Social Media for Therapists: Personal vs. Business Accounts
Have you considered social media accounts from a business perspective?
Or have you assumed that a single profile for your social media presence will do: One that contains both personal and professional posts and information?
The latter is risky, particularly for therapists. It can blur the boundaries between yourself as an individual and yourself as a therapist, creating potential ethical dilemmas, conflicts of interest, or differing opinions.
You might be a passionate vegan, a client an ardent rancher. Democrat versus Republican. Atheist verse religious. Universal healthcare champion versus private healthcare system advocate.
The list goes on.
Mental health professionals must be mindful when sharing content that conflicts with a client’s values can create a wall that can hamper — or destroy — neutrality and trust.
The reverse is also true. If you have accepted a friend’s request from a client, you may see their posts. Posts that reveal insight a client isn’t ready to share in therapy. Posts that might stir dislike in you or create a barrier. If this happens, therapeutic outcomes may falter.
Posting on your personal account will likely contain information unsuitable for professional purposes.
With these points in mind, let’s look deeper at personal and business accounts. And how social media for therapists can achieve effective results without causing harm.
Understanding the Role of Social Media Marketing for Therapists
These platforms are no longer just personal tools. They’ve become helpful — even essential — platforms for business growth. If you’re not yet professionally active on social media, it’s time.
Creating valuable content is a key social media strategy that helps you reach, impact, and connect with viewers and network with other experts.
Various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, for example, provide you with a powerful avenue to reach potential clients to:
- Build rapport and confidence
- Promote mental health awareness
- Reduce stigma
- Engage in conversation
- Spread valuable information
Imagine writing and sharing an insightful article about depression: One that educates compassionately, providing professional insight and helpful answers that give some relief. You will positively impact readers and begin bringing the above to life.
When a piece is of high quality, fellow therapists, other mental health professionals, and organizations may follow your page and share your content with their network. This may be a wellspring of resources, ideas, and collaborations. (It’s one of the benefits of producing great social media content for therapists)
But, all content should be created with your therapist’s role at the forefront of your mind. Professionalism must always come first.
Need help setting up your social media platforms?
Our guide, How to Setup Social Media Pages for Your Private Practice, walks you through the process of setting up social media channels.
Personal vs. Business Accounts: Why the Distinction Matters
The line demarcating your personal and business profiles relates to content, purpose, ethics, and professionalism.
Your personal social media accounts provide space to be you. To share moments from your daily life and your travels, connect with family and friends, and express your personality, interests, and thoughts.
A business profile acts as a virtual face for your private practice. It’s a place to share relevant, helpful content about mental health, introduce yourself and your services, and connect with your following and colleagues professionally. Once your profile reaches a certain size, you may choose to invest in social media management software to help automate your regular posting schedule.
This allows you to establish your professional identity, mark yourself as a thought leader in your field, and contribute to a broader understanding of mental health through relevant and valuable content. This account should always reflect the ethics, confidentiality norms, and professionalism intrinsic to the therapy.
By having separate accounts, you can participate in the social media landscape both as an individual and as a professional while lessening the risk of cross-contamination, so to speak.
But how you set up your social media accounts matters, including your personal accounts.
Personalize Privacy: Control What You Share
Social media marketing for therapists is, as discussed above, essential. It has become a non-negotiable piece of the publicity puzzle — a way to reach and connect with current and potential clients. However, you must keep business, business. And separate accounts are not enough.
The study titled, Do Patients Look Up Their Therapists Online? An Exploratory Study Among Patients in Psychotherapy found that “44% of patients researched their therapists, 80.2% of these searches were conducted online.” Many clients will seek professional and private information about you. You must limit what they can find.
Restrict your personal social media accounts to be viewable only by “friends.” Maintain privacy by deciding who can see and share your social media posts and pictures, who can tag you, and who can access your personal details.
Each social media platform offers different privacy settings. Take advantage of each.
- Facebook allows you to set your profile to private and limit the visibility of your posts to only your friends.
- Instagram lets you switch your account to private. People then must request to follow you. Your posts are only visible once you’ve accepted their request.
- Twitter allows you to protect your account, meaning only approved followers can see your tweets.
- LinkedIn — a platform designed for professional networking — does not offer the same level of privacy as others. However, it does allow a certain amount of control over who sees your connections, online status, and certain parts of your profile.
But always remember…
Privacy settings are not foolproof.
Once you’ve posted a reaction, comment, image, audio, or video online, it may perpetually exist to be found and shared. Be ever mindful of the content you post.
It’s good practice to avoid sharing anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable being seen or read by a wider audience, including potential and current clients and those in your professional network.
Interactions From Your Private Account can Become Public
While you might carefully stick to guidelines designed to keep your account private — hidden from prying eyes — please know that not everyone has strict privacy behaviors. The strength of your privacy is only as strong as your network’s weakest link.
When you comment or react to someone else’s content, your interaction becomes part of their post. Your engagement and name may become visible to a broader audience if they don’t have robust privacy settings.
Consider whether you should respond to a post at all. Could it create an ethical dilemma, a conflict of interest, or act as an inflammatory opinion? If you do respond, always be professional.
Remember: Anything you post may become a permanent and findable mark on the vast web of internet pages.
Navigating Social Media Connections: A ‘No Friend Request’ Policy
Tightening your privacy settings is essential. But not if you accept friends’ requests from clients. Just say no.
As the American Psychological Association said, any friend requests from current or former clients should be declined. A blanket ‘no friend request’ policy is appropriate.
Create a practice policy. Share this as a matter of course with all new clients and remind current clients when appropriate. Explain that the protocol was established to protect client confidentiality and establish therapeutic boundaries. That way, it’s less likely to be taken as a personal rejection.
Social media marketing for therapists can play a vital role in achieving practice success. However, it must be done correctly.
We highly recommend the separation of private and business social media profiles. There are significant potential ethical and confidentiality challenges in using a single profile. The line between personal and professional can quickly become blurred. Even harmful for therapeutic outcomes.
Be strategic, aware, and enjoy the benefits of both worlds.
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