Welcome to the Spring 2016 edition of the dilemmas page, in which we ask for answers to fictional ‘what if’ nightmare scenarios that we might find ourselves in as psychotherapy trainees. The range of responses from our readers from within the psychotherapy world provides us with tools should anything similar ever happen to us in our personal practice.
One of your friends puts an embarrassing picture of you on their facebook page from the last time that you had a big night out together. you notice that a few people have ‘liked’ the picture. One of them turns out to be a client of yours who unbeknownst to you happens to be a mutual contact. How do you deal with this situation?
Suzie, trainee psychotherapist says:
“In a way the embarrassing picture matter is a bit of a red herring. For me, the real issue here is that your client knows one of your friends and that there could be potential conflict. First, I would take this matter to supervision before my next session with the client. I’d explore the ethical impact of this revelation and how best to address the crossing of boundaries. Can you continue working with this client? How can measures be put in place regarding this mutual relationship without breaching client confidentiality?
Following on from supervision, this matter certainly needs discussion with the client. The potential conflict is key to address; how best to manage this with particular focus on client safety and ethical working. Secondly there is the matter of your client ‘liking’ an embarrassing picture of you (which I assume doesn’t paint you in our most professional light). This needs to be explored as well. What was it like for your client to have a glance into your personal life? What judgements have they made? What does their behaviour (in ‘liking’ the picture and crossing that boundary) tell you about them?
In regards to Facebook, I would suggest setting up a separate page for your professional and personal profiles and reviewing the privacy settings on both to ensure good boundaries. “
Chris, trainee psychotherapist says:
“I addressed this about a year ago when I noticed my clients appearing as ‘suggested friends’. I exported all my Facebook pictures onto my computer and deleted almost every picture from Facebook. I changed my name to something that makes me hard to be found in a search, and lastly, I discovered in the privacy settings that you can select to not be found by people that are purely on your mobile phone (mobile networks selling basically). Having said all that, I stopped drinking 2 years ago, but even if I was a drinker, I wouldn’t allow myself to be tagged, and if all else failed, I would still be fairly confident of not being seen by a client.
I guess if there was a picture from years ago and a client saw it, I would raise it in the next session. Can they survive me being human…“
Julia, trainee psychotherapist says:
“Every time I try to think of an answer to this I cringe, such an embarrassing situation! But I think that I couldn’t ignore it and would have to bring it up in next session (if the client didn’t bring it up first). Something like, “So I see you saw a picture of me on FB. What was it like for you to see that?”