Social Media and iDevices has deeply affected the way people access health care and mental health care information in both exciting and disturbing ways. While I generally advocate the use of Social Media and I personally adore using my iDevices to enhance the quality of my life, you should be an informed consumer in your use, especially concerning your relationship to the practitioners at SDC.
Why Have A Social Media Policy?
I (Imei) maintain a strong Social Media policy for the protection of my clients. Because counseling is a private action involving legal confidentiality, it is important to have a Social Media policy for every business, no matter the number of employees. My policy is simple and straight-forward:
1. I do not follow or subscribe to my client’s personal websites, blogs, RSS feeds, and Social Media platforms, including family photo sharing sites such as Posterous, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, or Facebook.
2. Clients shall not follow or subscribe to any of my personal websites, blogs, RSS feeds and Social Media platforms during the time they are counseling or coaching clients, with the exception of following the Seattle Direct Counseling blog for updates, articles, MyAllergyAdvocate.Wordpress.com for information about food allergies and autoimmune disease, and pertinent information affecting counseling and coaching. If you subscribe, your information will not be sold or shared to others. When a new blog post is published, it is sent to whatever email you designate. Other than an occasional notice to your inbox of information regarding SDC a couple of times a year, you will not receive any other information.
3. Both #1 and #2 are in place during the therapist-client contract, and cease only after a minimum of two years post-termination of that contract. [Two years is the minimum time therapists are asked to not maintain a connection other than a therapeutic one with past clients]. Any violation during the duration of the therapist-client contract will be taken seriously.
4. After the therapeutic connection has ended for at least two years, it is at my discretion whether to allow former clients to be added to any subscriber-based platforms, including LinkedIn.
5. My Social Media channels are NEVER used to discuss private sessions, conversations, or personal events in the lives of my clients. I do not accept the practice of medical students or professionals using Social Media channels to vent or share about their client’s situations. Therefore, I expect the same of my clients. Should there ever be an issue that arises concerning my conduct, I expect my client’s to address them in session, not online. This makes for healthier and more realistic client-therapist interactions.
Any content on the SDC blog that mirrors events in the lives of any single client are purely coincidental.
Note: Slander, falsehood, cyber stalking or bullying, or detailed descriptions of therapy identifying myself or my practice on a public forum (i.e. Social Media) for the purpose of humiliating myself or any other client involved will be addressed in session at the cost of the client, and may result in legal action [this occurred in the case of a teenager; charges were not pressed after the teen’s guardian was contacted].
6. While photography is something I highly prize, please use common sense when using your smartphone camera around the SDC office. Pictures of other people in your picture, or pictures of remarkable elements of my office may “tag” you to my practice in ways that sharing on the Internet could possibly expose the nature of your relationship to me. I would highly recommend that you not share photographs taken on Social Media platforms, even if you believe they are “private” forums.
7. I strongly encourage therapists, clients, and everyday consumers to be informed about how they use Social Media and the Internet to gather information, find resources, and connect with others. While I maintain a transparent and integrated “face” on a variety of Social Media platforms, the majority of these are for professional or artistic use. If you wish to contact me regarding any aspect of my private practice or coaching, please use my email address imeis_sdc at yahoo dot com.
8. I take privacy seriously. Check back here by beginning of October 2012 for a link to my post on privacy to learn more about being safe on the Internet. Included in that post will be more recent information on how helping professionals should and should not be using iDevices with their clients, the current challenge in moving healthcare into the 21st century, and what you should know about Do Not Track services provided by your favorite browers and the push back from big companies who collect your data.
Please take a moment to read a post from June 2012 on Digital Distress in An Age Without Privacy.
Use of Smartphones and Seattle Direct Counseling
The advent of smartphones (aka a computer in your pocket) has changed the potential level of access between clients and therapists. Based on my ongoing investigation into the nature of smartphone use as it intersects with practices at SDC, here are a few things you should know about mobile phone use as it pertains to counseling.
1. Privacy is very important to us, and it should be to you. Because text messages can be used by state officials in an investigation, I (Imei) discourage using text messaging as a form of intimate/private communication between myself and a client. The only thing I allow are scheduling and rescheduling questions or statements, such as, “I am on my way” or “I’m in need of rescheduling and can’t make my appointment today.”
Your contact information such as name and mobile number are attached to your texts. In an audit of practice, licensed practitioners can be found liable for breaches of confidentiality. I have determined that this kind of convenience is not worth the loss of my license until state regulations become more clear and protective of the license holder to use a texting in this way.
2. No names of clients or other identifying information are saved on the therapist’s mobile phone.
3. In the case of Imei, her phone bill is shared with another person as of mid-October 2012. The sharing individual has signed an agreement that states that all phone numbers will remain confidential within the circle of confidentiality.
This is a common practice for therapist’s to name an individual as a responder in the case of emergencies or sudden death. It gives this individual the right to call you to inform you of my incapacitation or sudden demise. The person(s) currently named for this task is Allison Bulliman, my Associate.
4. New! We realize that many people like to use free email platforms, such as Gmail, over private email services such as Hushmail. The convenience and ease of the free platforms often discourage clients from using Hushmail. We have therefore adopted an attitude of using informed consent regarding the continued use of Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail/Msn.
Our Electronics Transmissions Agreement Form will be updated shortly, and all current and new clients will be asked to sign this form if you wish to use your free email platforms in lieu of Hushmail.
For a more thorough discussion of why Gmail’s encrypted email platform is not HIPAA compatible, please click on this link. http://www.emrandhipaa.com/emr-and-hipaa/2010/12/23/email-is-not-hipaa-secure/?mtcCampaign=24754&mtcEmail=380582040