Do Therapists Get to Post About Their Personal Lives?
My own fears have kept me from writing about some of the most transformative years of my life. About seven years ago, unbeknownst to me at the time, I started busting out of a cocoon of self-hatred and self-denial. But I’ve kept myself from writing publicly about these experiences of momentous change, growth, insight, and self-love because I am a therapist.
As therapists, we have to very carefully weigh the pros and cons of self-disclosure and how that might impact our clients. My clients are incredibly important people to me, and I do not want to do anything to jeopardize their safety and relationship with me or their well-being. I am also a very important person to myself, and I am learning how essential it is to fully express myself in the world—in the same ways I would encourage my clients to.
As I consider the ethical arguments for and against therapists sharing personal stories online, I recognize that there is a big difference between self-disclosure in the therapy room and blog-posting for the global community. Self-disclosure inside a therapy session is, generally-speaking, discouraged. Posting personal stories online for people in all lines of work is, generally-speaking, encouraged.
However, as a therapist, I don’t want to be cavalier and simply post whatever I want. I do hold my clients’ well-being as equal to my own, so I want to consider both as I make the decision to make public my own experiences.
The potential downsides to therapists posting personal stories online are that clients may feel less safe in their relationship with their therapist if they:
- Feel ‘required’ to read their therapist’s blog posts.
- Find themselves embarrassed to be sneaking a peak into their therapist’s personal life.
- Disagree with the ways their therapist is living their life.
- Feel judgmental about what they read.
- Are uncomfortable with any differences in life experiences and perspectives between themselves and their therapist.
The potential benefits for a client/therapist relationship are that a client could:
- Gain additional insights into their own lives through reading their therapist’s thoughts.
- Feel relieved that they are not alone in the human struggle.
- Read something that sparks important conversations during sessions that then spurs their continued growth and healing.
Another potential upside for those who happen upon my website as they are searching for a new therapist for themselves is that they will be able to get a feel for who I am before we meet, which may mean that our new relationship has a leg-up right from the start.
I recognize the inherent risks to my making my life journey public and commit to minimizing the potential for injury. I can do this by making it clear to my clients that:
- They are not expected, required or even encouraged to read my blog.
- If they do read something, they are more than welcome to bring up any reactions, positive or negative, during our time together.
- I will not engage in public online discussion with them as that would jeopardize their confidentiality and privacy.
- They are not beholden to take into consideration anything they read about me as they work with their own life journeys in therapy.
I have arrived at a place in my life where–to butcher a beautiful Anais Nin quote–the day has come where the act of not expressing myself has become more detrimental to me than the fear of how others will receive what I want to share.
As I strive to support my clients to be authentic, discerning, communicative, and trusting in the process, I also strive to support those things in myself.
So, from this stance, I will write as both a therapist and as a human being, sharing how my path and realizations have brought me to places of (imperfect) unconditional love for myself and others–how I’ve moved from seeing life as an arduous trudge to a miraculous gift.
I look forward to engaging with you (or not) through these posted offerings.
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