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 it 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.