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Pause Before Posting About Work On Personal Social Media Pages (part 1)

 

We all need to vent about a hard day at work, but clinicians should think twice before posting on personal social network pages.

Guest post by Kimberly Sandstrom, MFTI

Have you ever have a long day at the office and wanted to vent your frustration to someone? Me too! We are containers of all sorts of confidential information and sometimes our containers get full, or we get triggered by something that happened during the day. It’s hard to hold it all in at times—especially when it touches or triggers some reaction in us. Yet, we are called to an oath of confidentiality, and sensitivity to our client’s information. For most, venting to a trusted colleague or a relaxation activity can be enough. Yet, some therapists use their personal social media accounts to release stress about their clients. Can’t believe clinicians do this? Read on.

As therapists, we reach in, listen, validate our client’s pain and help them make sense of it so that they can reflect, respond, and repair the distance in their relationships. It can be emotionally draining work. And we need ways to work out our stress. But are personal social media accounts the place to do this? Probably not.

Yet, some therapists post things their clients did or said that made them laugh or made them upset.  Yes, you read that right. I’ve seen complaints about cancellations, clients not following treatment plans, and negligent parents. Then there are the posts intended to be funny—pictures of notes clients left for them (yes, I have seen this), pictures of children in the local paper they treat (this too!). Friends comment back “lol” or similar funny retorts, and then everyone gets a good laugh.

My heart drops whenever I read these posts.

What about all the people in their friendship circle who are in therapy or contemplating therapy? Do they wonder if their own therapist is posting something they said? I know I would.

We have such a wonderful opportunity to promote a positive image o

f ourselves and our therapeutic community and to cultivate confidence in the therapy process (see Julie Hanks’ article on using social media in practice). We also have an opportunity to foster community with our public who often need courage just to pick up the phone and call us for support. Posting about clients negatively undermines these opportunities!

The good news is that therapists who post in a negative or comical fashion about their clients are definitely in the minority. And, given that I have seen some of these posts myself online from people I know, I take the view that their posts are not meant to be harmful but meant to release steam from a difficult day, or to draw others in as a way to cope with the “compassion fatigue” often experienced in this line of work. While the person posting does not intend harm, ultimately, in a round-about-way, they can elicit harm. How do we address this problem as we experience stress burnout and how do we address this with our therapeutic community?

Next time, I will provide tips on how to create self-awareness of our personal postings about our work, promote a positive image of therapy, and how to approach colleagues who may not be aware of how their posts about clients impact our wonderful therapeutic community.

Kimberly Sandstrom is a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern and Relationship Educator, Supervised by Kathryn de Bruin, LMFT, working in private practice in San Diego, CA. Married for 24 years, she and her husband are raising three daughters, two of whom are now adults.  She works with couples, and families to create emotionally safe and enduring connections in their most cherished relationships.

 

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.

Comments

some girl

I think it depends. If you say “a patient I see frustraits me because they always cancel at that last minute.” That could be anyone. It’s a facely “patinet.” Or, this patient I see said this which was funny to me. Again, could be anyone. It’s not a “personal attack.” It’s just “this happened at work today. For example, I work in health care as a receptionist. Once a patient handed the phone off to her husband and he said, “Listen ma’am,” and I said, “Yes,” and he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, sir.” It was hilarious, because I don’t have a deep voice. People often tell me I sound like a little girl on the phone. Sharing that story neighther the husband or the wife are identified. It’s just a funny story that happened at work.

Now, posting pictures of a patient’s children or any picture that could link identity to that patient, that’s wrong. Posting pictures of personal messages is also wrong. Those are outside of the “anonymous patient said this.”

I think we should all expect this to some degree no matter what healthcare provider we see. If you go to the doctor and you have extremely poor hygene or fart in their face, that story is probably going to get told. The key is anonymously, not “Jenny Smith came in today and guess what???”

Humans are social animals and it’s natural to happen. Just there has to be a line of anonymous vs. actually pointing to someone and saying “that’s the one, right there.”

Kimberly Sandstrom

Some Girl, I think you make a great point in that we need to keep the identifying information out of our posts. The f/up to this article posts some suggestions on how to do that, vent our frustrations, and yet still preserve the reputation of our therapeutic community–>look for that later this week. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this issue!

