This document outlines office policies related to use of Social Media. Please read it to understand how The
Stone Foundation Counseling Group (TSF) and its staff will conduct ourselves on the Internet as Mental Health professionals and how you can expect TSF and its staff to respond to various interactions that may occur between us on the Internet. If you have any questions about anything within this document, I encourage you to bring them up when in the office with your counselor. As new technology develops and the Internet changes, there may be times when TSF will need to update this policy. If TSF does so, you will be notified of any policy changes and an updated policy will be made available on our website www.thestonefoundation.com
TSF and its staff does not accept friend or contact requests from current or former clients on any social networking site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). TSF believes that adding clients as friends or contacts on these sites can compromise your confidentiality and your respective privacy. It may also blur the boundaries of our therapeutic relationship.
TSF keeps a Facebook Page for professional use to allow people to share our blog posts and practice updates with other Facebook users. All the information shared on this page is available on TSF’s website.
TSF’s primary concern is your privacy. Note that if followed on any Social Media platform, TSF and its staff will not follow you back. Our reasoning for that is we believe casual viewing of clients’ online content outside of the therapy hour can create confusion regarding whether it’s being done as a part of your treatment or to satisfy personal curiosity. In addition, viewing your online activities without your consent and without our explicit arrangement towards a specific purpose could potentially have a negative influence on the working relationship. If there are things from your online life that you wish to share with a counselor, please bring them into your session where the information can be viewed and explored together, during the therapy hour.
Please do not use SMS (mobile phone text messaging) or messaging on Social Networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to contact TSF or any staff. These sites are not secure, and messages may not be read in a timely fashion. Do not use Wall postings, @replies, or other means of engaging with TSF or staff in public or online if a client/therapist relationship has already been established. Engaging with TSF and its staff in this way could compromise your confidentiality. It may also create the possibility that these exchanges become a part of your legal medical record and will need to be documented and archived in your chart. If you need to contact TSF and/or staff between sessions, the best way to do so is by phone or email. See the email section below for more information regarding email interactions.
USE OF SEARCH ENGINES
It is NOT a regular part of TSF to search for clients on Google or Facebook or other search engines. Extremely rare exceptions may be made during times of crisis. If your counselor has reason to suspect that you are in danger and you have not been in touch with your counselor via usual means (coming to appointments, phone, or email) there might be an instance in which using a search engine (to find you, find someone close to you, or to check on your recent status updates) becomes necessary as part of ensuring your welfare. These are unusual situations and if your counselor ever resort to such means, they will fully document it and discuss it with you at your next appointment.
BUSINESS REVIEW SITES
You may find TSF’s practice on sites such as Google, Psychology Today, Yelp, Healthgrades, Yahoo Local, Bing, or other places which list businesses. Some of these sites include forums in which users rate their providers and add reviews. Many of these sites comb search engines for business listings and automatically add listings regardless of Social Media Policy, whether the business has added itself to the site or not. If you should find TSF’s listing on any of these sites, please know that the listing is NOT a request for a testimonial, rating, or endorsement from you as a client. The American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code states under Principle 5.05 that it is unethical for mental health providers to solicit testimonials: “Mental Health providers do not solicit testimonials from therapy clients/patients because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.” Of course, you have a right to express yourself on any site you wish.
But due to confidentiality, we cannot respond to any review on any of these sites whether it is positive or negative. I urge you to take your own privacy as seriously as we take our commitment of confidentiality to you. You should also be aware that if you are using these sites to communicate indirectly with TSF and its counselors about your feelings of our work, there is a good possibility that we may never see it. If we are working together, it is our hope that you will bring your feelings and reactions to our work directly into the therapy process. This can be an important part of therapy, even if you decide TSF and or any of our counselors are not a good fit. None of this is meant to keep you from sharing that you are in therapy at TSF wherever and with whomever you like.
Confidentiality means that TSF cannot tell people that you are a client and the Ethics Code prohibits
TSF from requesting testimonials. However, you are more than welcome to tell anyone you wish that TSF or any of its counselors is your mental health provider or how you feel about the treatment provided to you, in any forum of your choosing. If you do choose to write something on a business review site, I hope you will keep in mind that you may be sharing personally revealing information in a public forum. I urge you to create a pseudonym that is not linked to your regular email address or friend networks for your own privacy and protection. If you feel TSF or any of its staff has done something harmful or unethical and you do not feel comfortable discussing it with administration or your counselor, you can always contact the Board of Social Work Examiners, which oversees licensing, and they will review the services provided.
Board of Social Work Examiners
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215
LOCATION BASED SERVICES
If you used location-based services on your mobile phone, you may wish to be aware of the privacy issues related to using these services. TSF does not place the practice as a check-in location on various sites such as Foursquare. However, if you have GPS tracking enabled on your device, it is possible that others may surmise that you are a therapy client due to regular check-ins at our office on a weekly basis. Please be aware of this risk if you are intentionally “checking in,” from our office or if you have a passive LBS app enabled on your phone.
TSF and its staff prefer using email only to arrange, confirm or modify appointments. Please do not email content related to your therapy sessions, as email is not completely secure or confidential. If you choose to communicate with TSF or staff, be aware that all emails are retained in the logs of your and my Internet service providers. While it is unlikely that someone will be looking at these logs, they are, in theory, available to be read by the system administrator(s) of the Internet service provider. You should also know that any emails I receive from you and any responses that I send to you become a part of your legal record.
Thank you for taking the time to review TSF’s Technology and Social Media Policy. If you have questions or concerns about any of these policies and procedures or regarding potential interactions on the Internet, do bring them to our attention so that we can discuss them.