Saturday, August 21, 2010

Using FaceBook in the therapeutic process

I now regularly use FaceBook and Google Earth with clients usually as a home work exercise. When ever I hear an angry client say they are going to cut up and burn all the photographs of their ex-partner, I usually counsel them to save at least a couple. Such photographs can be used in a therapeutic way later on.

As I have said before I have always used photographs in therapy with clients. They can be most helpful therapeutically. With the proliferation of the internet I now use FaceBook and Google Earth (along with blogs, websites, linkedin, YouTube, TrueLocal and all the other networking sites) almost on a daily basis.

For homework I may suggest a client does a search on FaceBook for a person they have been discussing or suggest they search on Google Earth for a particular place or location. This can form the same therapeutic function as suggesting the client to get some photographs they may have of a person or a place that is psychologically important for them.

Woman in boat

These can serve a number of therapeutic functions. Whenever a client says, “I am never going to see him again”, the first thing they need to do is see the person again. One way to do that is through a FaceBook search. Even if the search comes up with nothing, therapeutic gain has been achieved. The person has actively set out to find the feared or disliked other by the very act of doing the search and thus there is psychological impact on their Child ego state.

Why is there a psychological gain? In Gestalt terms it brings the issue to the foreground of the psyche. It makes the person or place front and centre in the persons psychology. Over time people will unconsciously neatly pack away the painful person, event or relationship into a safe place in the psyche. By searching for them and maybe finding them on FaceBook or seeing the place on Google Earth that painful person, event or relationship is unpacked from the psyche and comes to the fore front of the mind.

At bus stop

When this is done the personality is destabilised and the person is primed for psychological change. They are placed into a frame of mind where psychological change is more likely to occur. I have discussed this on YouTube before.

By searching for the person, maybe seeing their picture and even talking to them the Child ego state is destabilised and thus ready for change. By seeing the place (house) where the abuse occurred the Child ego state is destabilised and ready for change.

Secondly, when an event occurs, over time the Adult ego state memory of it fades. When that happens the Child ego state will start to fill in the gaps, but the person will perceive these as Adult facts not Child ego states ‘fill ins’. As the Child ego state fills in the gaps it will structure the memory of the person or event such that it fits the life script and thus problems are solidified by a past memory that isn't even true at least to some degree. FaceBook and Google Earth can allow for an Adult ego state update.

Say the person was bullied by someone at high school. That bully may be remembered 20 years later as a big and overpowering person. To be seen years later on FaceBook the new Adult facts obtained can significantly reduce the Child ego state memory of the over powering person they were.

A person involved in a car accident at a particular intersection. Since then they avoid that intersection by driving other ways to get home. Google Earth is a good way to go and see that intersection again. Thus FaceBook and Google Earth have direct therapeutic uses in the trauma debriefing process.

Vader in Japan

Related to this it can help in doing goodbye work. In working with a recent client it became apparent that she still had a significant attachment (and love) to the first real love of her life. A teenage 3 year relationship that was semi abusive, where she fell deeply in love with him. In the past I would normally suggest she does a ‘drive by’. That is go and drive by the house where he now lives. However in this instance she did a FaceBook search, found him and became his FaceBook friend.

She saw some old photos that he had on his FaceBook and saw him as he is now. The Child ego state fill ins of her memory were dissolved. After a number of discussions with him she came back to therapy and said, “How did I ever fall in love with him!”. Combining this with 2 chair regressive goodbye work in therapy and that chapter in her life was quickly closed. The attachment was dissolved and she was this more able to attach with her current partner.



  1. Oh Tony - that last story has a lovely ending. Thank you for that

  2. So do you become friends with clients on facebook? Most of what I've read at least here in the US is that is ill advised. I've seen a rare opinion though of therapists who do allow clients to friend them because they view it as part of a natural social process and allows clients to see them as people.

    My T did not have have a page when I first started with her, but she does now. I've searched her but never friended her nor told her that I've looked her up. Avoidance I guess.


  3. Hello OLJ,

    There is one current cleint who is a FaceBook friend of mine. There are a couple of ex clients. I have had others ask and have said no, but there has never been a large number who have asked. I suspect others have done what you did and have searched and then gone no further.

    If people want to research me they can easily do it via the internet. I have lots of 'me' on there, as can been seen on this public blog. At times I have said some quite personal stuff here.

    I hear some say they can't put this and that on the internet about themselves and they get quite secretive. That has never been my philosophy. To my mind that just breeds trouble and further interest in those wanting to find out. It creates more problemst than it solves.

    So I tell people stuff, sure there are things that I don't say which are very personal and often involve disclosing things about others which is not fair to them. But do say a lot of stuff, so what if people know I'm divorced, or my mother suicided or my first born son died.

    When they find that out, what then?

    Not much.

    People loose interest and are far more intrigued both those who try and keep all their secrets, secret.

    thanks for your comment my friend.


