Part 4 of 5 in our Four Core Principles series. Click here to see the whole series together.

Professional Presence“Sites on the World Wide Web… 1. Regularly check that electronic links are working and professionally appropriate… 3. Provide electronic links to relevant state licensure and professional certification boards to protect consumer rights and facilitate addressing ethical concerns… 6. Strive to provide a site that is accessible to persons with disabilities.”
(ACA Code of Ethics 2005 A.12.h)

The above quote is just about websites, but it’s a great example of the principle of Professional Presence. As clinicians, we need to make sure that we always present professionally. This isn’t just good for us and our practices, it’s good for our clients and colleagues, as well.

There’s a lot of therapeutic value in a client’s ability to trust in the competence and professionalism of his or her care provider. This starts with the whole profession and drills down to individual clinicians. Thus, we all have a duty to do our best to keep websites well-maintained, electronic communications professional and appropriate, etc. Our society has a well-defined set of behaviors for speaking on the phone, for example, which we as professionals make use of. How about a more sticky medium, however?

Text messaging with your cellular phone is a clumsy medium with low reliability that nevertheless is heavily used by our clients. Many clients prefer to use texting for everyday communications, and often employ communications standards that certainly don’t follow conventional rules of professionalism. “C u at 4,” and “sry will b late” are common types of messages that are standard in the texting world.

The best way to keep communications professional when texting is not well defined. It’s something you’ll need to consider for yourself and for each client you serve. Whatever you decide, it will likely work best for you and the client if you decide ahead of time how to approach it.

It’s important to note that this principle is about presence, and not image. Your presence is what affects your therapeutic effectiveness. Many clinicians shy away from tools such as email or especially texting because of the image associated with it. For some clients, employing these tools may, indeed, detract from your professional presence. For others, not using these tools detracts from it. Considering the principle of Professional Presence means discovering how to keep your professional, therapeutic presence in the mediums that work for you and for each client you work with.

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