This policy is made for the benefit of my psychotherapy clients.
Although therapists are trained to keep their personal lives out of the consulting room for the benefit of their clients, the availability of information about us on the internet means that this can no longer be guaranteed, virtually at least.
This digital policy aims to address and contain the most likely eventualities that may arise by way of digital exposure, also with reference to maintaining privacy and data protection.
This document acknowledges the complex world of digital media and tries its best to address issues that may impact the therapeutic relationship. I am open to changing my positions on it. In the meantime, I ask all my clients to read through this document so they can be familiar with these positions.
My media activities
I maintain an active social media presence. Online resources such as Twitter and my website enable me to reach a broad swathe of people to whom I can communicate psychological concepts that I hope can be useful in their lives. I hold my duty of care and confidentiality to my psychotherapy clients and supervisees as sacrosanct and consider my media work to be related to, but completely separate from my clinical work.
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 compromised. 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.
If you are a client, you will be asked to review and sign a privacy statement in regards to data protection and GDPR compliance.
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. The use of email or phone contact between sessions is for practical purposes only (for example if running late for session or needing to miss a session outside of the notice period). In an effort to keep confidential and psychological material “in the room” it is best avoided in emails unless we discuss it beforehand.
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 my by telephone instead.
I generally check emails only during office hours (being 9am-6pm) and not at weekends. I endeavour to respond to all emails within 24 hours upon opening them. If I am away for an extended period, you will receive an automated response. Emails should never be used in the event of an emergency, in which case you should contact emergency services.
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, are generally not the best method for communicating with me about more important matters, so please do phone and leave me a message.
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 Video conference
I partly run my practice remotely, having regular sessions by telephone or video conferencing.
Please be aware that while I make every effort to maintain confidentiality, applications like Zoom or Skype cannot guarantee complete confidentiality, and though it is highly unlikely, they can be compromised. Zoom, as opposed to Skype, does offer end-to-end encryption.
When communicating in any of these ways, we both agree not to use any recording devices for remote sessions. It is also crucial that the environment from which you are conferencing with me is safe, secure and private with decent wi-fi connectivity.
I maintain a public Twitter profile as a way of promoting psychological ideas through the media, and to make people aware of workshops, conferences, or other events that might be of interest to followers. I occasionally send across relevant links and sometimes engage in public conversations on these topics.
Despite my online presence, I would prefer that our relationship remains 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 advisable not to.
I, like many others, maintain a Linked-In account for professional reasons. I have decided that it would not be appropriate to add current or former clients as “connections” on Linked-In.
I have found it is best to avoid encountering information about you that does not come directly from you, so in general practice I do not Google my clients. I am aware, however, that clients will often Google prospective therapists as part of their process in choosing one. If you did so with me, and this produced any questions, I would be happy to address them with you. Going forward, I have found it is best to find out from each other what we need to know face-to-face.
Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash