Networks of contention: what do we expect from psychologists on the Internet?
Man among people
Trying to choose the right specialist, we often pay attention to how he positions himself in social networks. Someone is attracted by psychologists who openly and happily talk about their lives. And someone, on the contrary, is wary of such, preferring to work with a therapist who does not have Instagram or Facebook.
In groups of clients affected by dishonest specialists, they often argue about whether the psychologist (who, in fact, is the same person as we all) has the right to share family photos, a recipe for a favorite cake, or a new song from a favorite artist on social networks. We decided to find out what our experts think about this – psychologist Anastasia Dolganova and specialist in solution-oriented short-term therapy, psychologist Anna Reznikova.
Light in the window
Why do we often look at the psychologist as a celestial? Perhaps this is just part of the development of science: several centuries ago, a doctor who knew how to grow bones or pull out a tooth was considered a magician. And even a little afraid. Today, on the one hand, we are less surprised by the miracles of medicine, on the other, we completely trust ourselves in specialists, believing that they are responsible for our well-being.
“From the perception of the psychotherapist as an evil or good magician, we have come to perceive the therapist as a colossus, an ideal on which you can lean your own fragile life,” explains Anastasia Dolganova. – The client’s need for this is as great as the inability of psychologists and psychotherapists to meet these desires …
Outside of the profession, there is a whole mythology about how a psychotherapist should and should not be both as a specialist and as a person. For example: he can be told everything, and he will accept everything, because he is a therapist. He should not be mad at me, he should not be rude, he cannot be bored with me. He should not talk about himself, should not get fat, get sick or get divorced. He cannot go on vacation if I feel bad. He cannot be opposed to the fact that I am taking advice from another specialist. He should like all my feelings and decisions – and so on. ”
Psychotherapy is primarily a job. This is not an ideal life or ideal people. It’s hard work
Sometimes we are disappointed in the psychologist with very unexpected things – and far from all of them relate, in fact, to work. For example, a client refuses to work with a therapist because he is “unsportsmanlike”, and the client interrupts the meeting after three sessions, because the specialist’s office is not in perfect order. Everyone has the right to their ideas about the beautiful, but the specialist cannot always predict what will become the trigger for the client. And both can get hurt in this situation, and very seriously.
But charm, too, should be handled extremely carefully. It happens that users of social networks are so fascinated by the photos of a psychologist on a motorcycle race, in the company of their beloved grandmother or cats, that they want to get to him and only to him. What is this client approach signaling to the psychologist?
“If a client chooses a therapist based on what he nevertheless writes about his personal life, it would be nice to talk about it at the session. Usually, such an approach hides a lot of fantasies and even pains of the client that can be discussed, ”Anna Reznikova believes.
Anastasia Dolganova recalls: “Probably one of the most unconscious ideas both by psychologists and their clients is that psychotherapy is actually primarily a job. This is not an ideal life or ideal people. This is a difficult work, and a romantic or demonic halo only disturbs him. ”
To know or not to know is the question!
Some potential customers evaluate a specialist precisely in terms of how open he is on the Internet. What kind of feelings does one feel when he basically does not want to know anything about a specialist as a person and chooses a psychologist according to the principle “if not on Facebook, then it’s definitely a good professional”?
“I don’t want to know anything about you” means “I want you to be an ideal,” Anastasia Dolganova explains. – Even psychoanalysts, for whom the absence of self-disclosure has long been an essential part of professional technology, now do not categorically apply to this principle. A mentally and psychologically healthy person is able to endure another person next to him, not idealizing him – and this is part of the growth and development, the tasks that any deep psychotherapy will pursue. ”
Work is only part of the personality. Behind any specialist is overcoming and experiencing, mistakes and victories, pain and joy. He really can love stupid comedies, felting from felt and ice fishing. And to write about it – can also. So is it worth it to subscribe to your therapist’s updates? The decision, as usual, is ours.
“I do not want to know something about my specialist, nor do I want him to know something personal about me”
“A person may not want to possess intimate information about his therapist, just as he may not want to possess such information about any other person before it is justified by the relationship,” Anastasia Dolganova explains. “So this is not an exceptional rule for the therapist and client, but universal human politeness and respect for the other.”
