I have written this policy to help avoid misunderstandings and offer guidance on handling digital interactions. It is based upon advice I have received, experience, and discussion with other counselling professionals – and my position is open to change if needed. If anything is unclear or you would like to make a suggestion, please feel free to let me know.
Please remember that emails are vulnerable to viruses and human error, as well as logs of emails being kept by ISPs, so please take care when considering what to include in emails. Most email providers do not encrypt messages, meaning it is possible for them to be intercepted by hackers. If you are concerned about confidentiality in emails, please phone me instead.
I cannot currently offer any kind of counselling via email, Skype/other online platforms, or telephone.
Contact between sessions
In order to keep clinical material “in the room”, between-session contact can only be for changing/cancelling/rearranging appointments and administrative issues. As a private practitioner, I cannot offer an emergency service. There is a list of agencies which might be able to do so, and their contact details, on my useful links and others sources of help page.
Availability and safety
I check emails and my phone when possible during my office hours, which are given here, but I may not be immediately available (for example, if I am in-session with another client). I will respond as soon as I can, but I am not available at weekends. Out of consideration for your privacy and safety, I will only return a phone call if you leave a voicemail asking me to do so.
If you are at immediate risk or feeling suicidal, please call the emergency services or the Samaritans (116 123).
I maintain a professional Facebook Page as a way of promoting my practice, which you are welcome to follow. However, our relationship must remain as much as possible between us in the counselling room so I will not knowingly engage in discussion with clients on social media. I have a private Facebook account for personal reasons, and a LinkedIn account for professional ones. I aim to keep my Facebook as private as possible and cannot be Facebook “friends” with former or current clients, or link with clients on LinkedIn.
Occasionally there may be overlap across social networks that may come to light later. In such cases we would need to discuss it in-session.
I do not generally Google clients in the interests of your privacy and to avoid encountering information about you that does not come directly from you. You may have Googled me before contacting me, as is your right. However, if in doing so some questions are raised for you (I’m not the only Emma Thompson out there!), I would ask that you discuss them with me at the first opportunity.
Adapted from Dr Aaron Balick’s “Digital Policy version 3”.