I Googled my therapist. Is that okay?

In short, yes it is okay.

There are a number of reasons why you may Google a therapist – it may be as part of a screening process as you are selecting a therapist, it may be out of curiosity about your counsellor, or it might be part of a desire for connection between sessions, especially where attachment is a consideration. All of these feelings are okay, and a therapist should not shame or blame you for searching for them on the internet.

Googling a therapist can raise feelings of guilt for some clients, and I think that it is useful in therapy to discuss the relationship as openly as you feel able. I would suggest that having a conversation with your therapist around your internet search could be a great opportunity for good work in therapy. While it is fine to look your therapist up online, sometimes doing so can cause discomfort or even distress and if you find you are experiencing negative effects, I think it is especially important to discuss that with your therapist, and to consider whether the behaviour is unhelpful to your process.

As a therapist I am mindful about my internet presence, and work reflexively to ensure the content I produce online both keeps me feeling safe, and is unlikely to negatively impact my relationships with clients. Were a client to read any of my publications or public social media content, I would encourage discussion around that in the therapy room; I don’t wish for my online activity to become an obstacle to therapy for any client, therefore when it emerges in the relationship it feels really important that a client can be honest with me about the impact my activity has. That which presents itself in the relationship is inevitably part of the work.

I believe that the responsibility for managing online presence lies squarely with the therapist. Training exists to help therapists to ethically manage their social media activity and I strongly urge any therapist who is unsure about managing the public or private side of their social media content to take up these training opportunities.

These are relatively new ethical considerations, but in my view, absolutely vital ones for all therapists who engage with social media.

So why do I use social media? Well, essentially I wanted to blog. I felt like I wanted to be part of a conversation, and particularly to raise the profile of the topic of harm in therapy. I felt (and still feel) that in order to support the integrity of the profession, this discussion needs to be more present in our awareness than it feels at the moment. If I can be a part of that, then great. To do that I have to feel secure that I am not putting my clients at risk of harm, and for this reason I continue to engage with online training content, read and listen to the experiences of other therapists who blog and engage with the online community in what is hopefully a mutually supportive way.

I have thought carefully about what I do and do not disclose publically, and while I believe therapists have the right and responsibility to make their own best decisions about this, for me, I prefer not to disclose many details of my journey or my therapeutic process. This is both to ensure that I retain a sense of safety online, and also out of consideration of the potential impact of such disclosures on clients.

Lastly, another ethical question comes to mind: Is it okay for therapists to Google their clients? I will answer with my own personal view of this, which is an offer and not an undebatable truth. I have never, and will not Google my clients. This is my personal and professional boundary. The reason for this is that I am interested in the client who presents themselves in the therapy room. If there are parts of my client’s life that they do not wish to share with me, I feel it is important to respect their choice and their autonomy.

9 thoughts on “I Googled my therapist. Is that okay?”

  1. Interesting stuff here. Had you written it for both people in counselling or therapists or trainee therapists or all these? I found it very useful and it certainly got me thinking. I belong on another online community who occasionally share a little too much information about their clients.

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    1. Thank you! My blog seems to attract readers from all these groups, so I tend to hold all in my awareness as I write. I hope there is something of use for everyone. Yes I have seen some over-disclosure about clients online before too. I think it’s easy to forget that the internet is a public realm, even closed Facebook groups and the like. I’m glad you enjoyed the post 😊

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  2. What are your views about therapists commenting on others’ blogs where the post content relates to mental health or trauma? Is it ever okay to make negative or confrontational comments, or should you keep your opinions to yourself in that situation?

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    1. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a situation like you describe. Do you mean therapists posting on the blogs of people who experienced trauma, as opposed to the blogs of other therapists discussing trauma? I can’t comment on specific instances, but I come from a position of ‘first, do no harm’ in all of my professional activity, including online. I would think that commenting on other people’s trauma-related experiences in a confrontational way is not going to be constructive at all and has the potential to do harm. It doesn’t sound like a particularly professional course of action to me.

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      1. I meant commenting on non-therapist’s blogs. I’ve seen a few established therapists who blog in their own names and who also occasionally comment on other people’s blogs. For the most part the comments they’ve written have been supportive and encouraging, but I’ve seen one situation where the therapist appeared really frustrated with the blogger and was quite critical of them – and seemed totally okay with that and the negative reaction it provoked.

        It made me wonder about how difficult it is – even for trained therapists – to curb the instinct to weigh in on the problems of complete strangers, when it must feel like the entire rest of the internet gets to do that so why not them?

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      2. Hmm, that’s interesting. I think there’s something about boundaries there. I think when you present yourself online as a therapist you have a duty to uphold professional boundaries online. If I were the therapist you describe I would be wanting to reflect on my motivation and wondering whether I could get whatever needs are being touched upon met in ways that don’t have the potential to impact on other people in that way. Particularly because the internet is an uncontained environment.

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  3. I am glad I found your blog. I believe you listened to a podcast on which I was interviewed.
    Having experienced a couple of therapists who did not have good boundaries, and suffering the consequences of their behavior, it is wonderful to hear such clear strong words supporting good boundaries in the therapy relationship. I really do not believe most therapists understand the huge imbalance of power and emotional vulnerability within therapy. I also don’t think most people can grasp how devastating it can be when things become toxic within that relationship. Thank you for the work you do.

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    1. Hi Analie, thanks for your kind words. I did indeed listen to your podcast and actually I have read your book too. I want to thank you for speaking so courageously and eloquently about what happened in your therapy and raising awareness of the devastating effect that your experiences had for you. I think it is hugely important that therapists are talking about harm and listening to clients’ experiences. For me, it is the only way to ensure we are thoughtful about how we manage difficulties in client relationships, avoid harm and promote the integrity of psychotherapy. Best wishes.

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