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    undecided
    Participant

    Hey, I hope I’m putting this in the right place, my apologies if not…

    Where to begin? I’d say the title of this topic says it all, but as much as I like to think that everyone knows what I mean, probably better if I actually phrase the question fully 😉

    When it comes to mental health, I’ve been fortunate enough to be on both sides of the couch/table/conversation. I recently graduated with my Masters in one of the mental health fields (sorry, trying to be as unidentifiable as possible for the moment), and hope to be working in that capacity shortly. I have also been in therapy for the past 5 years, dealing with a variety of things.
    During my time in school, I was part of an online peer support group, and due to the anonymity it provided, I was able to be fairly open about my struggles. However, as time went on, I began to recognize people that I knew “in the real world,” and felt that for honesty reasons, it was only fair that I let them know that I knew who they were-which meant revealing my identity to those individuals. I left the forum prior to receiving my internship placement, as I feared that there was a chance that I would be placed in an agency where I would have clients on the forum, thereby creating an ethical issue-I might know who they were, but to tell them would be to reveal my identity, something that I was uncomfortable with for boundary reasons.

    My question is-as a client, I find these sites helpful, but choose to remain anonymous to protect my identity-personal and professional- as well as those of the people around me. Is it ok for me to be on these forums knowing that I might have a client who uses the forums as well? Especially if there’s a chance that I would know who he/she is, without them being able to identify me-ethically, can I be here? I will add that I live in a place where the community is small enough that this is in fact a likely occurrence, and I did recognize a colleague’s case study as someone I had met on the forum, given our location.

    The same goes for social media; if I’m using an anonymous instagram account to help with my recovery, but members of the community comment personal things-what are my ethical obligations when I know who they are, but they don’t know who I am, should they become a client? Or am I just worrying needlessly?

     

    Thank you 🙂

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    Chavy
    Participant

    Hi, that is a tough question!

    I want to first put in as a disclaimer that I’m talking as a client and having much experience as such but not as a therapist. Here’s what came to mind:

    First I was thinking that you’re right; you’re in a quandary that may be difficult to navigate. Then, I was thinking that there has to be a way. I don’t think it’s all or nothing.

    I would say that your concerns are 100% legitimate. They make perfect sense. You want both yourself and your clients to feel comfortable. You want to put in the necessary precautions. But, and here’s the big but:  there’s still going to be uncertainty in whatever choice you decide on.

    In my opinion, something tells me that although your community is close knit, you can still post for your recovery. Maybe you can change some details around. I think it’s a matter of how you deal with it if a situation comes up where you’re communicating with your client via a forum.

    What do you think? It is a biggie, though!

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    undecided
    Participant
    Topic Author

    In response to Chavy's post #8402:

    Thank you, @chavy for your input! I agree that there has to be a way; I’m just trying to figure out what that way is 🙂

    I’m not worried so much about someone figuring out who I am; I’m fairly skilled at obscuring my identity. As you say, the issue is really how to deal with a situation in which I end up communicating with a client on a forum and I know who they are, and I’m not sure ethically what I would have to do; part of me really wants to use these resources for myself, and yet another part thinks that I should avoid any potential conflicts of interest by staying off…

     

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    Chavy
    Participant

    In response to undecided's post #8408:

    Yes, I really hear that. I’m not sure.. We need professionals to weigh in on this one.

    Hello Chavy,

    You are asking a great question. I want to broaden your question a bit from being an ethical one to being one of personal comfort as well for both you and your potential clients. Putting ethics to the side for a minute, how does it feel to be only partially anonymous? How can it potentially effect your relationship with your clients if you have insight into their lives that they have not chosen to share with you yet?

    I’ll share a similar example that comes to mind for me. When I get a call from a new client, each client introduces themselves differently. Some clients will give me a brief introduction over the phone, some will schedule an appointment and reveal nothing prior to that appointment, while others may share the reason they would like to schedule before the initial session. All of that is part of the dynamic of the therapy. If I were to run a google search of my clients name I may have more information, a picture, etc… but would I want that? In doing that I would lose a very important dynamic of seeing a client for the first time and my own feelings at that moment.

    All this leaves me with a curious question of why you are limited to a familiar population? The internet is a big place. Can you find support in an anonymous way? Can you find a support group for professionals in recovery?

    I hope this opened up some ideas for you,
    Chaya

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    Chavy
    Participant

    In response to chayasatt's post #8456:

    Those are great points, but I’m not a therapist ?. I was just thinking and offering my thoughts.

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    undecided
    Participant
    Topic Author

    I’m going to assume that was aimed at me 😉
    Thank you @chayasatt for your response.

    To respond to your first point, about me being partially anonymous. I’m not worried so much about that, as the only way I wouldn’t be anonymous is if I were to reveal to the client/whoever else who I am. I’m assuming you mean that if such a scenario were to arise that I had said things anonymously, discovered a client was on the same forums/discussion boards, and then chose to reveal to that client that I was on those sites. Self-disclosure has it’s time and place, and needs to be used thoughtfully and conscientiously- I wouldn’t be okay with them knowing whatever I had said based on the security of being unknown. And if I were to sign in under my actual name, then I wouldn’t be posting about those things.

    As for the second point-how would knowing those things prior to the client saying them-Like you said, I wouldn’t run a google search, wouldn’t try to find out about them (aside from necessary collateral information, gathered WITH the client’s knowledge and permission); therapy is really the here and now and what they choose to bring in with them. It would be unethical, professionally and just in general, not honest, to have information without permission, and without their knowledge of my possessing that information.

    Which is where I’m stuck 🙂

    I’m not sure about finding help in an anonymous way; the internet is big, but as big as it is, the community is not that big…  But I hadn’t thought about finding a group for professionals, so that’s something to look into.
    Thank you!

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