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Do You Know Your Therapist’s Social Media Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

We continue our series on informed consents for treatment in therapy with the discussion of social media policies. If you want to read more about informed consent for treatment check out our previous blogs here.

Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in the amount of therapists in the social media space. Whether a therapist is on Facebook, Instagram, or even TikTok, they probably have some form of a social media policy in place to protect you and themselves from a breach in boundaries.

So what exactly is a social media policy, and why is it important?

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A social media policy is a layer of legal/ethical understanding put into place in order to protect the therapeutic relationship between a client and their therapist. Therapists will often list this policy on their social media pages, in an informed consent, or through a verbal acknowledgement in session. This policy often looks something like this:

What a Social Media Policy looks like…

“In order to prevent breaches in confidentiality and the creation of any dual relationships, the therapist will not accept any “friend requests” or “follows” on any social media platform by any current or former client. If following a business account associated with the therapist, the therapist highly recommends to not engage in comments or direct messaging through these social media platforms as these are not regularly monitored and may put your confidentiality at risk of being breached. The therapist may not reply to any contacts made through various social media platforms. Do not use these platforms to request emergency resources.”

You may also see a version of these policies listed as “disclaimers” on a therapist’s social media accounts. These disclaimers often describe how to engage appropriately with these social media pages, expectations of interactions, ways to maintain confidentiality, and resources in case there is an emergency that needs immediate attention. Reading these policies and disclaimers is an important part of being informed as you enter into a therapy space.

Ultimately, these social media policies are in place to prevent the forming of dual relationships. Dual relationships are an ethical concern for mental health professionals, as it can deteriorate the professional relationship formed with a client. The professional and therapeutic relationship formed between a therapist and client should be the ONLY relationship formed between a therapist and client. Therapists should not form business relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships with their clients due to the risk of harming the client’s therapeutic progress and degrading a therapist’s professional lens when treating a patient. Therapist’s should always prioritize your growth and what is most therapeutically helpful.

If you aren’t sure if your therapist has a social media policy, always feel free to ask, so as not to cross a boundary that is ultimately in place for the betterment of your therapeutic work. For therapists, always be clear about what boundaries are in place to protect your client’s confidentiality and therapeutic process.

peace love happiness, Lee

What are the Limits to Confidentiality in Therapy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms Series

Reading over the consent for treatment is such an important step in starting therapy services. We continue our discussion today with the topic of limits to confidentiality in therapy. (Feel free to check out our previous discussions on “No Secrets” policies and the benefits of therapy.)

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Most of those outside of the mental health field find confidentiality and therapists to be one in the same. These two things feel synonymous as therapists are only second to lawyers when it comes to professionals who hold secrets for their clients. However, those within the mental health field know that confidentiality is actually our second most important priority. This is due to limits of confidentiality in therapy treatment.

Certain professionals are bound to codes of law & ethics. Doctors and therapists have similar codes when it comes to confidentiality. HIPAA laws require healthcare workers to protect a client’s private health information. Unlike lawyers (who practice attorney-client privilege), healthcare workers are required to breach confidentiality when it comes to safety concerns for clients.

So what exactly are the “limits to confidentiality”? Well, for therapists the limits include four things:

  1. Suspicion of child abuse (any person under 18 years of age) of any kind (physical, sexual, verbal, neglect, etc.)
  2. Suspicion of elder* abuse (any person over 65 years of age) of any kind (physical, sexual, financial, verbal, neglect, etc.). *This can also be applied to those with disabilities of any age.
  3. A credible threat to harm oneself
  4. A credible threat to harm someone else

Therapists are obligated to act on these four things because the #1 most important priority in therapy is the safety of a client and those around them. Therapists will report these things either in the moment, if it is time sensitive, or at the very latest within 36 hours of the disclosure of these occurrences.

We ultimately report these disclosures to authority figures such as the local police or child/adult protective services in order to increase the safety of those involved. If it is a suicidal or homicidal threat, the police will be called to escort the client to a hospital setting to get psychiatric care, and/or the threatened party will be notified for their safety. If it is a safety issue concerning a child, elder, or someone who is disabled, the appropriate protective services agency will be notified so they can reach out to those involved and provide appropriate resources to keep the family safe. This is why you may be asked your address at the beginning of every teletherapy session, so if an emergency arises your therapist can send the appropriate people to assist you in your time of need.

