video conferencing software that is recognized to be adequately encrypted – so this may involve you downloading certain software or logging into a web-based application. When engaging via video conferencing, we both agree not to use any recording devices for remote sessions. It is also crucial that you’re sure your environment from which you are conferencing with me is safe and secure. We will discuss these details should we decide to work in this manner.
Social Media: I maintain accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In as a way of promoting my services and activities. Despite my online presence, I would prefer that our relationship remain as much as possible between us in the consultation room, therefore I will not knowingly follow any current or former clients on Twitter. Whether you follow me or not is of course to your discretion, though I would suggest for reasons of confidentiality and preserving our therapeutic relationship that it’s unadvised. I, like many others, maintain a private Facebook account for personal reasons, and a Linked-In account for professional ones. I aim to keep my Facebook as private as possible and it would not be appropriate to be Facebook “friends” with former or current clients.
I acknowledge that there can be some overlap across social networks, and that this sometimes comes to light on Facebook. If this were the case, it would be something we would need to discuss in session. As the above, for me it is not appropriate to add current or former clients as “connections” on Linked-In.
Google: You may have Googled me before you contacted me. While I acknowledge that Googling others is now a generally accepted aspect of daily life, I wish to avoid encountering information about you that does not come directly from you. In general practice I do not Google my clients before I meet them. It is of course your right to Google me. However, if in your search some questions are raised, I would request that you raise them with me at the first opportunity.
GDPR. General Data Protection Regulations. I am registered with the ICO, (Information Commissioner’s Office) because some of the data I collect from you is sensitive. It is kept secure and confidential, used for the sole purpose of providing my services to you, not shared unless you provide permission for me to do so and destroyed after 7 years, in accordance with current BACP guidance. You have a right to see your electronic notes which are anonymized and password protected. You have the right to ask me to erase any information that I hold about you unless it’s information that I have a legal obligation to retain.
And Finally: The world is changing fast and as I described above this is a live page and subject to change at any time. I will be reviewing the information above as often as is deemed necessary.
My thanks go to Keeley Taverner and Niki Reeves for sharing their hard work as parts of this guidance is taken from their lead.