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Dear client, does your therapist discuss you on social media?

Dear client, does your therapist discuss you on social media?

Dear potential client, or perhaps one already in a therapy chair/room. I wanted to speak out on your behalf, rather than write an article that would require you to do anything. You do indeed have that choice of course and perhaps this is a question you will raise once you have seen this article. If you are not old enough I hope your parents/carers or some professional reads this and considers its contents on your behalf.

I have been commenting on lots of posts on social media over the last few years and I now feel that I need to address and speak out on behalf of clients everywhere. You see being a human and doing the very kind of behaviour I’m going to talk about I made a mistake in my training and posted a picture of my birthday party being held at a training group because I was excited, and I also made an assumption that other trainees (begin adults) knew how to use social media. I was very wrong, and some of my peers were identified through their Facebook settings. It resulted in a shaming and guilt laden experience for me and one I quickly learned from.

What I see and comment on, on social media leaves me very worried for some of you. We provide you with a safe space and we discuss with you, reassure and ensure that sessions are confidential, and we mean it.

Well mostly, most of us do. Some of us however…

I would like to let BACP, UKCP, BPS, BAPT, BABPT, IAPT, NHS, NCS know some of your therapists are doing exactly this.

Dear child and/or adult counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists….

Social media is not supervision, nor is it a peer group, nor is it a safe space to talk about client work. It is not a an ego boosting platform for you to parade the numbers of clients you see. It is not a place to share photos of your work created together, it is not a place to share their stories of the day, nor is it a place to identify them through comments such as “Im glad to have supported this boy/girl”. It is not a place to discuss issues that you are struggling with clients nor is it a place to discuss how the sessions have gone.

Take it to supervision and keep it confidential. Keep it to yourself or discuss it with peers when you are guaranteed a safe space such as a therapy room, training room or classroom. One where you know that the other people in the room are your profession also. Social media is exactly that, its not your living room where you’re having a chat with a friend, you are not protected and its not confidential! Your post can be seen. Potentially by anyone who has access to the internet.

Do not share (identifying) information about your clients so they can be traced because here is a little experiment that some clients, stalkers, hackers, people, and companies do. I have also carried this out and here’s why this is a problem for you.

Let’s take Facebook groups for a moment: I’m going to pretend that I run a group called real counsellors only. So, I set it up and make potential group members answer a question. I’m not tech savvy so this question is are you a real counsellor? (I know, this happens believe me) So now I have 2,000 group members. Its very difficult for me to watch all of the posts that happen on the page, but its okay as I pinned a message saying, “no real client work posted here thanks!” A post appears about a counsellor struggling with a child client, whose 8 years old and they see this client at school and its Friday.

A potential client identifier (this sentence is important and I’ll come back to it shortly)

Will/can/might do this…They join these kinds of groups for varying reasons, as they want to know more? They see the post, they click on your profile, its not locked and now they can see your pictures, your family members, your friends, the groups you like, the groups you’re in, pages you like and so on. Most importantly for this exercise they see your practice, the school you have posted about where you work or your website as its advertised on your page. The goto your website, and/or they look at the school website in this example. They perhaps go and wait on a Friday near to the practice/school/setting and they see the clients leaving that day/time. I’m aware that schools are contained and its only leaving the grounds that children can be identified by the public, but bear with me and you’ll see why this is still an issue. They now know something about that child’s work so this could give them a starting conversation eg, “so you like painting?”

The client identifiers might be: The client themselves. Imagine if that came up in a session?

They might be potential abusers, yes this is a behaviour they would engage in. Lots of parents share photos with their children’s school uniform in and we know that’s how perpetrators learn about potential victims, so this fits the modus operandi here too.

They might be abusive partners, parents, adoptive parents, long lost family members trying to trace the person.

They might be your supervisor?

The peers of the client. Imagine if you’re discussing a sexuality issue that you struggle with and the client is outed?

An Artificial Intelligence programme and yes this is definitely a thing

An identify thief?

And now we have the GDPR ruling coming in it might be a solicitor/organisation?

All trust that clients put in us is sacred, as is the space we allow them to have when they work with us. We are bound by ethics and confidentiality not to identify them. Clients can of course identify us or talk about us on social media and that is their privilege, not ours. We also grant them safe protection of their data and this includes their words, pictures and anything we discuss about them. Social media is NOT the place to do this.