“Limits to confidentiality” is ultimately about safety. No therapist wants to see a client in harms way, or others in harms way due to a mental health crisis. So when you are beginning therapy there is no need to be surprised by your therapist mentioning these limits at the onset of treatment.

simplee therapy sign off. Peace, love, happiness, Lee.
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What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

The first step in starting therapy is always looking over and signing a consent form about the treatment you will be receiving. By nature, most people skim over these documents and go right to the signature line, but do you really know what you are signing off on? These treatment agreements outline how therapy can help, what to expect about your confidentiality, your fee for services, and so much more. Today, I want to focus on the “No Secrets” policy that is often included in consents for couples or family therapy services.

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Who does a “No Secrets” policy apply to?

This policy is in place for couples or families participating in therapy together. If you are in individual therapy, this policy most likely wouldn’t affect your treatment. However, if you are entering into therapy with someone else to work on a relationship, this policy may be in place.

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

This terminology is used by therapists to describe a unique policy in place for couples & family services. It is intended to prevent information important to a relationship from being hidden from either party participating in services. It comes from the understanding that when a couple or family are participating in services the “relationship” is the client, not one or the other participants. So in order to uphold what is best for the “relationship” the therapist will not hold secrets for one or the other participants.

Where would I find information about a “No Secrets” policy?

Now this is one of those questions where “it depends” is the only answer. Personally, I include this policy in my informed consents because I want clients to be well informed about this aspect of therapy prior to starting services. However, every therapist has differing ideas on how or when to tell a client about a “no secrets” policy. Some only verbally inform their clients of this policy once they enter into therapy, some will post this policy online or in their office without actually including it on a consent form. While other therapists may not utilize this policy at all, and are open to keeping certain “secrets” a secret.

When would a “No Secrets” policy be implemented?

The policy only gets implemented when something pertinent to the relationship (or detrimental to the relationship) is shared with the therapist by one participant in treatment, but not the other participant. For example, therapists may separate a couple for two individual sessions to assess for certain dynamics within the relationship. If one spouse discloses that they are having an affair in this individual session a therapist may invoke the “no secrets” policy because the information shared would be detrimental to the treatment if not shared with both parties of the relationship.

Why would a therapist have a “No Secrets” policy?

Ultimately, it is to keep the therapy space an open and honest one. When two people consent to participating in therapy treatment it has to be a space where they can both trust the therapist. If the therapist is holding a secret from one participant, it can become a breech of trust not only between the partners, but in the therapeutic relationship as well. Rapport and trust is the foundation of any therapy relationship, so upholding these things are of the utmost importance.

Understanding the consent forms is an important first step in starting the therapy process. Check out my understanding therapy consents series by reading more of the blog here. If you are interested in starting couples therapy reach out for an initial consultation here.

peace, love, happiness, Lee

Self Care Needs to Be a Priority

Learning How to Incorporate Self Care in Your Life

Everyone is talking about self care, but what is it really? Well as mental health has become a less taboo topic in many communities, so has the idea that taking care of yourself can be your number one priority.

Black woman practicing self care with her feet up on table and smiling

You’re probably thinking, “What?? I’m allowed to put myself first?!?” YES!

Self care is not equivalent to being selfish. I repeat, self care is NOT selfish. It is simply the term used to describe the fact that if you are in a healthy state both physically, mentally, and spiritually, then you are better able to show up in the many roles you may play in your life. Whether you are a student, employee, entrepreneur, mother, wife, caregiver, etc., prioritizing taking care of YOU means you are putting your best foot forward in all these areas. Ultimately you are serving those relationships better.

So how do I do this ‘self care’ you speak of??”

Well let me tell you, it is simpler than you think. Self care lives on a spectrum from merely meeting your basic needs to full on pampering yourself. It can be free or very expensive, but that is up to you. It is all about partaking in activities and being intentional about doing things that make you feel good.

“Where do I sign up!?”

Hold on. Before you start booking massage appointments and buying face masks, you need to identify what is it you really need. Pause and get in tune with your body. What are the things that would make your soul smile? Taking the time to really get a grip on your needs allows you to be more intentional about your self care.

Maybe you have been feeling really low, and been having a hard time even getting out of bed. Maybe your self care is just opening a window or taking a long shower. Maybe you have been pulling non-stop overtime at your job and what you really need is a vacation day or two. Maybe you are a new mom who hasn’t gotten a good nights sleep in ages and calling a family member over to watch the little one while you nap is what you really need. This is ALL self care!

“Wow. I didn’t even realize it was that deep.”

