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 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 challenged in an online environment. 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.
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 ask for 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 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 when I am not away, in which case you will received an automated reply. Emails should never be used in the event of an emergency, in which case you should contact emergency services.
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).
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, 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.
Telephone and Skype
While I do not generally run my practice remotely, there may be occasions when we have a session by telephone or video conferencing. Any such sessions will be discussed in advance.
Please be aware that while I make every effort to maintain confidentiality, applications like Skype are not confidential channels of communication, and though it is highly unlikely, they can be compromised. For this reason I may request we use a different application like VSee or Facetime.
When communicating in any of these ways, 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.
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 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 advisable not to.
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 have decided that it would not be appropriate to add current or former clients as “connections” on Linked-In.
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.
Our fast-changing world
You’ll notice this is the first version of my digital policy. As this world is changing so rapidly, I will update it as I learn more, and would appreciate your honesty and input along the way. Should you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know.
Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash