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Pause Before Posting About Work On Social Media Pages (part 2)

Guest post by Kimberly Sandstrom, MFTI

We all have days where we need to let out a little steam about a difficult day at work. Social media is not the place to do it.

In the first post on this topic, my goal was to bring awareness to our community about the hazards of posting personally about clients. Although our clients may not see our personal posts (see Julie Hanks Digital Dual Relationship Dilemmas), our own personal communities will, and our reputation is built on that community.

While my personal profiles are private, my extended friendship community and family I am connected with on these sites, trust me and my ability to keep things confidential for their referrals What I portray on my personal and professional sites will reflect the reputation I have as a therapist.

Does this mean we cannot post anything at all about the work we do on our personal accounts? Certainly not! My heart is for fostering a safe environment for consumers so they will feel comfortable sharing with us in the intimate space of our offices, and assurance that their stories will be kept contained within the walls of our office. Here are some tips to protecting not only yourself but our therapeutic community at large when posting about your therapeutic work.

Think before you post

Ask yourself these questions: If my client saw this, would they like what I posted about them? Is this fostering a positive message about my therapeutic community? What are my motives for posting this (i.e., vent frustration, draw others to me through humor, etc.)? Am I venting my frustration in a way that protects my client and my reputation? Would it be better if I shared this with another colleague privately?

Keep your posts about work general and positive

After a recent couples intensive weekend, my co-facilitator and I were so blessed to see the positive transformation in the couples that attended our workshop. It inspired us. I posted on my personal Facebook profile, “So blessed to watch couples transform their relationships over this weekend at the couples retreat. I love my job!”  Nothing specific about what conversations took place. If one of the participants to read this, it would most likely reflect their own positive experience of the weekend. Occasionally, I have asked for permission from clients to share their inspiring story or something they have written (poem, inspiring reflection) in a blog or to post on my professional social media sites, and again, I keep the information general and positive. And I make sure it is in a place they can see this posted (even though I do not accept former or current clients on these sites—they are open to the public to view).

Develop safe relationships with like-minded colleagues in your own community

We all have funny and frustrating stories from work—no matter what profession we are in. Developing relationships with other therapists in your community can provide you with a group that follows the same values of confidentiality that you do. You can vent your day to them, share funny stories (without giving identifying information about your clients, of course!), and explore your own triggers and countertransference in confidence, instead of publicly.

Have grace with fellow clinicians who may violate this gray area

If you feel inclined, send them a private message with your concerns about their post. If it is done with a spirit of helpfulness, gentleness, and affirms their good intention, they will most likely be grateful.  If, after reading this, you realize that you may have posted something about a client that qualifies as negative or comical, have mercy on yourself! We are human, fallible and worthy of lots of grace in the uncharted territory of social media etiquette!

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.

 

social media image (c) CanStockPhoto

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 KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

Comments

cutherapist

I think that therapists do need to learn to use social media. It is very powerful and it can be helpful or hurtful. Many therapist need to understand that they may be committing malpractice and violating confidentiality rules if they post information that identifies a client.

If we use the straight jacket reasoning (full of judgment) that the writer suggests, it can be said that a therapist should not have FB pages. Certainly, I would never “friend” a client. Nevertheless, this issue is a practice/ethics issue that every therapist should be mindful of and they should set “best practice” rules for media use.

I wonder can a therapist have an authentic private life if our boundaries must fixed by how others (clients) may perceive us? How can we as therapists, maintain our ethical and therapeutic stance outside of the therapy room? It is a balancing act. This is an age old issue and while this was interesting subject, the tone of the article was a bit off-putting.

Kimberly

Hello Cutherapist,
I think we are on the same page! My hope is always to foster a sense of community amongst therapists and to provide our communities we live in safe access to us. When we post personally about our work in a negative way, it can reduce the confidence of the general public in feeling safe to seek out our services. I so appreciate the feedback!

Kimberly

Cuttherapist,
I thank you for commenting and am sorry that the article’s tone was off-putting–certainly not my intention. Rather, that we be aware of how we post personally. I understand that this is a balancing act and welcome discussion on how you have been able to maintain a balance between your authentic private life and professional ethics? This article was generated by so many posts I read from therapist friends that violated a client’s confidentiality (yes, it happened) or complained about a particular client with a particular diagnosis.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding your own views and suggestions! I am always learning from others in this area!
Kimberly

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