Privacy Matters

December 3, 2017

Something got me a little worked up today and it highlighted to me the importance of maintaining confidentiality and privacy with those that we work with. Something that seems like no big deal can be highly sensitive to others. And while this incident was seemingly innocent (it was a tag in a facebook post where I had purchased a personal development course) it hit a button for me due to the fact that I am a private person and don’t really want the world knowing all of my business. It is about me having the choice to share what I participate in rather than it being free reign and people knowing the ins and outs of my life. Not a good look for maintaining therapeutic alliance and maintaining boundaries.

It got me thinking about times when I have had to maintain a stance that protects my clients and how easily it would be to let the guard down. In the past few weeks there has been numerous incidents where I have had to say to people that I can’t talk about that, maintain silience or change the subject pretty quickly. It is not like they are searching for info, it was just a conversation that you would have any other time but in this circumstance its off limits. Not to mention that Adelaide has two degrees of separation and it’s a very small world sometimes.

It was someone at a networking event where they know that you know one of your clients but don’t necessarily realise the circumstances, its being tagged in a post where people are seeking help and someone thinks that art therapy would be a good idea, yet you are already interacting with the family. It’s a client innocently asking whether you have seen another person that they know comes to see you, its being at Xmas drinks and someone who has had a session looks to be affirmed about what they discover in the session, its having friends who don’t realise you know people (that you are working with professionally) and mention them but you have to react like you don’t know who they are. Its seeing a client in a supermarket and not acknowledging them as they are with their partner who doesn’t know they are having therapy.
It can be really subtle but as practitioners we have a responsibility to maintain privacy no matter how innocent it may be.

I have been in many circumstances where I have been horrified at what has been revealed about others, and saying ‘oh they wont mind me telling you’ is certainly no reason to do so. If I use examples of clients in my teaching, I change some details and keep identifying features neutral but it comes down to protecting clients choice to reveal who they see and what they do.
And while no one got hurt in my situation today and I was being a little sensitive, all has been rectified. It really reminded me how we may not realise the impact of something but also a private post in a facebook group may not be that private!
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