This document is made for the benefit of my counselling and psychotherapy clients. Though therapists are generally trained to keep their personal lives out of the consulting room for the benefit of their clients, the massive availability of information about us on the internet means that this, virtually at least, can no longer happen.
This document acknowledges the complex world of digital media and tries its best to address issues that may impact the therapeutic relationship. The guidelines are based on the choices I have made with regard to my online life; 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 duty of care to my clients and my professional commitment to confidentiality means that I never refer to clinical material in the public sphere. As my client you will have received a contract covering all the bounds of my confidentiality with you – a contract I take most seriously.
I am registered with the Information Commissioner's Office. More information can be found on their website.
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 email 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 always request 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 me by telephone instead.
My professional email is firstname.lastname@example.org and all contact will only be from this address.
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, it is generally not the best method for communicating with me about more important matters, so please do phone and leave me a message.
I do offer sessions via online video. I do not offer telephone only sessions. Use of online video will be discussed and agreed on before starting. I usually prefer to have an initial meeting in person if possible. Online video is also available as a replacement for an individual session where required. I currently use the video service Zoom. I do not normally use Skype or Facetime.
I, like many others, maintain a private Facebook account for personal reasons. 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 acknowledge that there can be some overlap across social networks, and that this sometimes comes to light on Facebook. If this were the case, it would be something we would need to discuss in session.
It is likely that you will have Googled me before you contacted me. While I acknowledge that Googling others is now a generally accepted aspect of daily life, I wish to avoid encountering information about my clients that does not come directly from them. 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.
This is the 1.2 version of my digital policy. I put it this way because this world is changing so rapidly, and my own responses to it are in constant development. I will update this policy 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.
13 Nov 2022
I am grateful to Dr. Aaron Balick who provided the initial model for this policy: www.mindswork.co.uk