Six Best Practices for Living a Social (Media) Life for Therapists
by Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW
Yes, you can be a therapist and use social media, too. In fact, as our world becomes increasingly connected via virtual platforms and applications, it’s nearly impossible to just say no to social media.
We use social media for everything from keeping up with friends and family to marketing our practices to collaborating with colleagues around the world. Think not just Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but also Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, wikis, Pinterest, blogs, forums, product and services review sites, and even social gaming.
Yet as therapists, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than many other professions when it comes to social media. To be both effective and ethical mental health providers, we need to establish clear boundaries between our personal and professional lives. This is true in both our physical and digital worlds.
That doesn’t mean we can’t have social networking accounts or leave a digital footprint of any kind. But we do need to take additional steps to avoid the risk of creating multiple relationships with clients. We also need to show a higher sensitivity to the content we share and interact with.
Not sure where to start? First, check with your employer about social media policies they have in place that could affect your activity. Then follow these six best practices for maintaining a social (media) life for therapists.
#1 – Lock Your Personal Channels Down
Use the highest possible privacy controls to keep your information and activity private. Consider using alternate contact information for creating social accounts or other personal interactions (such as leaving a review). Remember that the content you post could be reshared by approved contacts. In addition, any professional activity done on your personal pages is subject to ethics and licensing complaints.
#2 – Create a Separate Persona for Your Professional Self
] If you want to market your services online, create a business or professional page separate from your personal accounts. Remember, this might be where potential clients find you, so put your business foot forward to build credibility and trust. Always use your professional email to create these pages; use personal email for your personal pages only.
#3 – Do not Interact with Clients Online
Never accept friend requests or otherwise follow clients. If you manage a blog, turn off the public comments feature. Likewise, you should never communicate with clients through social media, including “private” channels like Messenger or direct messages. Unsecured applications and platforms could put patient confidentiality at risk.
#4 – Create a Social Media Policy
If you’re going to maintain a social media presence of any kind, a social media policy should be included in the informed consent process. Your social media policy should make clear that you don’t accept friend requests nor will you follow clients, and why. It should also include a reminder that your professional accounts are public and, therefore, anything your clients post, like, reshare or otherwise interact with will be public.
#5 – Never Assume That Your Activity is Private
Just because you lock down your profile doesn’t mean that your activity with other content—your likes, comments, shares and retweets, Google and Yelp reviews and more—is private. Always consider how your activity could be perceived by clients. Don’t like, comment or share on other pages with the expectation that it will remain private.
#6 – Always Protect Patient Confidentiality
Did I mention there is no guarantee of privacy on the internet? Never seek consultations publicly, even in private therapist groups or listservs. Never post anything about a client even if the post is anonymous and you have anonymized the client’s information. Doing so could risk your reputation, your career, and most important, your client’s mental health journey.
Get More Tips for Best Practices
Want to get more tips for the ethical navigation of social media? Compass Point is offering a one-day session on Best Practices in Private Practice (Ethics). The webinar will be available in March, May, September and November as a live webinar. It will be offered in June and August on location in Mason, Ohio.
I’ll be leading the course, which will provide three CEUs. This training will clarify Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist board and insurance company rules. We’ll also look at best practices for staying in compliance with teletherapy and, yes, social media.
You can learn more about and register for the program on Compass Point Counseling’s website.
Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW
Alyx Fields is a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisory designation. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and her Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. Alyx is the director of the DBT® Center at Compass Point and is a facilitator of DBT® skills training classes. She is a blogger and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping others and their mental health. You can read more of her work on her blog, Your Mental Restoration.
by Megan Korn, Recruiter and Human Resources Leader
Thinking about a career in the mental health field?
If you’re motivated by helping others, becoming a mental health professional could be your calling. As a mental health professional, you step in to help people overcome their life challenges. You can be a source of hope by providing guidance and strategies that enable others to clear obstacles, achieve their goals, and believe in themselves. You can change lives for the better.
In terms of career potential, the field offers many career paths, including social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and psychologist. Better yet, the job prospects are exceptionally promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job growth outlook for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors and for social workers is well above average.
However, careers in the mental health field are not for everyone. If you’re exploring what mental health career is right for you, you should first ask if this field is a good match. You can start by looking at some of the soft skills that are called into play every day.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are needed for success in the workplace. All careers require a mastery of some soft skills, like time management and meeting your commitments. In some fields, soft skills complement technical skills. But in the mental health field, the soft skills can be just as important as the technical skills—if not more so. They also play a major role in your career satisfaction.
Before pursuing a career in this field, ask yourself these six questions.
Do You Like Working With People?
Teamwork and relationship building are foundational to mental healthcare. Working with clients is a given. But depending on your career path, you may also coordinate with other healthcare providers—such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers—as well as partner agencies, such as housing and employment. No matter which path you take, the ability to communicate clearly, to follow up, to take the lead and to manage complex details are all skills you’ll frequently lean on.
Do You Have Empathy and Patience?
Compassion and empathy are keystones to achieving results in this field. Even if you don’t have personal experience with what a client is going through, you need to be able to listen and offer guidance. Patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand with this. People do not change overnight. You will need to work with them over the long haul to address their needs. While the small victories are tremendously rewarding, this is not a field for those who need instant gratification or who are easily discouraged by setbacks.
Do You Enjoy Problem Solving?
