A Psychotherapist's Guide to Facebook and Twitter: Why Clinicians Should Give a Tweet!

A Psychotherapist's Guide to Facebook and Twitter: Why Clinicians Should Give a Tweet!

by Keely Kolmes

Dr. Kolmes offers firsthand insights into the uses of social media as a professional tool.
It seems strange today, but when I was a graduate student, nobody brought a laptop to school. I was lucky if my practicum sites had a computer that the office administrative assistant might permit me to use. I was the intern in the group who would beg whoever was working at the front desk to let me sneak on during our lunch hour so that I could check my email, write a quick blog post, or see what was happening on BMUG (Berkeley Mac Users Group). This was in 1998, which seems not very long ago, but which was eons ago in cybertime.
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Keely KolmesKeely Kolmes, PsyD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. She writes and speaks on the intersection of clinical care and social media and provides training and consultation to other mental health professionals on these topics. She is currently researching the impact of extra-therapeutic encounters on the Internet between therapists and their clients. She will be presenting at the 2010 APA Convention this August on a panel called Social Media and Psychology—Opportunities and Challenges for Practitioners. Her C.V. and blog are available on her website She keeps a blog specifically to help psychotherapists understand and manage social media: drkkolmes.com/blog/clinicians. She can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/drkkolmes.
I really appreciate this article. I had a private practice approximately 5 years ago and I continue to have former clients attempt to friend my personal Facebook page. I have no professional presence online and find the process of turning down these requests to be challenging. Thank you for this article which helped to at least validate some of my concerns.
Very clear and helpful article on the advantages and pitfalls of social media.
Good information however I would like to know what other feel about professionals using clients FB profiles as a way of learning more about the client. I also have a peer who regularly will scan clients pages to see if they have reported and relapse with their friends or even if they still have contact with their old using friends. I think this is a slippery slope but it can be a good idea to check if clients are doing what they are supposed to be or just jumping thru the hoops.
I think therapy is a place ripe for reaping huge gains via social media. I am a social worker in therapy with a clinical psychologist over grief & loss issues... She & I agreed to use texting & FB to see if this connection to her between weekly sessions would help mitigate my anxiety. It worked wonderfully. I don't have boundary issues & we talked about it on an ongoing basis, but I do think there is a subset of clients for whom this is perfect for (teens & texting - text me when or if you feel....). As long as the client understands this is a tool for healing & will end when the therapy ends I think it's a tool that should be considered with some populations.
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Describe how therapists can use social media to augment their professional practice.
  • Identify the legal and ethical issues affecting the use of social media.
  • Identify common mistakes and pitfalls therapists may encounter when using social media.
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