Monday, May 6, 2013

A. K. A.

I've learned a lot in school about self-disclosure as a counselor to a client. It can instantly change a relationship, take the important focus off of the client and can block clients from getting what they need from us.

I remember being in treatment and wanting to know every single drug everyone did. I wanted to know if my counselors were in recovery and I wanted to know what they were in recovery from. Booze? Weed? What? I was able to find out some stuff. I knew that in the counselors on our unit we had a cocaine guy, a few drunks, and an Alanon woman. I believe my main counselor was a recovering boozer.  I loved that guy. He was no bullshit, had a dry-wit, liked weird toys and was a local actor.

I figured out the toy part AND the actor part from the things that he had on his office shelves. He didn't actually disclose those facts about himself to me. I remember asking him questions about it. He was pretty short with his answers. I thought he was just being jerky. But now I know why he didn't say more.  He was only telling me enough about himself that was necessary, and what he felt comfortable with. He wanted to keep the focus on me.

I can't imagine that I asked questions to take the focus off of myself. Isn't it obvious? I LOVE to talk about myself. I think I just wanted to know what I was dealing with. Who was I dealing with? And how much did they understand me? Or maybe I WAS trying to take the focus off of my pain and my issues.  Plus, I just liked to talk about drugs and alcohol.

So here's me.  I have a personal blog that talks about my family, drug use, relationships, opinions, sex, you name it.  

When I was in my group counseling class, we talked about being on Facebook, Twitter, and social media.  We talked about problems that can arise from this as a counselor.  We talked about clients googling our names.  I had a mini panic attack.

In an inpatient setting, obviously,  the opportunity to google someone isn't usually possible until you get out. Out-patient folks can do it the second they get home that night, and be right back the next day to either ask you questions, or to tell the other clients what they found out. I understand that I'm not even interning yet, but this is something I've been thinking about.

The main part that concerns me is that if something I have written here, said on a show or whatever would make a client uncomfortable or change the way they would relate to me.  What if they read my blog and are afraid to share certain parts of themselves because they think I have a certain opinion? Or that I feel a certain way about mental illness and my own inability to handle my personal brushes with it?  Because of the drugs I used, the way I parent, the luck (good and bad) I've had in recovery, my good or bad reactions to life or any of it.  The list of shit goes on and on.

I don't think I'll stop doing this blog (for now anyhow).   I won't stop sharing my story for anyone who will listen, because I think it is an important time for us who are willing to share, to share.  Like I've said a million times before, I'm just trying to help in some small way to reduce the shame and stigma of recovery, be a face that shows recovery works, so that more people can get help.

I have come to a few different conclusions that maybe I'll use a different last name for work.  Maybe I'll use my first and middle name.  Maybe I'll be like Cher or Madonna and just go by Betsey.  Or maybe I'll just use my whole, real name and deal with it as it comes.  I am not sure how I will handle it.  I will talk about it with my future employer and see what they think.  That was the suggestion of my brilliant instructor at Metro, who answered my panicky email on the subject.  Damn they are smart.


  1. This is exactly why the majority of my friends either use or plan to use maiden names for work (we are all Social Workers in Australia), married names outside of work, on facebook etc. Not an option for me though.

  2. Great conversation! We really have to come to our own conclusions, and like many things in counseling there is no hard-and-fast rule to use with all clients. Some clients benefit from the disclosure, other situations would be negatively impacted. I end up using "we" and "our" a lot in discussions our recovery, rather than "you". I do that deliberately, to indicate that we're in the recovery fight together. And I've found that the line, "I work a program" does a lot to calm client's concerns without spilling my whole life story. But then again, I don't have a super awesome blog to continue, like you do :) Keep asking the tough questions!