[…] Pause Before Posting About Work On Personal Social Media Pages (part 1) (Private Practice Toolbox) – Is it okay for therapists to vent about their clients on social media sites like Facebook? Of course not especially if you’re the client. Yet it happens whether or not therapists realize the harm they do to their practice, clients, and the therapeutic community. (function() { var po = document.createElement('script'); po.type = 'text/javascript'; po.async = true; po.src = 'https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })(); Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a freelance writer. After obtaining a BA in English and Ethnic Studies, she received a MA in Counseling Psychology from Santa Clara University. She writes for various companies and publications. For more information, see her website Brandi-AnnUyemura.com. Like this author?Catch up on other posts by Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. (or subscribe to their feed). […]

anita bondi

RT @patrickrwrites @PsychCentral: Pause Before Posting About Work On Personal Social Media Pages (part 1) http://t.co/C3CeYrUS

Renee Segal

I couldn’t agree more. I have seen the same thing. I think that all of these posting are really about counter-transference and they belong in consultation or supervision so that they can be fully processed in an appropriate manner. I believe at some level it is an invasion of privacy!! Thanks for your blog post.

Kimberly Sandstrom

Renee,I love that you are thinking ahead–we do need trusted colleagues we can process our reactions with. Thanks for your comment!

Billie

Kimberly,

This is an interesting topic.

I agree that therapists need strategies that they can use to vent, but I disagree that it is ok to post incidents relating to clients, even if anonymously, in order to do so.

Those of us who are highly sensitive will immediately think that the comment is directed at us, whether it is or it isn’t and the consequential feelings that we will experience will be distressing.

We need to know that what we tell our therapist and/or what happens during our session is not going to be publicised in any way on the Internet.

It’s great that you’re going to give some suggestions in your follow up article as to how therapists can vent their feelings in other ways. I admire the work that you (all therapists) do – it can’t be an easy job for many reasons.

Billie

Kimberly Sandstrom

Billie,
Absolutely–what are your thoughts about sharing something general and positive about your day as a therapist? Nothing about a specific client, but about the blessings of being in the helping profession? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Kimberly Sandstrom

Billie, I think you will enjoy my second post on what to post and how to vent properly given your response!

Mariah

If I was seeing a therapist who posted ANYTHING about me on Twitter or otherwise on line, however obliquely or even with identifying details removed, I’d leave her practice. It is a sign that the therapist leaks. If this leaking is what she is doing on Twitter, what’s she doing behind closed doors with family, friends, and colleagues?

Kimberly Sandstrom

Mariah, absolutely! Confidentiality provides safety to share. Thanks for your comment as it speaks to the heart of this issue.

Billie

Hi Kimberly,

I’m not sure about how much you should even disclose with regard to your feelings about your profession. I think that because your clients are such vulnerable people (to varying degrees) there’s the potential for anything you make public to be taken the wrong way.

I can definitely see a potential problem, for example, even with making general, positive comments about clients, even if you’re able to do so without disclosing who the clients are. This is because the clients that these positive comments don’t refer to will realise that you’re not talking about them, and may start to wonder why not. It would be very distressing for some clients to see their therapist doing this, as it may lead to questions such as “Why didn’t my therapist make a positive comment about something that I said in session?” “Doesn’t my therapist like me as much as her other clients?” “My therapist isn’t referring to me, so I mustn’t be as significant as her other clients.” You get the idea.

Obviously, I’m seeing all of these little “cracks” or potential for pain because I’m a highly sensitive person myself, but I know for sure that I’m not the only one around.

Our therapists are such important people in our lives – I think (and this is probably my own manifestation) that when a client/patient says MY Psychologist or MY Psychiatrist etc, it’s almost as if we feel that we are the only person you have a therapeutic relationship with. We are one of many clients to you, but you are our one and only . . .

It’s a relationship that is too important to take any risks with.

Billie 🙂

Kimberly Sandstrom

Billie,
I think we are on the same page–nothing about a specific client should ever be posted. General positive comments about the therapy process or the joys of our job are more what I am thinking, such as, “I am so grateful to be a part of couple’s healing.” When Julie posts my second part, I think we will be aligned. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–brings depth to this subject. Kimberly

Billie

Kimberly,

Yes, you’re right – I think we’re on the same page.

Thanks for your reply.

Billie 🙂

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