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Counseling by text

counseling by textThis is what my social media policy says about texting (this is part of the intake paperwork all of my clients receive and I have them sign something that says they have read and understand my policies):

You may text me with questions about appointment times, to reschedule or to cancel (please note my cancellation policies require 24-hour notice). You may also text me if you would like me to call you back. However please know that I do turn my phone off during client hours, meetings and outside of office hours so I cannot guarantee when I will read your text and get back to you. If you do text me, I will assume you welcome a text back. While it is unlikely that someone will be looking at these logs, they are, in theory, available to be read by our cell phone service providers. You should also know that any texts I receive from you and any responses that I send to you become a part of your legal record.

I’m a late adapter to texting and most of my clients are much more comfortable texting than I am. Originally I was reluctant to add texting to the ways clients can get a hold of me because our profession is still struggling to know how to ethically manage all these (fairly) new developments. After consulting with colleagues I decided to very cautiously add texting with clear limits. The reason I’m so cautious is:

  • People think of texting as immediate but I’m not on call 24/7. Unlike my voicemail where you’ll get a response that specifically says you may not hear from me for 24 hours (and will give you a referral number to Netcare in case you are in serious crisis) or email, which people don’t necessarily expect you to check constantly, texting feels like it should be immediate. But it’s not. I may not get the message until the next day and there’s no way to tell you that your text remains unread. (This is, for me, the greatest issue with texting; it gives the illusion that I am more accessible than I am, which is why I try to be so clear in my social media policy.)
  • Texting is a lousy medium for processing problems. It’s great for quick messages, “Hit traffic! Running late!” but not so much for big issues, “I saw my ex today and we had a discussion …” It’s best to save those issues for in-person sessions.
  • What you text (or email for that matter) — the exact words — becomes part of your paper record. Ethically I have to record any written contact we have and while your record is theoretically confidential there are times where other people could get access to it. (For example, if the counselor was subpoenaed by the court.) It’s one thing if a client rants about an annoying co-worker in session because I can record our discussion as, “Client shared frustrations w/colleagues” but it’d be another thing to have the whole rant there in the records verbatim because she sent it via text.

Some counselors have more flexible texting policies and some counselors do not text at all. It’s important that you talk to your counselor and be very clear about what she is open to when it comes to electronic communication.

Instagram and Credit Cards

I went and got myself a smart phone so I can take credit cards in the office (thank you Square!) so I decided to try out this new-fangled Instagram the kids are doing. You can follow me here. The above is a picture of the sand tray after a play (versus a therapy — the child present in the office was not/is not a client) session. Those are Playmobil horses. The blue paint in the sand tray lets kids see the space as the whole world surrounded by sea and sky.

I’m still getting the hang of Square. It’s a little bit tricky and having a lower level (i.e., basement) office means my reception isn’t all that great. We tried sharing wifi with Gabe Howard on the third floor but it wouldn’t reach all the way down to me. So after thinking on it and comparing costs we decided our best bet was for Building Family Counseling to invest in an iPhone. Which also means I can now get texts, which is a whole new thing for me. (I’ll need to rewrite my social media policy!)

In any case, I can now take cash, checks AND credit cards for payment in the office. This will be much more convenient, I know!

Everyone Is (Not) Having More Fun Than You

shutterstock_85606345Normally I wouldn’t send you on over to the GQ site to get life advice but 99u pointed the way to this hilarious and accurate article about those pangs of jealousy we get when we are suddenly confronted with someone’s amazing life on our social media feed.

There have been far too many times when I’ve sat with a crying client in session while she lists the many ways she’s failing as a wife or mother or general human being. How does she know? Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram all tell her so. Her food is not as delicious. Her parties are less fun. Her children don’t nestle down to sleep in bedrooms beautified by child-sized furniture crafted from re-purposed Ikea bookshelves. Her life is just regular or maybe a little more (or a lot more) challenged than just regular at the moment, which makes her especially vulnerable to the idea that she’s somehow screwing up.

Do you know, new friends, how much work it takes to be one of those people who is at the right place at the right time, all the time? An awful lot of exertion—blood, sweat, tears, texts, e-mails, tweets, Facebook lurks, and most of all, fear—goes into making the social arts look effortless. It’s that fear that makes them work so hard.

via The GQ Guide to Getting Over #FOMO

Documenting our life for our social media followers takes a terrible amount of effort. All of that picture taking. All of that posing. All of that squinting to get the right angle or just the right update or exactly the right Vine that says, “My life is fantastic! And picturesque! And even the bad things are ironic or inspiring!”

People are curating their lives to show the very best events embellished with hashtags and gauzy filters. They are creating “unique narrative flow“, which means they’re leaving the less flowy parts on the cutting room floor. Even if we’re not seeking advertisers, we’re seeking some kind of return on our social media investment otherwise why would we post it? Be it attention or approval or the envy of others or even just a good (if heated) political discussion, no one posts to an audience without the audience in mind.

Just like you need to be critical when you look at magazines, you need to be critical when you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed. That doesn’t mean doubting your friends’ most perfect posts and pictures; it means remembering that you’re only seeing part of the story. Some of our friends will share the other parts, too (the deflated cakes, the crying kids, the lawn overflowing with dandelions) and some won’t. But you will know that we all have other parts even if we don’t share them. You can remind yourself that we could probably meticulously cut and paste our lives into amazingness, too, if we wanted to spend our time doing that instead of on other things like jobs or family or cleaning or counseling.

Besides, do you really want to be the mom snapping pictures at the birthday celebration in this commercial? Because personally, I don’t think the shot was worth it.

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