Social media is a great marketing tool but can client and therapist safety be ensured? Is it ethical for counsellors to market themselves on social media? Is there a danger that self-disclosure could affect the therapeutic relationship?
Why is social media helpful for marketing?
When you are using social media for marketing:
- You’ll be helping people because you’ll be using your knowledge and skills to produce interesting posts. You provide a useful service while also showcasing your expertise.
- You’ll build relationships and people will know, like and trust you. This means they’ll be more likely to recommend you to others or contact you
- You’ll make yourself memorable because you will be appearing in people’s social media feed
If you’d like some help with your social media marketing skills, contact Josephine
Self-disclosure and social media
However, there’s a really big barrier to using social media for marketing and that’s around fear of self-disclosure.
It’s argued this may be detrimental to the client. It makes the therapy about the counsellor, not the client, and it may blur the professional boundaries.
(read more about self-disclosure in counselling here)
So therapists can be really concerned about self-disclosure and this is inhibiting.
- What if self-disclosure gets in the way of the work?
- What if a client has a negative reaction to something we say on social media?
- What if we alienate both our existing and our potential clients?
This is a real dilemma for many therapists and means that they shy away from saying anything in public apart from inspirational quotes.
And I don’t know about you, but
- There’s only so many inspirational posts I can write; and
- There’s only so many inspirational posts I can read!
So how do we deal with the tricky problem of self-disclosure in social media?
resolving the self-disclosure problem
Make sure you have a clear divide between your personal and professional personas on social media.
That means follow simple rules like:
- have a separate business page, account or twitter handle for potential clients and colleagues to follow
- keep personal profiles and accounts private so that clients cannot see personal information
- do not accept friend requests from clients but allow them to follow professional accounts
Make a decision about what is appropriate sharing for you dependent on your modality. If you are working within a strict psychodynamic model you may be much less willing to share personal information than someone else.
It is possible to make material relatable without it having to be strictly personal. You could use “examples” which may be taken from your experience but not described as such.
Think about when self-disclosure can be helpful. It is when it is done with the client’s best interest in mind.
Appropriate sharing of a personal story can give the message that it is possible to meet life’s challenges and work towards a resolution. Despite what the text books teach, many clients like to know their therapist has similar life experience.
Remember: you don’t need everyone reading your page to like you or want to refer you. You just need to reach people with whom you can build a relationship.
Therefore, acknowledge that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and try not to worry about alienating people.
There will always be people who dislike what you have to say. They have a choice. They can choose to follow you and be irritated by you, or they can stop following you. They are not your responsibility.
However, for the people who you excel at working with, your words will speak. These people won’t find you irritating or alienating. They will agree with you. They will find your words comforting and enlightening.
Your words will help to build a relationship with them. The result will be that they refer others to you, or if they’re a potential client, they’ll get in touch.
(see this blog for how to promote yourself via Facebook)
For all the negative press about social media, there is a reason people spend so much time on it. They’re looking for connection. They’re looking for help. They’re looking for someone just like you.
If you’d like some help with marketing yourself on social media, I’m running some training on how to create more of a buzz around your posts.
Contact me to find out more.