I received a message over the weekend from someone whose ministry is to counsel people through some of the toughest circumstances you can imagine – rape victims, people with multiple personality disorders, former satanists.
The big problem I am wrestling with is that as a ministry the people I help prefer be helped confidentially. This is where I am torn, how can I use twitter effectively to raise awareness and support, at the same time as respecting confidentially as much as possible?
Here I am contemplating how I could find financial support relating to the wider community of Christians via services like twitter, while at the same time, unable to see how to honestly describe the situations I am ministering to.
A second problem I can see twitter being useful for, is to find supportive accommodation for individuals in need… to get away form abusive situations, and to find the healing they need in a Christian home.
I am not a licensed counselor, and so I’d like to open up this topic to those who are and may be able to provide some insight. But a few thoughts…
1) Know and follow all applicable laws. One of the most important things to do is to understand the laws the national and local laws as they related to counseling and confidentiality. Can you share share stories if the names are changed and circumstances made vague enough so the person can’t be identified? Do you need the individual’s permission to do even that?
2) Protect privacy. Regardless of what the law states, as Christians we want to love people and treat them with dignity. You may want to go above and beyond what the law requires to protect the privacy of the people you serve.
3) Create partnerships. It seems to me that providing God counsel and emotional support is one of the responsibilities of the church. Yet, most churches don’t have counseling ministries. And those that do, usually are not in a position to help those with severe issues as those described above. As a result, it seems to me as if it would be in both counselors’ and local churches’ best interest to form a partnerships. Churches could refer people to the counselor and provide financial support. Counselors can provide this critical ministry on behalf of the churches.
I would love to hear from some counselors out there as to how you use social media to develop support for your ministry and your clients. What rules or guidelines do you have in place?
Of course, this issue doesn’t apply just to professional counselors. Most pastors provide some counseling and are also bound by confidentiality laws and principles.
What other questions or issues do you have about social media, counseling, and confidentiality?