Want to find his/her third grade photo...or something.
January 16, 2009 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been looking for information on my therapist beyond the strictly professional, just out of curiosity, and it's impossible.

All I find is his/her website and links on wellness directories etc. I know some personal details like college, etc, but can't find anything in google searches. I'm not planning to show up at his house or anything, was just curious about more.

Do therapists do something in particular to keep themselves from showing up in google searches? what is it? What about their college activities etc? It's just interesting to me. I can completely see why they would want to keep personal details private, but in the age of the web I feel like any kind of searching is possible. Is this just an anomaly? I've done this with therapists before and have never been able to find any info.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What would you expect to find on Google about an adult other than professional information and a few personal details? Most of us who are over 25 or so don't have our college years carefully documented on the Web, or list them on our resumes, and people who don't sit in front of computers all day are unlikely to have the Facebook/Flickr/whatever trail that many of us office-workers do. It's not that hard not to be all over Google.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:55 AM on January 16, 2009

There are many people doing just fine without an all-consuming digital life. Google doesn't exhaust the limits of known information. It's very important to understand this.

More specifically:

Do therapists do something in particular to keep themselves from showing up in google searches?

No. And they are probably savvy enough to not post photos of their last keg party.

What about their college activities etc?

This isn't always published.
posted by ezekieldas at 7:58 AM on January 16, 2009

Therapists are at high risk for being stalked, so some of them are wise enough to protect personal information. As others have noted, many people have little or no online presence.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

What about their college activities etc?

Depending on how old your therapist is, and when they went to college, there might not be anything. I graduated from college in the late 80s and there's really nothing about me wrt college on the internets.

If your shrink is of a Certain Age, they're not going to have a myspace page, will probably not have a facebook page, and if they keep a journal online, it's going to be locked down tight and not under their name. If they don't publish hugely in their field, there's not going to be much to find there, either.

Why don't you just ask what you want to know?
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on January 16, 2009

Ask him, that is.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2009

Well, when I was in therapy, I experienced some curiosity about my therapist, about her personal life.

But I didn't actively seek out that information; I figured that I was paying for two forty-five minute chunks of her time per week and the rest of the week was hers.

I did discuss that curiosity with her and we did arrive at some insights as a result of those discussions.

So why don't you talk about this curiosity with him or her? It might be very productive. You never know.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:03 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to concerns about stalking mentioned above, many therapists were trained within a psychodynamic/psychoanalytic paradigm. This paradigm teaches that there is a phenomenon called transference, in which patients work through earlier life struggles with their parents by "projecting" characteristics of the parents onto the therapist.

As an absurd simplification, for example, someone who felt that they were rejected by their parents will start to perceive the therapist as rejecting and hostile. If conditions are right and his or her relationship with the therapist is good enough, the patient can explore these perceptions about the therapist and, by so doing, uncover previously unconscious memories about him or herself as a child who felt unloved/rejected. Thus, the patient can work though his/her early relationship with parents by exploring the current relationship with the therapist. Transference was seen as one of the central elements in producing psychotherapy effects.

The literature on psychotherapy technique from those days suggested that these transference fantasies were best facilitated if therapists tended to reveal little about themselves as real people. This came to be called therapeutic neutrality. For example, if I, as a therapist, conveyed to you my real and deep sympathies for some loss of yours, it might be difficult for you to experience me as a heartless bastard in the transference - thus inhibiting your work in therapy. This explains why many therapists trained in this model are perceived of as cold or withholding - they've been trained to be blank canvases on which patients can project whatever they need.

Therapists these days have a wide range of opinions about how "real" versus how "neutral" they should be, or whether neutrality is even possible or desirable. But for many of us, those early training experiences form the basis of our approach to our work, and we tend to shy away from revealing too much about ourselves, to help ensure that the patient/client is the focus of the therapy.

If you're curious about your therapist, I'd encourage you to ask him your questions and see how the discussion goes.
posted by jasper411 at 9:13 AM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

It's a really good question. Are there guidelines for therapists not to go on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.? It would be awkward to find a message on your FB friend's Wall from your shrink.
posted by Kirklander at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look, be grateful. What if you found disturbing information? I did.

