Update: March 31, 2010
Please note that since this original blog post, I have updated my Social Media Policy to include information about location-based check-ins and some other items not mentioned on this page. You are welcome to download the current document.
Other clinicians may copy, share, or adapt this policy to suit your own practice needs, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you use my policy for training or educational purposes, please cite me as the original author.
Thanks to everyone who provided feedback on my first draft. I have slightly modified some sections and added a bit more to this document. I realized that some sections needed a bit more explanation so that clients would understand my rationale for my practice choices. When this policy is final, I will upload it to my forms page and print it up for current clients. As before, I invite anyone to copy or modify this form for their own practice.
This document outlines my office policies related to use of social media. Please read to understand how I conduct myself on the Internet and how you can expect me to respond to various requests and interactions between us.
If a time should come when I revise any of these policies, I will bring an updated copy of this form to our session so that you are aware of any changes.
If you have any questions about anything within this document, I encourage you to bring them up when we meet.
I do not accept friend requests from current or former clients. This holds true on Facebook, LinkedIn, and all other social networking sites. My reasons for this are that I believe that adding clients as friends on these websites can compromise confidentiality and blur the boundaries of our therapeutic relationship. If you have questions about this, please feel free to bring them up when we meet and I’m happy to talk more about it.
I maintain a Facebook Page for my professional practice. I use this Page to allow colleagues to share my blog postings and practice updates within Facebook. All of these articles are also directly available on my website.
While you are always welcome to visit my Facebook Page and read or share articles posted there, I do not allow clients to become Fans of this Page. I believe having clients as Fans of this Page creates an even greater likelihood of compromised client privacy and I do not want others who may look through my list of Fans to find any clients listed. In addition, it is a violation of my professional ethics code to solicit testimonials from clients. I feel that the term “Fan” implies a request for a public endorsement of my practice.
If you are my client and I see that you have become a Fan of my Facebook Page, you can expect me to discuss this with you in-session and request that you remove yourself from my Page. If it will be awhile before our next scheduled meeting, I may remove you myself and I will discuss it with you during our next session.
Please note that you can subscribe to the page via RSS without becoming a Fan and without creating a visible, public link to my Page. You are welcome to do this.
I currently maintain a professional Twitter stream. If you use an easily recognizable (to me) name on Twitter and I notice that you’ve followed me there, you can expect me to bring it up in therapy so that we can briefly discuss it.
My primary concern will be your privacy. There are more private ways to follow me on Twitter (such as subscribing using an RSS feed or using a locked Twitter list), which would eliminate your having a public link to my content. But you are welcome to use your own discretion in choosing whether to follow me. There is nothing I post here that I would not want you to see.
Please note that I will not follow you back.
I do not follow current or former clients on blogs or Twitter. If there are things you wish to share with me from your online life, I strongly encourage you to bring them into our sessions where we can process them together, during the therapy hour.
Please do not use messaging on websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to contact me. These sites are not secure and I may not read these messages in a timely fashion. If you need to contact me between sessions, the best way to do so is by phone. Direct email at drkkolmes [at] gmail is second best for quick, administrative issues such as changing appointment times. Please see the email section below for more information regarding email interactions.
Use of Search Engines
It is NOT a regular part of my practice to search for clients on Google or other search engines. Extremely rare exceptions to this may be 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 (coming to appointments, phone, or email) there may be a circumstance in which using a search engine (to find you, find someone close to you, or to check on your status) becomes necessary as part of ensuring your welfare. These are extremely rare situations and if I resort to such means, I will document it and discuss it with you when we next meet.
I do not follow current or former clients on Google Reader. I also do not use this account to share articles with current or former clients. I share many links of interest via my Twitter account, which you are welcome to read. If there are things you want to share with me that you feel are relevant to your treatment, I encourage you to bring these items of interest into our sessions.
Business Review Sites
There are a number of different websites including Yelp and Healthgrades, on which you may find my practice information. Many of these sites comb search engines for business listings and automatically add listings. If you should find my listing on these sites, please know that my listing on any of these sites is NOT a request for a testimonial 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.”
Of course, you have a right to express yourself on any site you wish, but 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 commitment of confidentiality to you.
If we are working together, it is my hope that you will bring your feelings and reactions to our work directly into the therapy process. This can be an important part of therapy, even if you decide we are not a good fit. If you still choose to write something on a business review site, then please remember this is a public forum on which you could be sharing personally revealing information. I urge you to create a pseudonym that is not linked to your regular email address or friend networks.
Lastly, none of this means that you cannot share that you are in therapy with me wherever and with whomever you like. Confidentiality means that I cannot tell people that you are my client and my ethics code prohibits me from requesting testimonials. But you are more than welcome to tell anyone you wish that I’m your therapist in any forum of your choosing.
I prefer to use email only to arrange or modify appointments. Please do not use email to send content related to your therapy sessions, as email is not completely secure or confidential. If you choose to communicate with me by email, please be aware that all emails are retained in the logs of your and my Internet service providers. While it is unlikely that someone will be looking at these logs, they are, in theory, available to be read by the system administrator(s) of the Internet service provider. You should also know that any email I receive from you and any responses that I send to you will be printed out by me and kept in your treatment record.