Thursday, 11 October 2007

Advice welcome

A small favour, if anyone can grant it.

Does anyone have any clear guidelines on confidentiality issues with regards to blogging? There's a post I'd like to write, relating to someone I knew when I worked in a particular setting and they were a client there.

But at present, although I think the story is worth telling (and is fully respectful of the client), I feel uncomfortable. I think it's partially because I could do with a clear sense of where I stand in terms of confidentiality (maybe I'm wrong, but it feels like a whole different ballgame online as opposed to within the context of work itself).

It's also because the very act of writing about a client - regardless of the context - feels somehow disrespectful and, almost by definition, constitutes a breach of trust.

But I still think the story is worth telling.

As mentioned, any advice or pointers in the right direction would be most welcome.


Merkin said...

First thing to remember is that once 'it' is out there is no taking 'it' back.
You can see how extremely careful I have been elsewhere to leave nothing that can be Googled viz my current situation.
(I will send you something a bit more definitive about the legal aspects once I have my shit together).
With regard to some of the stuff I have sent you, privately, with at least two of the stories I have had requests to change the names from at least two people who I had sent the stories to, for their approval.
I also had a word of advice from someone in Poland to make sure that the Mafia Landlady of a club I frequented was not named. hehehehehe.

The internet is full of litter and you have to accept that you can be identified, by cross-referencing fairly, easily if someone really wants to do it.

Be careful.
Write the story, change the sex - even your own - and tell it as a 'narrative from a friend' using lots of 'reporting verbs'.
Will get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Don´t do it - or, as Merkin says, change so much of the detail that it´s unrecognisable.

Or even be pretentious and use a metaphor instead, like in Life of Pi. That would be fun.

trousers said...

Thanks to you both, merkin andmrzhisou (and welcome!). I've been tying myself up in knots a little over this but you've both reflected on pretty much the same things as I was mulling over. So I'm glad I've erred on the side of caution.

My instinct would thus be to change the details so as to make it unrecognisable. I've always been careful about changing names etc but in terms of a sequence of events (a rather wonderful sequence of events at that) then if I do write about this it will take some thought to keep the kind of narrative I want to convey.

I'm fully appreciative of the advice given - thanks again!

That's so pants said...

Hi Trews

I don't see a problem if you disguise the identities of those involved. You could also change the location unless the story is dependent on it, ditto the time. If the sequence of events is the significant aspect of the story, you could take it anywhere.

Good luck with it.



trousers said...

Thanks to you too pants. More (gladly received) food for thought. I'm away for the weekend and so shall think on (as well as doing other weekend-type stuff).

Stray said...

Have you heard of the Chatham House Rule?

This has always seemed to me to be a good way of sharing learning, wisdom and human experience without breaching confidentiality.


DJ Kirkby said...

The problem is you can't 'un-say' something. If the person you are blogging about can recgonise him/herself in the post and positivly identify you then there could be big repercussions. Having said that, denial is a wonderful thing and most people never acknowledge the truth when it is shoved in front of them, so what is the chance of this person knowing you are posting about them?

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting dilemma, trousers. I am always very careful and respectful in what I share about clients. People come and place their trust in me and so I find it helpful to ask myself the following questions before sharing:-

- What would I want to happen if I was in their position?

- Does what I am wishing to share maintain the integrity of the client-counsellor relationship?

There is something healing and natural about being able to share what happens at work with others. This makes working as a psychotherapist can be a bit of a lonely profession at times.

szwagier said...

I've always been a bit of an anarchist in these matters, but it seems to me that whether the individual concerned can recognise themselves is not the question.

The question is whether anyone else can recognise the individual concerned. If it's something that might be embarrassing, this person is hardly going to make a public song and dance about it. Will it hurt them, personally, if you tell the tale? Only you can answer that.

But if you've made reasonable attempts to disguise the source I don't see a problem.

Caroline said...

I'm always careful about what I blog about. I spend my life saying, 'if only I could blog it.'

If you do - change as much as possible. If you don't ... can you perform it in mime?????

There are certain things that I will not blog about, but I would talk about them on other people's blog. That's an alternative.

Pixie said...

If you want to write the story take any personality out of it, your's or their's.
Change the time frame,where it took place,etc
And just write about a person, not a name.

Ms Melancholy said...

Depends on your motivation for sharing it. If it is for learning/training/teaching purposes that is one thing. For entertainment purposes I would steer a wide berth, personally. Thin end of a particularly large wedge.

anticant said...

Client confidentiality is client confidentiality. You should never publish anything remotely identifiable. Freud was the first to set a bad example in this respect, unwittingly [?] egging on his biographers to hunt out the identities of the Wolf Man et al.

Böbø said...

I agree with Ms MMMmmm and Hullaballoo. Intention and impact are everything.

trousers said...

Wow. Thank you all - thoughtful and very helpful advice all round. Now I know what to do next time I have any kind of dilemma! To echo my earlier comment, I'm glad I erred on the side of caution, precisely for the reasons people have touched on.

Sorry but I shan't do individual replies purely because that will make my thoughts on this confusingly fragmented: but as with the posts I'd previously replied to, then thank you stray, dj kirkby, hullaballoo (and welcome!), szwag, caroline, pixie, ms melancholy and anticant. You've all managed to address a number of key points that I was mulling over.

Now, one thing I didn't mention, is that the person in question is probably not alive anymore. But for me that doesn't change anything about whether to blog it or not, because this is very much about principle over practice. Plus as szwag mentioned, which is very much an issue in this case, it may be the case that other people who were there may remember it.

The story itself would not be hurtful, disrespectful, nor intended to embarrass that person in any way. Quite the opposite in fact: it was a tale of someone who did something which had a quite astonishing (in a positive, moving way) impact on me.

But, having taken my own musings into account, and having those musings brought into sharp focus and clarity by all you good people, then I do feel that, for now and in its present form, it is best left alone.

So. On the one hand, if I had posted on it, there would have been sufficient steps taken to preserve anonymity: and, whilst in a general sense you could describe it as "entertainment", it would not be intended as such at the expense of the person in question. Quite the opposite, in fact.

On the other hand, I agree that it's the thin end of a particularly large wedge. As I mentioned in the original post: regardless of my best intentions, the very fact of publishing it would feel like a breach of trust.

So, should it surface, it will not be for a while, and it will be vastly changed.

Thanks again everyone!

trousers said...

Oh and thanks to you bobo, sneaking in there at the last minute!