Social media policies won’t cut this as they will be vague or non-actionable, it needs to be in mandatory in training from the outset and it needs implementing now. Trainees need to hear messages that say DO NOT discuss your work on social media, it’s the only way to be crystal clear and to prevent clients being identified/shamed/outed/disrespected.

Please share this message so we can begin to provide our clients with the protection they deserve. My message to Governing bodies is your message (if you have one about this) isn’t working. Trainees are not the only ones carrying out this behaviour on social media (I’ve seen posts from Dr’s/Accred therapists doing exactly this). Ethically we cannot carry on allowing this to happen. Imagine the consequences, law suits and potential deaths/suicide that could be caused by this behaviour.

DITTO Article September 2017 – Fear from the media and critical thinking.

This article has appeared in the quarterly DITTO e-safety magazine which you can access through Alan Mackenzie’s page via my links page or by going to www.esafety-adviser.com

My last article talked about fake news, scare stories and critical thinking. This one is not so far from that in terms of the topic, however, I wanted to write something that feels more hopeful for you as teachers and parents.I took a number of small social media sabbaticals this year for a number of reasons. The main reason being for self-care. You see when you submerge yourself in something, such as a bath you expect to get wet. Well, so the same goes for social media and the incessant negative stories and topics that I research, means that I can become both overwhelmed or begin to view the world in a skewed manner if I don’t practice what I preach in terms of looking after myself. As a professional working with peoples stories of their traumas, negative life experiences and worries for much of my day, this can happen to me as a therapist in the real world, and so in turn researching, cybertrauma can also have this impact. I keep a very close eye on myself in this respect and know when to take some time out and regularly discuss this in supervision to makes sure I am not becoming vicariously traumatised. This is a (helpful) suggestion for you too.As I took these mini sabbaticals during late spring and summertime there were some awful tragedies occurring throughout the world and being shared on social media (no more so than at any other time I might add), however, I made a conscious decision to refrain from social media to see what happened for me as usual, this is one of the points when I research much more closely, it is after all my chosen topic of interest.In short, I found that I both managed the breaks and they were delightful. I am aware that this may cause some people to break into a cold sweat when thinking about taking time out from social media and this is not an article about the benefits of social media sabbaticals. What I did find out, what has interested me and is the remit of this article is that social media exacerbates the fear factor and this was apparent with my clients who brought their social media stories and scares into the therapy room for the entire time I was on my sabbaticals.So what I wanted to communicate is more about the psychology of fear, violence, crime and terrorism and how this is not actually as prominent as social media makes out (this is not rocket science here by the way and you should not be surprised by this statement). Firstly let me introduce two excellent researchers and academics who have studied humans and violence. Stephen Pinker and Gavin de Becker are world-renowned in their studies of human behaviour and violence and show that the incidences of violence are less in terms of prevalence and degrees of actual bodily harm since we began as a species to harm each other (Seriously good reads by both of these authors and I recommend them both).So what does this mean in terms of this article? Well as the new term begins, new pupils, new topics of ‘social media’ issues, well you may find your pupils talk about terror, fear, violence, graphic issues and terrorism much more. This is because Manchester, Grenfell, Barcelona and Finland, North Korea etc have been given much more ‘airtime’ through social media. The increase of this airtime is likely to increase the awareness of this topic into younger peoples lives (year 7-11) and their understanding of this topic is likely to be limited in terms of cognitive skills (reasoning, critical thinking and executive functions- see Pinker’s work). In turn, this may mean they can become fearful of a topic due to limited understanding and ‘gossip’ from their peers who are also in the same frame of reference. I’m sure you all have an understanding of this with the ‘ghost/zombie’ stories we all heard and participated in during adolescence; fear breeds fear.If this is applied to a social media frame then you should be able to see how the miscommunication of fear-based stories of violence create an anxiety in young people that is then further communicated in the hope of understanding it. As teachers I feel you can help your pupils learn to think critically and by challenging the facts around the news stories yourself and with your pupils. You may be able to appease the fear and anxiety somewhat by having these discussions rather than avoiding them. The hopeful news is, as a species we are actually less violent now than in the past. Due to the medium of social media, we can now discuss and share incidents much faster and become aware of issues that in the past would have happened, perhaps in another country (without our awareness). We are actually overloaded with this kind of information and this can skew our thinking in a negative way. What are the options? Perhaps this is the kind of educated debate we can have with young people to support critical thinking, challenge the status quo of fear-based news, create a balanced view of events and also provide ourselves with a reassurance that the world is not as violent as we think and that fear should be our intuitive gift, rather than our daily bread & butter served up with lashings of anxiety, worry and speculation. Let’s change the menu.Start writing your post here. You can insert images and videos by clicking on the icons above.