And how do psychologists themselves deal with this issue? And why do they make this or that choice?
“I’m not subscribed to my therapist in social networks, because for me it’s about the borders – mine and the other person,” says Anna Reznikova. “Otherwise, I may have some fantasies that interfere with our work.” This is not fear and not depreciation: between us is a working relationship. Very good – but still workers. And in these relationships I do not want to know something about my specialist, nor do I want him to know something personal about me. After all, perhaps I’m far from ready to tell him everything … ”
Risks and consequences
Extreme frankness can be captivating. And in general, social networks just in order to show himself not only as a specialist, but also as a living person. Otherwise, why are they needed at all, right? Not really.
“I met opinions on the Internet like:“ People, I didn’t study as a psychologist and undergo personal therapy to limit myself now! ”I can understand this, but for such frankness, besides bravado and protest, we need at least a well-formed, stable system external support and self-support, – Anastasia Dolganova is sure. “And also awareness, criticality of what you write, and the ability to predict the response.”
What exactly is the risk of a therapist who talks in social networks about events and features of his personal life? First of all, honest, clear contact with the client.
“Psychoanalyst Nancy Mac-Williams wrote:“ Patients perceive the psychotherapist’s revelations as a frightening change of role, as if the therapist confesses to the patient in the hope that he will calm him down, ”Anna Reznikova quotes. – That is, the focus of attention moves from the client to the therapist, and so they change places. And psychotherapy involves a very clear separation of roles: it has a client and a specialist. And this clarity provides a safe space for customers and to explore their feelings. ”
In addition, we can judge in advance the competence of a specialist, not always noticing the difference between him as a professional and as just a person.
“If the client is aware of the personal therapist’s personal life: for example, that he doesn’t have children or is divorced, then he might not want to discuss similar problems with the specialist,” warns Anna Reznikova. – The logic is approximately the following: “What can he even know if he himself did not give birth / divorced / changed?”
It is worth keeping a critical eye – not only on others, but also on yourself
But there are also physical security issues. Unfortunately, stories like the tragedy of the protagonist of the film The Sixth Sense are found not only on the screen.
“You will never guess what is in the head of your client or his relatives. At one of the groups, colleagues told a case: a girl went to a psychologist for a long time, and, of course, she was changing. And her husband didn’t like it. As a result, he calculated a specialist and began to threaten his parents, ”says Anna Reznikova.
In general, anything happens, and in any case it is worth maintaining a critical look – not only at others, but also at oneself. And for a specialist this is perhaps more important than for a client. Are there any materials that a specialist should definitely not post on his social networks? What and how do psychologists themselves not write on their pages?
“Everything here is very individual and depends on what direction the therapist adheres to, as well as ethical standards close to him personally,” says Anna Reznikova. – I do not upload images of my loved ones, my own photos from parties or in inappropriate clothing, I do not use “conversational” turns of speech in the comments. I write life stories, but this is a very highly processed material. The meaning of my posts is not to tell about myself, but to convey to the reader important ideas for me. ”
“I would not upload any information that I consider intimate to the Network,” Anastasia Dolganova shares. – I do not do this for reasons of boundaries and security. The more you talk about yourself, the more vulnerable you are. And to ignore this fact in the style of “but I still do it because I want to” is naive. Candid therapists about themselves are usually involved in novice therapists. Experienced and sought-after therapists, as a rule, are more restrained. They only talk about themselves about what criticism they can handle in the event of negative feedback. ”
Man or function?
We come to the therapist as a professional, but any professional is primarily a person. Understandable or not, whether we like it or not, with a similar sense of humor or without it at all – is psychotherapy possible at all without showing our “human” side to the client?
“The answer depends on the type and duration of therapy,” explains Anastasia Dolganova. – Not always the tasks that the client poses for the therapist require building good relations within this process. Some work is quite technical. But inquiries involving profound personality changes or the establishment of a communicative sphere or a sphere of relations require investigation of the emotional and behavioral phenomena that arise between the therapist and the client during their joint work. In such a situation, the therapist’s self-disclosure and client reactions to him become one of the important elements of development. ”
Users of forums and publics devoted to the work of psychologists sometimes write: “For me, a specialist is not a person at all, he should not talk about himself and must focus solely on me and my problems.” But do we not reduce in such cases the personality of the one to whom we entrust ourselves solely to function? And can it be said that this is definitely bad or good?