] If you are interested in this field, you likely enjoy solving problems. In terms of working with clients, problem solving requires active listening, critical observation, critical thinking and coordination with others. To develop effective strategies and treatment plans, you’ll need to listen to what your clients are telling you—and pay attention to what they are leaving out.
Do You Have a Strong Work Ethic?
Helping people be their best selves is only one component to working with clients. Behind the scenes, a lot of record keeping and follow up takes place. Depending on your caseload, you could be maintaining files for dozens of clients. This requires a high degree of organization and planning, as well as the ability to be self-directed.
Can You Separate the Personal From the Professional?
Professional detachment is a must in this field. Your clients may engage in behaviors or make decisions that you do not agree with on a moral level. You may be challenged by different perspectives. However, you need to reserve judgment and meet your clients where they are to help them. Likewise, you need to set healthy emotional boundaries between your personal and professional lives—in both the physical and digital worlds.
Are You Adaptable?
No matter what career path you choose, no two days are alike. Mental health providers often need to adjust on the go. You may need to work weekends and evenings. You may need to be on call. You will always need to adapt your approach to your clients and their needs. While this is a positive for those who thrive on change, it can also be cause for stress and even burnout. Stress management is a key tool that mental health professionals need to master.
(Read: Tips for Recovering from Burnout and Finding Balance)
Finding a Good Fit for Your Career
We may be a bit biased, but we believe a career spent helping others is a virtuous undertaking. And the field is in critical need of qualified, compassionate providers.
If you think the mental health field is right for you, the next best step is to thoroughly research the career paths that most resonate with you. Questions to ask yourself include:
What kind of populations do you want to work with?
What type of setting do you want to work in?
How much time are you willing to invest in post-secondary education?
What type of schedule do you want to establish?
What is your desired salary?
What are the license requirements in your state?
Most careers in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree and a license. Your career goals may also require you to pursue a master’s degree or higher. Learning everything you can about where an academic program can take you before you apply is the best use of your time and money.
Have questions about your career or interested in joining our team? I’m always happy to talk with prospective therapists. Contact me at 888-830-0347.
Megan Korn is Compass Point’s Recruiter and Human Resources Leader. Megan has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She started her career as a nurse in medical surgery and oncology, before shifting to a career in healthcare recruiting. When she’s not recruiting and supporting specialized providers for our team, Megan enjoys the great outdoors, time with her family and taking her dog for walks.
Tips On Becoming A Preferred Provider
You have organized all your important documents, pulled together your logins and passwords for your CAQH and NPI accounts and are getting ready to submit all your applications. While attending a CEU training you hear from a colleague at a CEU training one of the insurance companies you planned to join is no longer accepting new clinicians.
How can you set your application apart from all the other contenders in the area?
Tip #1: Credentials Matter.
Insurance companies prefer clinicians with training. A provider that is certified in EMDR or DBT for example, registered as a play therapist or has a Chemical Dependency license may have a better chance of reaching the top of the pile.
Tip #2: Less is More.
When listing your specialties and treatment modalities, don’t list all of them. Stick to the more desirable and unusual. A clinician that speaks English and Spanish and treats depression is more likely to gain a slot in the “closed or limited” network than a clinician that speaks only English and treats depression.
Tip #3: Think real estate. Location, location, location!
Yes, location matters. If you receive a rejection letter after applying to an insurance company due to the area “being saturated” or “no need for your specialty” that is what they are saying. Seek an area that is under-served.
Tip #4: Check your work schedule.
Who wants to see a therapist at 7pm? A working mom of a teenager that has soccer practice right after school and games on Saturday. Think of the age and demographics of your clients. Are they school age children, retirees, or working adults? Offering hours in the evening and on weekends is more desirable for many clients and the insurance companies are aware of this.
Tip #5: The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Yes, you need to be the squeaky wheel. After you submit your application, you need to continually follow-up with the insurance companies. First call to provider relations is to confirm receipt of the application, then a couple weeks later to check the status, and yet a couple more weeks later to check the status again. You get the idea. The more you contact them (every two weeks or so) the greater chance of your application being accelerated.
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1. Every paper in a chart (including the intake paperwork, DSM scales you used for assessment, drawings done by client, journal entries they bring in, worksheets, etc) needs the clients name and date at the top, as well as your signature and date at the bottom.
2. All aspects of the detailed progress note need completed in order to be compliant with insurance requirements for all in person points of contact.
3. Document all phone calls, print all e-mails and do a note for all late-cancels/no-shows (document how you contacted them or they contacted you, whether they were charged and why, and follow up plan). These notes should NOT indicate in\out time, modality, persons present, etc
4. Notes need completed and filed before you leave on dates of service. Tragedy can strike you or client at any time.
5. Time in and out must match modality you are billing, name must match the legal name being used by insurance or on client’s ID and that name must be on all forms. If there is a different preferred name, you can indicate that in quotes. Ie: Melinda “Mark” Smith, or Aaron “Joe” Smith. If a couple/family is being seen, all documentation needs to be under the identified/billed clients name and from their perspective….all references to other people are “client’s husband states… or Mark states” etc. Also get multi person release signed.
I have been audited before (not fun) and have recently discussed documentation standards with board. They are clear on the above-mentioned issues and insurance companies can take back money for any of the above issues as well.
Tip from a real clinician -
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