Friday, September 25, 2009


Check out this comment posted from a social worker who raises a great question - what are the boundaries for professionals who post their reflections on a blog?

"I love being able to read Eyes Opened Wider as well...makes my own experiences and feelings as a Social Worker in foster care seem a little bit less "abnormal". I feel like I can relate to 95% of the emotions and feelings that she faces..such hard stuff. I do have one question though as I have been reading some Social Work blogs. What are the "rules" about what is okay to share and not share in relation to confidentiality? As a Social Worker I feel dumb having to ask this, but I am always scared to write down any of my experiences and feelings, even if it is more about my reactions to the situations than it is about the clients themselves. Thoughts?"

This social worker is aware of the ethical responsibility to protect her/his client's confidence. So how do we do this while making sense of the crazy world of social work and its impact on us personally? Great question!

Self-care and self-awareness are essential to insure healthy social work practice. Blogs have become a natural extension of our professional network of support and offer a place for self-reflection that helps us to stay healthy and effective in our work with clients.

But, what are the "rules" about what we share on blogs? As with any communication, social workers are bound to protect our client's confidentiality. Period. For social work bloggers, any referene to a client MUST be carefully protected so that there isn't any way to connect the content of the blog to a person. Period.

Blogging is a conversation with an audience we don't know. But, it isn't any different with any other communcation we have outside of the protetion of our office. So, the same rules apply. What we write about on a blog need to be protected just as if we were talking with anyone outside of our office.

But the bigger point the commenter made needs to be reinforced and celebrated - "it is more about my reactions to the situations than it is about the clients themselves." Yes! Social workers who blog are reaching out to a wider professional community to make sense of our experiences to keep us healthy so that we can be competent in our work with clients.


Hazel said...

I'm just making my way around the social work blogs. I just wanted to thank you for this post. When I start my field practicum I am really hoping to lay out my thoughts on my blog, but I will always have to remember the rules.

Great reminder!

SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Great post topic- it can be so tricky to tell a story with enough detail to make sense while still maintaining confidentiality! It would be nice to hear/share how others decide what that line is or what tricks they use to mask identies etc. I think I'll write a post about my own soon!

antiSWer said...

Some people are definitely better than others. With some, it definitely seems there is a minimal amount of masking to protect the client (and themselves) and I worry.

With others, they simply do a masterful job.

I constantly struggle with this. There needs to be step by step things that are minimal. We should all collaborate and set some type of standard.

T. J. said...

I, too, am always conscientious of this when I blog. I often do not mention age, gender, number of people etc.

I recently asked my site editor, who is a LCSW, to let me know if she thinks I am crossing any confidentiality lines at all.

I think we can do this without disclosing identifying information if we are conscientious.

~Ms. T. J.

Original Commenter regarding "Rules" said...

Hi again,

I was soooo thankful that you addressed my question! It was funny because I was refreshing the post over and over where I had commented on Friday waiting for a response, to just now notice that you had made a post about it. So, thank you! I have only been a Social Worker for a little bit over two years, and I know how important confidentiality is, but I also know how important self care is and I have struggled a lot over the past two years with feeling so alone and unsure of how to process the daily things that I see and deal with in the lives of the foster kids on my caseload. It has been great for me to read Eyes Wide Open and your blog as well, and makes me feel connected and not so "alone". I am always so unsure about what is okay to share or not to share at the end of the day. Sometimes going home, that is the only place where I feel that I can let go and process a little bit, but I never am sure what is okay. When I was reading Eyes Wide Open and there are names given, I guess it just threw me off. Maybe because it is an audience that she doesn't know, no one could make the connection? Or did she use "fake" names? I appreciate the people who have commented and if you are all open to more discussion, then I would love to continue this. I do not have a blog right now, but I might think about getting one. I just want to be sure to not cross any lines, and I think I am just overly concerned about it probably, just don't want to make a mistake in this.

Thank you for writing your blog and for sharing with all of us. I am so glad that I found yours!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I totally wrote the name of SocialWrkr24/7's blog wrong. Eyes Opened Wider. Sorry about that!

SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Ha - although I am writing my own post (I hope to have up later today!) let me reassure everyone: I do not use REAL names on my blog! I pick fake ones for absolutely EVERYONE I talk about - even people in my real life. I just prefer to give people a name - so that I can refer to them again or just because it makes it easier to tell the story. Just wanted to clear that up! :)

Anonymous said...

I figured that you did...thanks SocialWrkr24/7!

oregonamy1972 said...

It is a hard thing...There have been times when I have posted something and then within a short time I take it down. I usually let my gut guide me on this. If it doesn't feel quite right, I take it down. I often will give things a waiting period, too, to try to avoid identifying. I also try my best to avoid identifying gender, medical conditions, etc. I would also love it if my fellow social workers reading my blogs let me know if they felt something was potentially cutting close to the line of breaching confidentiality.

Leslie Ann Lovett, MSW, LCSW said...

Thank you all for these thoughtful and helpful comments!