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Confidentiality, Social Media, and Control Issues

privacy1Let’s talk confidentiality and social media interaction with clients.

Why? Because these topics have been coming up a lot in my professional circles lately. And there are a few things that trouble me about what is said about these topics in my profession.

It appears that our industry standard recommendation is to completely avoid any and all interaction with clients on social media and to warn them explicitly that to engage with us on social media might mean someone could figure out they are a counseling client.

Beyond that we’re not just warn them about the risk of losing confidentiality, but to refuse to do it and take away their choice about it.

Well, that concerns me. Here’s why:

I am all for keeping my client’s confidentiality. Totally and completely committed to it. I am adamant about keeping private what they share with me as well as the fact they are coming to see me – I work hard to keep that confidentiality unless I am bound by law to break it or unless they give me written permission to do so. Even then I am very mindful about what I share.

However, I also believe that my clients are perfectly capable of making their own decisions about their confidentiality. If they wish to engage with me on social media or to tell the whole freakin’ world that they are coming to me for counseling – that is also 100% their right to do so.

This whole idea my profession has that we have to go overboard to prevent the client from making a choice that might “risk someone finding out they are in counseling with me” is ridiculous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I “have to” deny friend requests, block them from liking my Facebook Page or from following me on Twitter or commenting on my blog.

That’s a wee bit controlling if you ask me. (Perhaps the counseling profession itself could use a little counseling to address those control issues!) If a client is comfortable friending or following me online (on Facebook or Twitter or my blog or wherever), than that is their choice. A choice they are more than capable of making for themselves.

My clients aren’t incompetent people incapable of making their own choices. They are intelligent, creative, thoughtful, strong, and amazing people. They are not broken or in need of my fixing. They are beautiful people going through a difficult time or situation. There are few people in this world I have more respect and admiration for then my clients.

Counseling isn’t a shameful thing. Why do we as a profession continue to perpetuate the stigma around being in counseling by bending over backwards trying to tell our clients they can’t break their own confidentiality?

I can’t break their confidentiality. I am bound by law, my professional ethical codes, and my own personal ethics to keep their confidentiality.

They, on the other hand, can keep or break their confidentiality as they choose. And that choice is none of my business.

If they want to keep their privacy and not tell anyone they are in counseling, great. If they want to tell the whole world that they are in counseling, that’s great too.

It’s their choice, not mine. And I, for one, trust them to make it.

Do we have conversations about it? Absolutely. Do we talk about the potential benefits and disadvantages to talking with others about their counseling? Definitely.

Do I decide for them what their choice should be? Hell no.

I am blessed to serve amazing, brilliant, and highly capable people from all different walks of life in my practice. I am not ashamed of my work.

And you know what? Most of my clients have zero problems with sharing the fact that they are coming to see me.

If they aren’t ashamed of it or uncomfortable with it, why should anyone else be?

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