Social Media and Internet Policies

a.    Social networking sites:

I do not accept friend or contact requests from current or former clients on any social networking site, e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I believe that adding clients as friends or contacts on these sites can compromise your confidentiality and our respective privacy and may blur the boundaries of our therapeutic relationship.

I may publish a blog on my website and I may post blog updates and psychology news on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or another channel. I have no expectation that you will follow my blog or Twitter, Instagram, etc. If I notice that you have followed me, we may discuss it and its potential impact on our working relationship. My primary concern is your privacy. You may prefer to follow me using an alternative method such as an RSS feed or a locked Twitter list, which would eliminate your having a public link to my content.

Please note that I will not follow you back. I only follow other health professionals and I do not follow current or former clients. I believe casual viewing of clients’ online content outside of the therapy session can create confusion regarding whether it is being conducted as a part of your treatment or in order to satisfy my personal curiosity. In addition, viewing your online activities without your consent and without our explicit arrangement towards a specific purpose could potentially have a negative influence on our working relationship. If there are concerns from your online life that you wish to share with me, please raise these issues during our sessions, keeping in mind item #6 listed in the Confidentiality section of the “Informed Consent for Psychotherapy,” which states that mention of the viewing of child pornography or of sexting necessitates a report to law enforcement.

Please do not communicate with me via any interactive or social networking sites. I will most likely not see these messages, and they are not secure. Engaging with me this way could compromise your confidentiality. It may also create the possibility that these exchanges become a part of your legal medical record and will need to be documented and archived in your chart.

b.    Internet searches:

It is not a regular part of my practice to search for clients on search engines, Facebook, etc. I will not use web searches to gather information about you without your permission. I believe this violates your privacy rights. Extremely rare exceptions maybe made during times of crisis. If I have a reason to suspect that you are in danger and you have not been in touch with me via our usual means (attending sessions, phone, secure messaging), there might be an instance in which using a search engine (to find you, to find someone close to you, or to check on your recent status updates) becomes necessary as a part of ensuring your welfare. These are unusual situations and if I ever utilize such means, I will fully document it and discuss it with you when we next meet.

I understand that you might choose to gather information about me utilizing a web search. Nowadays, there is an incredible amount of information available about individuals on the internet, some of which may actually be known to that person and some of which may be inaccurate or unknown. If you encounter any information about me through web searches, or in any other fashion for that matter, please discuss this with me during our time together so that we can deal with it and its potential impact on your treatment.

c.    Business listings:

You may find my psychotherapy practice listed on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, Yahoo Local, Bing or other sites that list businesses. Some of these sites include forums in which users rate their providers and add reviews. Many of these sites comb search engines for business listings and automatically add listings regardless of whether the business has added itself to the site. If you should find my listing on any of these sites, please know that my listing is not a request for a testimonial, rating, or endorsement from you as my client.

The American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code states under Principle 5.05 that it is unethical for psychologists to solicit testimonials: “Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.”

Certainly, you have a right to express yourself on any site you wish. (I request, however, that you do not rate my work with you on such websites while you are currently in therapy with me. Doing so has significant potential to negatively affect our work together.) Due to confidentiality, I cannot respond to any review on any of these sites whether it is positive or negative. I urge you to take your own privacy as seriously as I take my confidentiality to you. You should also be aware that if you are using these sites to communicate indirectly with me about your feelings about our work, there is a good possibility that I may never see it.

If you do choose to write something on a business review site, please keep in mind that you may be sharing personally-revealing information in a public forum. I urge you to create a pseudonym that is not linked to your regular email address or friends network for your own protection and privacy.

(“Social Media and Internet Policies” has been adapted from and used with the permission of Dr. Keely Holmes.)