Uh Oh, My Client Found Me on Social Media
As a practice owner, you WANT to be able to say, “My client found me on social media,” with a smile on your face. What happens when it becomes an ethical issue though? After all, podcasting, blogging, and posting helpful information on social media are all amazing ways to help your ideal client find you. Listen and I will tell you exactly what to do if things go sideways.
TCCBB Episode #19 Uh Oh, My Client Found Me on Social Media
Can therapists advertise on social media?
The short answer? Yes.
The longer answer? Yes if you know how to use it, and if you have established goals and KPIs that will tell you if it is actually doing what you want it to do.
If you have checked both of those boxes, then it’s time to create a social media policy for your informed consent (also called a consent for treatment). Why? Because potential clients aren’t the only ones who will be seeing and engaging with the amazing content you are creating.
After all, if potential clients find you because of your amazing blogs, podcasts, and Tik Toks, they will probably want to continue to follow you after they become your client.
This is an issue you must address at the very beginning, for several reasons.
- Social media is a public forum making it difficult to protect your client’s identifying information
- Protecting your client’s identifying information is part of your job
- Your client deserves to hear how you will be doing that part of your job
How do we do that?
With a social media policy in your informed consent.
What 3 things should a social media policy include?
If don’t have a social media policy in your informed consent and you are saying to yourself, “I don’t know what I would do if a client found me on social media,” don’t panic!
Most of the time our clients want to protect their identifying info as much as we do. And they want to respect your boundaries.
Here are a few tips for an informed consent social media policy:
- Explain that you will not communicate with clients in any fashion through social media and that includes emergencies.
- Help clients understand that you will not comment on their posts, follow in return, or comment on their likes and comments on your posts. That doesn’t mean you don’t like them, it just means you are protecting their identity as your client.
- Emphasize you will not tolerate tagging or naming another one of your clients and if they do that, there will be consequences.
No matter how well you craft your social media policy, don’t just depend on that and assume your client understands. Have the conversation with your outside voice.
Nobody likes fine print.
What is the main challenge of therapists using social media?
We are our own worst enemy sometimes. What do I mean by that?
Let’s say you have a client you have been seeing for a long time.
They post a glowing comment on one of your social media posts and share it. You think to yourself, ‘just this once’ you will post a thank you for sharing.
A few days later, they share again, but you post nothing.
Can a client get their feelings hurt because of your online actions? You betcha.
When you make exceptions to your own boundaries you may spend a lot of time doing cleanup if and when things go sideways. It’s often too late at that point to have a conversation in session, so make sure you have an ethical decision making model and follow the steps. Consult with a colleague and legal professional. Take decisive action that protects your client.
How can a therapist maintain ethical boundaries when using social media?
In the best case scenario, being able to say, “My client found me on social media,” means your marketing is working! Blogging, podcasting, Instagram, and Tik Tok are all great ways to help a potential client become your actual client. Clearly defining your social media policies, adding them to your informed consent, and following them to the letter are just a few of the steps you can take to maintain ethical boundaries.
Blog post by Kate Walker LPC/LMFT Supervisor in Texas
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