Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Shrink Rap News: Psychiatrists and Social Networking

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Shrink Rap News: Psychiatrists and Social Networking

Article excerpt

Your friends are on Facebook, your patients are on Facebook, and they talk about their interactions during sessions. Even your mother is on Facebook. If you're like most psychiatrists, you're not on Facebook. A survey conducted by the Maryland Psychiatric Society revealed that only 22% of MPS members had Facebook or MySpace pages. Thirty-six percent said they limit their use of technology because they are psychiatrists.

Why do psychiatrists shy away from social media? I'm not aware that anyone has done research on this, but I have a few theories. Psychodynamic psychotherapy has placed an ideologic burden on psychiatrists to keep their private lives private; the work of therapy includes the interpretation of transference, and transference develops best when the patient knows little about the psychiatrist's personal life. If transference can be tainted by having photographs of one's children in the office, think how counterproductive it is to see the psychiatrist's beach vacation pictures or to know he "likes" a certain political figure!

Psychiatrists often value their privacy, especially since they may see patients who are dangerous, and may worry that it makes them vulnerable to have personal information easily available. It may be difficult to see a positive side to social media, and there are certainly stories of people, including physicians, who have lost their jobs because they have posted information on their Facebook pages without using discretion, and this year the mandatory risk management session at Johns Hopkins Hospital included an entire presentation on the dangers of social media. These warnings boiled down to common sense: Don't write about your patients on Facebook, don't post photographs of your patients on Facebook (yes, doctors have done this), and don't "friend" your patients. Finally, some psychiatrists worry that their patients will try to "friend" them and will feel hurt if their request is denied, and have decided it is easier to simply not belong.

Why would anyone - much less a psychiatrist - even consider having a Face-book page? For starters, it's fun. It's an easy way to connect with people from the past, to communicate with people, and to keep up on information. It's now part of many aspects of mainstream daily life, and many things transpire on Facebook: The American Psychiatric Association has a page it updates regularly, as does Johns Hopkins Medicine. …

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