Yeah. Taking the time to prioritize yourself and shift your mindset can almost be more work than actually doing the things that make you feel your best, but once you figure this all out the relief it brings is so worth it. Consider getting some help along this process by finding a therapist that fits your needs and can collaborate with you on creating a unique plan for taking care of yourself. Having someone to talk to in and of itself can be just the self care you needed.

bath tub with candle and towel laid close by, How to actually implement self care

The Mental Health Continuum

Why Mental Health Looks Different for Everyone

Worried Wells to Severe Mental Illness. What is “mental health”? What does it look like? Is it a permanent diagnosis or is it an ever changing state of mind?

The answer is…it depends. I will admit this answer was something I heard a lot as I studied for years to become a therapist. That is the nature of the work however. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it is not treatable in the same ways. “Mental health” is on a spectrum. Some individuals go to therapy to discuss small issues that come up on a day-to-day basis. While others go to therapy to manage chronic on-going mental illness. Mental illness is a diagnosable, physiological illness that manifests itself in psychological ways, such as clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and many other diagnosis that are manageable with the correct assistance from a professional.

Example time. If you have a common cold, you will most likely be taking the same medicine as someone else who has a cold. And you both will most likely get better in approximately the same amount of time. Now if you are depressed, you may not be utilizing the same treatment as someone else who is depressed. Because each person’s mind thinks differently, handles stress differently, and responds differently to external stimuli. Therapists have the unique job of taking the time to figure out the right treatment for your mind specifically. Therapy is completely individualized.

There are various ways to approach mental health issues including : self care, talk therapy in an outpatient environment, medication management with a psychiatrist or primary care physician, inpatient care at a rehabilitation center or hospital setting, as well as multiple holistic approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

woman in white tank top standing on concrete surface

Self care can be a simple solution to managing stress and minor mental health concerns on a day-to-day basis. This often emphasizes the holistic approach to maintaining a healthy mental state. A change to your diet, regular exercise, incorporating self care activities, and socializing with trusted family/friends can all help maintain a lifestyle that encourages a healthy mental state. However, for many managing all these aspects of your life can become overwhelming or maybe you have never felt quite balanced in all of these areas of your life.

Seeing a mental health professional in an outpatient environment (such as a private practice setting or local mental health clinic) can help assist you in getting on the right track in all these areas. Mental health professionals include Marriage & Family Therapists, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, and Clinical Psychologists. Seeking out one of these professionals allows you to dedicate an allotted amount of time to talking through the aspects of life that are causing stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, and a plethora of other emotions. Exploring with a therapist where these emotions stem from, how they are affecting you, and solutions to managing these feelings better can greatly improve your mental health. You may see a therapist for a few months or a few years, but the ultimate goal is to get you to a place where you can manage on your own with self care techniques and greater knowledge of your emotions. A mental health professional can also help you discover if a mental illness is what is encroaching on your ability to cope with your life.

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When managing a true mental illness, you want to seek out a Psychiatrist, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, or your Primary Care Physician to consult with your therapist about the possible inclusion of medication in your mental health treatment. These individuals play a vital role in order to coordinate with your team of mental health professionals. This team works with you to find out what methods of treatment will work best for you as an individual. No two mental illnesses look the same or are managed the same way. Whether it is various dosage levels of medication or frequency of therapy appointments, each individual managing a mental illness will have a unique treatment plan. This team will most likely assist you over an extended period of time and teach you how to reach out for additional help when needed, as a mental illness is often chronic and needs to be managed over your life. Remember though that you are the coach of this team, informing your providers of what feels right, what works best, and describing the experience you are having with all aspects of the treatment.

Inpatient care is what mental health professionals often refer to as “the highest level of care”. Some of the autonomy of the individual is lost at this level because it often dwindles down to the safety of the individual and those around them. The treatment is often decided for the individual by a team of professionals trying to diminish the client’s symptoms and protect them from any harm. For some clients this process begins with a threat of harm to themselves or another identifiable person. Police often become a partner in this treatment process, as they are often the first responders when someone calls for assistance during a suicidal or homicidal threat. They are also usually the ones who admit a client to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. Hospital staff at that point become that individual’s treatment team. This is considered a short term treatment option. The goal is to stabilize certain symptoms and identify a “lower level of care” that can help the individual learn how to cope with their symptoms regularly and prevent emergency situations.

This spectrum of mental health is what makes finding the right fit with a therapist so important. Depending on the challenges you face, your background, the level of care needed, and many other factors one mental health professional may be more helpful than another. You walk on a unique mental health path, and must choose the right team to walk alongside you. Where are you on your mental health journey, and how can therapy be of assistance to you?

If you are in a crisis or emergency situation please contact the Access & Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240 or call 9-1-1.
peace, love, happiness, Lee