Holiday images: Its like the last six weeks haven’t happened?

So the last two days, in terms of e-safety, have centred around back to school photographs of children. There have been media posts and many of my social media feeds have been acquainted with some parents challenging this as a ‘trend’. Hooray!!! I have written/blogged about this a number of times/years and feel that the e-safety companies, parents and newspapers can take this participle one on now as I have noticed something else that bothers me, which I find just as, if not more sinister.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not following a current path of over sensationalising cyber/internet-based issues, I am merely hoping to highlight an issue for consideration. This issue is not likely to happen to all users of the internet, however, it is a risk. A risk.

Let me elaborate…. Recently there has been a phenomena that occurs much like the yearly one that happens every 25th December. This phenomenon is called “summer holidays”. Last year I wrote a small piece for an internet safety company and I’d like to expand on it after noticing this upon my return from my annual leave. Again. (Facepalm)

Holiday pictures of children. In surprisingly enough…holiday attire. E.g. Swimsuits, hardly any clothes, no clothes and pictures of children posing with very little in the background (think beach pictures here). So what’s the problem? These are just holiday pictures? It’s the holidays Cath?

Indeed these are holiday pictures, however, if I was (which I am) a person who views these pictures for admiration, celebrations and being pleased for you having a wonderful time then that would be/is lovely. If perhaps the person I am referring to here is not like me and has no interest in celebrating your success and life then this would not be lovely? Perhaps this person would like to use your picture for a more sinister reason. For example, trading it, keeping it, doctoring it (changing or adding details that were not originally there) and then trading it etc. This could be on a social media site or perhaps other areas that the public does not necessarily have general everyday access to.

I hope to make myself much more clear so I will explain that predators of children’s images look for, find, download, sometimes change and upload and share these images. These predators look for pictures of children on the internet and where sexual gratification is sought they may look more-so in the direction of children in less clothing such as swimsuits/naked. The less background there is in the image the easier it is to ‘doctor’ the image or to superimpose further images in or out of it.

Your privacy settings matter and so do those of your children’s images and the only surefire way to protect the images of your children would be to stick with the old fashioned printed out photograph album in the cupboard. You only show these images to people who visit your house then and unless someone was to steal the album the pictures remain safe/private (to the degree that anything can be either safe/private). However, I am aware that in 2017 we want to share our pictures with our friends and family who live close and far away. (Or just for narcissistic reasons in some cases). Herein lies the issue.

I’m not saying that your images will be targeted, but they might. I’m not saying that you don’t keep your privacy settings to friends only, because you might. I’m not saying you have sexual predators on your friends lists, but you might. I’m not saying your public profiles are unsafe from sexual predators, but they might be. I’m saying you don’t really know who is looking at the images of your children and I’m basing this fact on the number of sexual abuse cases that appear with the known fact that in most cases the abuser/predator is known to the victims. It is unlikely that ‘strangers’ from around the world will actively seek out your social media profile looking for images of your children in beach/swimwear… but they might. I’m saying that people you already know/are friends with/follow you etc may just be one of those sexual predators. Your images can be seen by them, you know because you set the privacy settings. if you follow the advice of e-safety companies you may have done this just to ensure that only friends can see the images.

Your children cannot protect their images that you share, you can though. Your children cannot protect their privacy of the images you share, you can though. Fast forward in time and imagine for a moment what your children might say to you about the sharing of their images without their consent/privacy/protection surrounding them. Imagine for just a moment how you may feel if this was one of your images of you as a child, in swimwear that had been actively sought by a sexual predator and your parents were aware of the risks and decided to share it anyway?

One of the things I teach is about the moment of pride/excitement/happiness and general overwhelm of feelings which actually takes offline the rational, forward-thinking, reasoning part of the brain. (Neuronerds…this is executive functioning being sabotaged) It’s those moments of not thinking clearly that creates the issue in the first instance. Parents, I get that you are proud, excited and overjoyed at times and want to share this with your friends, after all, we are a social mammal and this is how we connect, by sharing (stories and in the old days (kidding) those holiday snaps that last all evening…). I get it and social media now allows us to do this ‘in the moment’ without taking a moment.

The ‘cure’? ..Breathe, take a little longer with your moment and consider the implications. If you don’t know what they could be…don’t risk it?