  4. Thanks for the reply Tony. I think your way makes much more sense than the typical secrecy. If I were a therapist, I think I would have your approach. (Although I am also a firm believer that you don't know truly how you will react until faced with a situation yourself). I think sometimes the desire to "know" things about a therapist gets in the way of actual therapy. My therapist disclosed to me that she had personally experienced EMDR, but not why. I am an inquisitive person, so of course, I still think about what happened to her, how much talk therapy she had before EMDR, etc..... To me, this is relevant as she and I have talked about me and EMDR.

    Of course, my T (and others who practice like her) think that the WHY you want to know something is more important than the actual information. I've always found it discordant that therapy is said to be useful in dealing with relationships and the therapeutic relationship is often described as almost sacred. In my opinion, such a one sided relationship is not modeling the "real" world of relationships.

    I certainly don't expect complete disclosure and obviously the disclosure is not to be done so the client can counsel the therapist. But some disclosure satisfies the curiosity and then therapy can move on.

    Again, I like your approach.


  5. Hello OLJ,

    I understand and agree with you that some therapists think that the WHY you want to know something is more important than the actual information.

    I wrote about this in July this year in the post titled

    Client's asking difficult questions

    I personally don't put a big deal of emphasis on the WHY of a question asked by a client. I can''t remember the last time I asked a client such a thing.

    Most often I am willing to answer the question, so I answer it, I may then enquire as to what the client's reaction is to my answer and thus work on the transference in this way. other times I just let it go and the person wanted to know something about me so I told them.

    I think at least some of the time when the therapist asks the cleint WHY they ask the question that they are hiding behind their theories. The therapist's FC is uncomfortable with answering the question so they quickly jump to analysis of the questioner and don't answer the actual question.

    In addition I think it could be a discount of the client because the question never gets answered. What is wrong with one person asking another a question and the second person giving an answer. It seems like basic good human communication to me.


  6. Tony -
    I like this approach.

    Do you think this back and forth on this subject could have been the reason I went to therapy today angry and resistant? :))


  7. Why do you ask the question OLJ?

    Just joking my friend!!

    Sounds good to me - an angry and resistent client. Something is going to happen for sure.

    But in answering your question it seems like it could well be. this idea seems to have some importance for you. Good for you!


  8. Good morning!

    Your question made me smile. :)

    I feel less angry today. I was able to journal yesterday all the reasons why I might feel anger and I have a few good reasons. Now the key is to take them in to talk about (rather than call and say I'm not coming).

    Have a good day!

  9. OH I did not realize OLJ that it was at the stage of possibly cancelling and not going!

    that is an interesting stage of therapy though


  10. Tony -
    That stage (the cancelling) comes up every once in awhile, but I've never actually done it. Just think about it when I become resistant to the process.

    Why have you said No to some clients who friend you on facebook? For me it's more an abstract concept because I don't frequent facebook all that much.


  11. Hello OLJ,

    Well that is a good sign, that you feel anger and resistance to the therapy process. I assume you already have but if you haven't I would recommend that you tell the therapist that you are feeling that way.

    If a client says such a thing to me then it is time to really go digging in the psyche of the client for the reasons I state in my YouTube video. It is a most positive sign that the client is primed for psychological change.

    Saying 'no' to a client who asks to be my faceBook friend? As you mentioned before it can be a therapeutic thing for a client.

    I ask myself the following questions

    1. Do I think the client can handle it and not get involved in all sorts of games.

    2. Does my own Free Child want such a FaceBook friend.

    Take care


  12. Yes - the anger and resistance has been raised before - it comes and goes. So is that the Free Child that comes up with the anger and resistance?


  13. The anger and resistence could have a number of causes OLJ,

    If it is a move from the stage of positive transference into the stage of negative transference then one could call that a function of the Free Child.

    It could also be a intuitive unconscious move by the Adapted Child so as to structure the therapeutic relationship such that your early demands of the Free Child are again not met.



  14. Tony -
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I understand the words but perhaps not the meaning. Although I've read your posts for awhile, I'm still not sure I get TA.

    Cheers back,

  15. The theory is OLJ,

    As each of us grow we develop early demands of our parents. That is there is some unmet emotional need that our parents never staisfied in us.

    The question asked in adulthood is," What was the thing you always wanted from mother and never got?". The usual answers are love, encouragement, being heard and listened to, time, attention and so forth.

    Our Free Child will continue to want these things when we develop relationships in adulthood. But on the other hand the Adapted Child part of us will set out to make sure we never get these things. It will make moves and decisions in the relationship such that their early demand remains unmet. Anger and resistance in the relationship could be such a maneuver as I said above.



  16. Thanks for the explanation Tony -
    I'm wondering in the context of early trauma - does the adapted child take over as a protection for the free child?

    One of the books I recently purchased has a section on TA and its use in trauma therapy. Perhaps that will help me understand more about it.