An experienced therapist is quite capable of surviving what is perceived as a function
“The attitude to the therapist as a function is not always bad,” Anastasia Dolganova believes. – In some cases, this view allows you to save time and energy for both the client and the psychologist. The therapist, who has already passed the phase of “I want everyone to be my best friend and good mother” phase in my development, refers to such cases, probably even with some relief. He thinks to himself something like: “Okay, this will be a simple, understandable and technical process for several months. I know what to do, it will be a good job. ”
Even if a professional behaves impeccably, he cannot but react at all to the fact that the client sees a set of options in him. Are specialists upset to learn that they can only be a “simulator”? We ask them ourselves!
“An experienced therapist is quite capable of surviving what is perceived as a function,” says Anastasia Dolganova. – If this interferes with work – he knows what to do with it. If this spoils life for him personally, he has a supervisor who can help cope with these feelings. “I think that portraying a therapist as hypersensitive is just the other extreme of being only functional.”
“If the psychologist is upset that the client treats him in one way or another, this is an occasion to additionally go for supervision and personal therapy,” Anna Reznikova agrees. – You won’t be nice to everyone. But if the client has already come to you, then he trusts you as a specialist. And this trust is more important than how it treats you. If there is trust, teamwork will be effective. ”
Give a plaintive book!
We can complain about this or that therapist, focusing on the ethical code of the organization or association with which he collaborates. However, there is still no common document approved for all psychologists that would determine the norm in relations between the therapist and client in our country.
“Now a lot of people in need of help fall into various sorrow specialists. After talking with them, clients either become disillusioned with the therapy or recover for a long time, ”says Anna Reznikova. – And because of this, a code of ethics, which will detail in detail what can and cannot be done, is simply necessary. Alas, not everyone can be guided by common sense: more and more often we can meet “specialists” who do not have a basic education, proper hours of personal therapy, supervision. ”
And since there is no single “law” binding on all, we, clients, use the lever of influence that is most accessible to us if we cannot find a council for an incompetent specialist: we leave our feedback on various sites on the Web. On the one hand, the Internet significantly expands the boundaries of freedom of speech. On the other hand, the scope for manipulation also gives: in communities where it is customary to leave feedback about psychologists, we most often can only listen to one side – the one that has the right to talk about what happened. And not only gurus without diplomas have recently come under the “distribution” …
“Over the past three years, the context of the work of ethical commissions has changed dramatically,” explains Anastasia Dolganova. – If earlier they worked mainly with really egregious cases of exploitation and violence by clients by nonprofessionals, now the culture of public complaints has created a situation in which members of such commissions have to study unhealthy and inadequate complaints against therapists most of the time, deal with information hiding, direct lies and slander. General congestion has also become a sign of the times: complaints are written in such numbers as never before. ”
Psychotherapists need protection from the vicissitudes of this world no less than clients
“If within the profession there are formed mechanisms for protecting the client: the same code of ethics, ethical commissions, qualification programs, supervision, then there are no mechanisms for protecting the therapist. Moreover: the ethical therapist generally has his hands tied to his own defense! – considers Anastasia Dolganova. “For example, any client of Masha’s psychologist can write“ Masha is not a therapist, but the last bastard! ”At any site and for any reason! But Masha can’t write“ Kolya is a liar! ” violates the key to psychotherapy condition of confidentiality. That is, it doesn’t look that way for the public field. There are currently no working mechanisms for regulating this situation, but there are already conversations and reflections on this topic. Most likely, something new will be born of them over time. ”
Is it worth it to separately fix the norms that would help psychologists navigate the world of the Internet, which in one way or another suggests some frankness? Perhaps they themselves need protection from the vicissitudes of this world no less than customers.
“I believe that we need new paragraphs in professional codes of ethics that would allow the therapist to get guidance in the modern public space and take care of both the safety of their clients and their own. As such points, I see, for example, a clear definition of intimacy and recommendations on what the therapist should and should not do in case of public negative reviews of his work or his personality, ”concludes Anastasia Dolganova.