How Facebook knows you’re a therapist – and who your clients are

Matthew Henry / Burst / Licensed under Creative Commons ZeroTherapists and counselors have been expressing concern for some time now that Facebook can “out” their clients to other clients, even when the therapist or counselor has not done anything to facilitate the connection. It can happen even when the therapist or counselor doesn’t use Facebook. Thanks to some good reporting by Gizmodo Media, we now have a better understanding of how that happens. We also now know just how little you can do to stop it.

The whole article “How Facebook figures out everyone you’ve ever met” is really worth your time. Here, I’ll just share some of the pieces most relevant to counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals. For us, if even just a few of your clients use Facebook, the likelihood of keeping all your therapeutic relationships truly confidential is near zero.

Read moreHow Facebook knows you’re a therapist – and who your clients are

The Talking Therapy podcast is back! And we’re now a proud sponsor.

Headphones - Anna Langova / Publicdomainpictures.netA while back we wrote about three great therapy podcasts, and the Talking Therapy podcast was on our list. Hosts RJ Thomas and John Webber are therapists themselves. They offer a relaxed, conversational tone even when dealing with big names in the field like Susan Johnson. They approach the show as true students of the craft of therapy, making for some fascinating discussions even with lesser-known guests.

Read moreThe Talking Therapy podcast is back! And we’re now a proud sponsor.

Talkspace forces therapists to break rules. The rules may be the problem.

Matthew Henry / Burst / Licensed under Creative Commons ZeroApp-based therapy platforms may well represent the next evolution of psychotherapy practice. I praised Talkspace a few years ago for offering access to mental health care for many who otherwise would never find their way to a therapist’s office. But the platforms — Talkspace, Betterhelp, and the like — have run into controversy over their confidentiality policies. Therapists using these apps may have little to no ready access to the client’s full name, address, or other information necessary in an emergency.

Read moreTalkspace forces therapists to break rules. The rules may be the problem.

Responding to a Yelp review can cost you

Woman using mobile app / Burst via Creative Commons Zero licenseSites like Yelp, HealthGrades, and Angie’s List present problems for mental health professionals. We typically cannot solicit testimonials from clients, so most clients do not write reviews. When someone does, though, any response risks breaching confidentiality. So therapists usually stay away from review sites. But that leaves us with little recourse in the event that an online review is harsh, incorrect, or even fake.

These concerns are not merely theoretical. In a 2015 disciplinary case out of California, a therapist attempted to defend himself against what he considered false accusations in a Yelp review from an angry client. The therapist responded to the review, but then changed his mind, and took the response down. By the therapist’s report — and there is no evidence that either the client or the licensing board disputes this — his response to the client was online for no more than three to five minutes.

Read moreResponding to a Yelp review can cost you

What to do if you were affected by the TherapyNotes outage

Matthew Henry / Burst / Licensed under Creative Commons ZeroMany therapists and counselors maintain their electronic health records through the site TherapyNotes. (TherapyNotes and this blog are unrelated.) Last week, TherapyNotes was down for several days following the discovery of a ransomware virus on one of their servers. [Update 7/6: They’ve put that link behind a login wall. Here’s a cached version.] If you use TherapyNotes for your records, you may be wondering what to do now.

Read moreWhat to do if you were affected by the TherapyNotes outage

The risks of online psychotherapy

Best practices in the online practice of couple and family therapy - coverIn the past three weeks, we’ve discussed what we know and don’t know about online psychotherapy, and four reasons to move your practice online. As you’ve read, online psychotherapy has a great deal of potential, and may be a good fit for your practice. It does, however, come with some risks to both you and your clients. Here, I’ll address some of those risks and how you can minimize them.

Read moreThe risks of online psychotherapy

Four reasons to move your practice online

USMC videoconferencing familyAs I’ve outlined in the past two weeks, there is a lot we know and a lot we don’t know about online therapy. If you’re considering moving part or all of your practice online, there are a lot of things to consider. Do you have the appropriate technology, and are you comfortable using it? Do you have policies and practices ready for online work? Have you ensured that your online work will be fully legally and ethically compliant, and consistent with best practices like those outlined in the new AAMFT Online Therapy Best Practices guide? Are your clients appropriate for online therapy?

Many therapists wrestle with the choice of whether to practice online. While these are not determining factors — in other words, I’m not saying your final decision should be to practice online, as there’s more to consider than what’s below — here are four good reasons to consider making the move.

Read moreFour reasons to move your practice online

What we don’t know about online therapy

USMC videoconferencing familyLast week, I offered a snapshot of what we know about online therapy. That data shows a great deal of potential for online work. However, there is also a lot that we don’t know about online therapy. In today’s post, I’ll address three of those unanswered questions.

As I mentioned last week, the research base for online psychotherapy is growing quickly. It may be that answers to these questions will be more readily available just weeks or months from now. In addition, the fact that we do not yet have answers to these questions should not stop therapists interested in working online from doing so. But for the time being, these are issues where we as a field are still seeking important information.

Read moreWhat we don’t know about online therapy