ACA Blog

DeeAnna Merz Nagel
Jun 25, 2009

Is it okay to “Google” your client?

So, let’s talk about this.  I read an article recently: Internet Social Media Present New Quandaries for Psychiatrists published May 15th in the Psychiatric Times ( Since then, I have had a couple of provocative discussions with workshop participants.  This article is geared toward psychiatrists, but clearly this is an issue that can crop up in our profession as well.

So, what do you think?  I am thinking, “No.” There are exceptions. For example, I might help a client understand his or her online presence and what others could know and see by “googling” the client’s name during a therapy session. We could process the information that comes up and it may lead to a deeper understanding for the client. But to just google my clients as a matter of course, well that seems invasive. And even if a client encourages me to google what do I do with all of that information? The lines get blurred, boundaries get fuzzy and to put it simply, I enter into the client’s private world, as public as that world may be.

Your client may have a blog. You may stumble upon it or your client may email the blog link to you. Do you read it? Do you follow the client’s blog posts? Again, what do you do with all of that information about your client’s life? The information is, after all, in the public domain. One might say it would be akin to reading a client’s published autobiography. Is that okay to do? If your client announces that his or her memoirs have just been published, do you log on to Amazon and order the book?

These are but a few of the many questions that are raised as we maneuver this Web 2.0 world. Even counselors with the strictest boundaries may find themselves faced with this or a similar dilemma because our clients are bringing technology, both literally and figuratively into the consultation room. I would love to hear thoughts and experiences from you.

DeeAnna Merz Nagel is a clinical counselor, teacher, workshop presenter, sat on the ACA Cyber Technology Taskforce, and is co-founder of the Online Therapy Institute.

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