Should Therapists Blog?
I am a therapist, writer and blogger. The decision whether to share my thoughts, experiences and views publicly outside the therapy room took a lot of soul searching. For me the key issue was and remains whether occupying a social media platform is compatible or not with my therapeutic work and ethics, and ultimately my responsibility towards my clients.
Why could be an ethical issue? Confidentiality, trust, transparency, safety, consistency, reliability, honesty, empathy, integrity, kindness, humility - these and more are all key ingredients for therapy to work; at least, that's how I work. And it is my responsibility to offer these conditions, unconditionally, to all my clients. This is part of the ethical guidelines I have agreed to adhere to under my BACP membership and accreditation. I would adhere to them anyway, because it makes sense.
I am also reminded not to do anything that could harm my clients and the work we do together. That can cover a whole raft of issues. And for me, writing a blog or not falls into that category. Whether you are a client or a therapist you will know, that the work we do can appear quite one-sided. Therapists are discouraged from disclosing information about themselves, including shared experiences, values, views etc. Why? Because that one-sidedness (and a lot more) makes the difference between talking to friends and relatives or a therapist. Not knowing about the other means you don't need to care or worry about the other opposite you. The whole session is about YOU and not about the other. That's also a professional boundary.
Alas, you can argue, that with very boundary, something personal is lost. To mechanically adhere to boundaries can sometimes feel heartless. In my work I do self-disclose when I think it is relevant and of help to the other, and I always check with my clients, what it is like to have received this information about me, and sometimes I stress that they do not need to take care of me, that's my job, and I am OK, otherwise I would not be here, with them.
To go public or not? When I started writing articles it became clear to me very quickly that my style is personal, from the heart and with little jargon. I am not suited to writing therapy manuals or theoretical explorations. Doing so is excrutiating for me, and I won't do it. On a few occasions, when I wrote about topics close to my heart, I decided against expressing a personal view and sharing some relevant personal experience. My recent article for welldoing.org on Brexit Anxiety is an example. I did not talk about my own migrant identity, anxiety and coping strategy. I wrote in general terms. I did not want to stand out. With hindsight I wish I had been more courageous, or had not written the piece at all.
However, this experience has finally helped me make up my mind to write a blog. The topic? It could not be more personal - my experience of life after cancer treatment, my thoughts about living and dying and coping with uncertainty. Will this harm my clients? Will it be off-putting to potential clients? Does anyone care? Will anyone know?
I cannot be ethical towards my clients without being ethical towards myself. I cannot work with my clients on healing and self-development, growing self-worth, self-expression, making choices and taking responsibility for the life they want, and then not lead by example. I cannot censor myself, and deny myself the path I need to walk on. I have a responsibility towards myself and my clients, and I have to check for incompatibilities along the way, and face the consequences.
What does that look like in practice? My blog contains a post which explains my decision making process, and a page about my blog ethics. Clearly, I will not divulge material from confidential client work. To help avoid what the BACP call 'dual relationship', I will not knowingly engage in any form of correspondence with former, current or potential clients, their relatives or friends via my blog or other social media. I am open to discuss my rationale for my blog with my clients and explore with them what reading the blog (or not) brings up for them.
For me this whole process has been a transformative experience and a new chapter of self-development and self-expression. But one thing is for sure: For as long as I am therapist, whatever I do needs to be compatible with my responsibility towards my clients.
I might not always get it right, but I have the best of intentions.
You can read Karin's blog at Between Self And Doubt.