Warning!! This isn’t the most exciting post of all time but it’s important!
I’ve wrestled with the idea of having a blog for almost a year. What should I write? There are so many good lifestyle, personal style, design, and cooking blogs. With school in full swing, I have enough school reading that personal reading is rare and precious. Politics make me angry. As far as I can tell, though, there aren’t too many blog resources for counselors, especially written from the point of view of a young counselor exploring the field for the first time. My classes are always though-provoking and leave many paths to explore. Bingo! Finally, a place to explore all those paths. But then the question arises: Should I even have a blog?
My textbooks and teachers frequently stress the importance of appropriate self-disclosure and appropriate boundaries. But we don’t really address how to do this online, other than being advised against offering online counseling services and not adding current or former clients as friends on Facebook. What about blogs?
Blogs do carry a few unique ethical issues. First, how should I maintain appropriate self-disclosure? Like Facebook and other social media, blogs encourage sharing of words and photos. How much is too much? Second, I must maintain respect and confidentiality in discussing events that involve people other than myself, like my teachers, classmates, future clients, and even husband. Last, digital publications are permanent. Every tweet, Facebook post, blog post, and even email can be intercepted, duplicated endlessly, and survive forever on some server somewhere. Everyone on Facebook suddenly realized how true that is when the site switched to the timeline model and suddenly, every angsty post-breakup status update was staring them in the face and we had to weed through years of posts.
I went through these issues and consulted a few sources first. First up, the ACA Code of Ethics. The section on technology mainly concerns delivering services electronically and maintaining websites intended for client use. The Code of Ethics was last updated in 2005, and doesn’t yet address social media and our rapidly changing technological landscape. I am curious as to what will change with the next major update. I found a little more guidance in the section regarding media presentations (Section C.6.c). This section basically states that counselors using any type of media to comment on the profession or provide advice to other counselors must base their statements on appropriate and updated literature, must act in accordance to the rest of the ACA Code of Ethics, and to stress to readers that this information does not mean that a counseling relationship has been formed.
Next up, I consulted Jen Bingaman, the hilarious blogger from The Pursuit of Sassiness. (You should read her if you don’t yet!) She’s been covering client-side issues since June 2011 and also contributes to the ACA’s blog. She agreed that there are few counseling/counselor blogs right now, and we’re both navigating new waters. For her blog, she adds personal details if they are therapeutically useful or are completely mundane, and thinks through things carefully, lest a future client Google her. She also stressed letting personality shine through, since counselors are people, too, with varying personalities and experiences.
After much thought, I have decided how to handle this situation for now. I will use my real name, as I feel that a pseudonym would a stressful, inauthentic charade. In maintaining authenticity, I like Jen’s approach and will adopt a similar approach. I am me, and while I strive to maintain some distance between myself and my readers, I also have some valuable thoughts, opinions, and experiences to share. In keeping with the Code of Ethics, I will make sure that my facts are up-to-date and accurate. Last, I will continue to visit with these issues as I grow and change as a counselor and as our field changes.
And with that…away we go!