Social media has been a boon for sharing ideas and marketing a private practice but for counsellors and psychotherapists, it can also present risks.
Counsellors and psychotherapists need to be aware of information that clients and potential clients can access on your social media accounts, and of the potential for clients to see your posts and likes in the online space.
Here are some tips about restricting access to your personal social media accounts and navigating boundaries with clients in an online world.
Set boundaries between professional and personal
1. If you use social media like Facebook or Instagram to market your private practice, PACFA recommends making a professional or business page and using this profile when interacting as a counselling or psychotherapy professional, rather than your personal pages and accounts.
2. You can use the privacy settings on your personal pages to limit the personal information that members of the public who are not your friends/followers are able to see.
On Facebook, you can restrict what you’re sharing to particular people. You can also limit access to past posts. Look at ‘Settings & privacy’ on Facebook and do a ‘Privacy Checkup’ - check your settings for sharing posts, stories and profile information.
You can use the ‘View as’ feature on Facebook to see what the general public is able to see on your personal Facebook account.
- Click your profile picture in the top right of Facebook,.
- Click the ellipsis below your name and select 'View As'.
- Exit that view by clicking on your profile picture again.
Read about increasing privacy on your Instagram account.
3. Counsellors and psychotherapists know that discussing clients’ circumstances in a manner which identifies the client crosses an ethical boundary but what about other social media interactions with clients?
What if a client wants to follow you on Instagram or Twitter? Or sends you an invitation to become friends on Facebook?
Consider having a social networking policy as part of your consent process, so boundary management occurs at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship.
Your policy could include setting out expectations around searching for information about the other person online, befriending/following the other on social media, and how you will manage privacy and confidentiality when conducting therapy using online platforms.
Your reputation is at stake
4. Remember that your ‘likes’ and comments on other people’s posts and pages are public. While you can address the privacy settings on your own pages, you can’t control whether your posts and likes on other pages will be public, so consider your professional reputation (and that of your fellow counsellors and psychotherapists) when liking and commenting.
PACFA’s Facebook Page Guidelines include advising people posting on our page to be respectful, not aggressive, to others and to protect sensitive or confidential information.
As our page represents our organisation, members and the profession overall, PACFA reserves the right to moderate content and remove any content we deem inappropriate.
5. If you work for an organisation or a government department, make sure you read and abide by your employer’s social media policy.