Should Therapists Have Full Transparency With Their Clients?
15 Jul 2014

Should Therapists Have Full Transparency With Their Clients?

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I have been thinking a lot lately about traditional therapy versus popular therapy. Therapy has always followed the same basic model. You come to see me. Tell me the most intimate details of your life. I listen maybe take notes and reveal as little as humanly possible about myself. Am I married? “Why do you want to know?” Do I have kids? “If I did have kids what would you think about that?” Did I have a nice holiday? “How does it feel that I didn’t answer your question?” We were the “blank screen”. You project your issues onto us and we work on them together. You are angry not at me but at your projected image of me (namely your mother).

But things are different now. I mean, there have been many trends in psychotherapy over the years but these days even the most old school of psychoanalysts aren’t immune to the new age of public information. Are you friends with your shrink on Facebook? Follow them on twitter? (I am on both.) And how does our digital age affect therapist/client boundaries? How do therapists maintain their objective neutrality when their clients can Google them or see if they checked in at their favorite restaurant on foursquare. We just know more about each other now. What was once a blank screen is now a feature length film (or at least a preview of one).

I feel fortunate to have found theoretical frameworks that allow me to work as my authentic self in sessions with clients. My clients do not know everything about my life obviously, but I do feel they know me. I believe strongly that when you put two people in a room both are affected and working in relation to the other, even if one is client and one is therapist.

Recently the NY times posted a piece about therapists allowing their clients to read their session notes as well. You can read about this here. I am still trying to decide if I feel this would be ultimately helpful or confusing to the relationship. We have gone further and further from the traditional model but is it worth holding on to any part of it? Should everything be transparent?

Does it hurt the therapeutic boundaries to know more about your therapist personal life (via online sources)? Would you want to read your session notes?

I would love to start a dialogue. Leave your comments here.


Jennifer Byxbee

I am an art therapist and creative arts therapies supervisor in New York City. I have worked as an art therapist for over 9 years with children and adults in a variety of settings. Art Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the creative process in order to promote self awareness, esteem and insight. I provide long and short term individual therapy, group therapy, and supervision for practicing clinicians at my Manhattan office. I also offer remote services.

Comments

  1. dave knazur Says: July 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

    well well Jen, it’s been years hasn’t it? Lol. Somehow this popped up on Facebook today & I must say I really like to the topic. I don’t know exactly how one should work but I am glad to see the models getting closer to some form of transparency. I think I can see both angles in that not seeing the notes makes for a better way to help your patients or for them not to dissect or read over in their minds feelings that they may be judged for that progress may not be what they consider it. However, with psychotherapy, therapy, whatever we want to call it always being a secondarily accepted form of medicine if you will… I can also see how it would be liberating or freeing in the long run because just as if you want to go do your primary care doctor you would have full access to your records.as far as the Facebook, Twitter what not I can understand and think I would favor a boundary there because I think everybody, therapist and patient alike, have a certain degree of either private life for other personality if you want to word it that because work can be work and play can be play a lot of people. while as the therapist, reading someone’s Facebook or Twitter could probably do as much or more good for the sessions as just talking to the client I think there can be an equal amount of damage done to the therapist. Should someone be talking to you about marriage issues, substance abuse issues etc this is something that they have chosen to come and deal with. However if you were the therapist, any person not just you it, has some sort of marriage infidelity or problem posted or discussed on there or any other range of problems I think it would do a lot of damage potentially to the working relationship. this could lead us to the question of should we be more consistent, or practice what we preach as the cliche goes but as we know this is not always the case. So I don’t know if that’s any sort of answer, but it was a very interesting topic to think about and I could go on forever but that’s just the thoughts of the top of my head. Hope you are well

    • Hi Dave,

      Long time! Thanks for your comments. Interesting ideas for sure. Even as I write I go back and forth about just what is helpful and what gets in the way. Oh Ambivalence! I’m sure this is something I will come back to again and again. Good to hear from you and I look forward to our future discussions. All of my best.

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