My ex and I went to a therapist for couple's counseling. A couple years later, I had moved out of the city and needed the therapist's address for an insurance form, so I Googled her. Found out that in her college years, she had been a member of a popular lesbian punk band known for its performance-arty shows. One of their big hits was called "[redacted]," and it involved members of the band stripping on-stage and fondling each other.

Let me just say, it is not a good thing to find topless pictures of your therapist on the internet.

My advice to patients: Stop googling.

My advice to people who want to go into the field: Be very, very circumspect. Maybe change your name, too.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:22 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why would it be any more awkward than running into your shrink at a party? Which is at least as likely to happen if your therapist runs in your social circles.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:22 AM on January 16, 2009

You can only search for information that people have chosen to put out there. Searching for me or any of my family, for example, brings up a few links directly related to our jobs but nothing about our personal lives. It's not some sort of google trickery, just that we choose not to write about it online where it'll be picked up by a search. Most of us have accounts on various sites -- including social places like Flickr and facebook -- but either use nicknames that only friends and famly will recognise or, where possible, choose fairly tight privacy options.

None of the family is a fully paid-up member of the tinfoil hat brigade, we just like to keep our personal lives seperate from our professional lives. We'd all prefer that prospective bosses and clients don't have the option of leafing through our holiday snaps, or reading about our social lives on Facebook. I assume your therapist has the same preference, so does similar things to stay invisible online.
posted by metaBugs at 9:22 AM on January 16, 2009

My mom was a therapist when I was growing up. (Pre-Internet stalking).

She tried as hard as possible to not see people that lived in our town and flat-out refused to see any kids in our school district. She wouldn't put one of those "My kid is an honor roll student at X Middle School" bumper stickers on (sniff).

I don't know if this helps answer the question, but maybe helps provide some perspective?
posted by k8t at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2009

At best all I would take from that is that he graduated from college more than five years ago, has never been arrested and has never been a source of media attention. It probably also means that he has not recently participated in any conferences or contributed to any publications. And, if they have a spouse, the spouse isn't an Internet gossip.

I just did an experiment and Googled my five siblings. I found only two have any Internet presence at all. The one with the biggest presence doesn't own a computer but is in a few magazines. On the other end of the spectrum my brother who's IT manager for a very large non-profit has nothing at all.

Based on my research I'd say someone's Google-ability (or lack of) is meaningless. However therapists usually do make an effort to keep work and personal life separate. Can you blame them?

On preview: I just saw the title of this page. And... uh... You should talk to your therapist about this. Wanting to find childhood photos of your therapist isn't good for the whole client/patient relationship. They'll be cool with it, they're professional, you can't image the stuff that comes through their door.
posted by Ookseer at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2009

I can completely see why they would want to keep personal details private

Then perhaps you should respect their privacy.

but in the age of the web I feel like any kind of searching is possible

Wrong. If it's not there, you won't be able to find it.
posted by idiomatika at 12:03 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not a therapist, I'm not a privacy nut, and I'm online all the time (twitter, flickr, facebook, etc). Still, the only thing you can find out about me in the first 5 pages of Google results (under my married name AND my maiden name) is my hometown and where I went to school. So, if you're not finding anything, he/she is either being careful with their online presence, or just hasn't done that much.
posted by desjardins at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2009

Jasper411 is totally correct, there are many reasons for your therapist to want to remain shrouded in mystery. My boyfriend is a therapist, and unlike everyone else I know, he's not on Facebook, doesn't have a blog, doesn't Twitter, etc. etc. -- the professional fallout is too potentially annoying and distracting. When I mention him on MY online meanderings, I use a pseudonym (that all of my friends and family know).

Plus he has that annoying therapist trait of always turning it around back to you and using it in the therapeutic work, so even if you were to find some personal detail about your therapist, chances are she'd be all, "Huh, so you found an old photo of me online. You seem to spend a lot of time trying to figure out more about who I am, tell me about that" etc. And really, who wants to go down that road?
posted by chowflap at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2009

chowflap's exactly right - if you ask him, be prepared for him to say something like "I wonder why you're asking that." It sounds like a dodge, but it may not be - as I say above, there are good reasons that he might *actually* be interested in why you're asking, for the reasons I went into above. After he and you explore your reasons for asking, you can ask him again - "So, now that we've explored my reasons, will you tell me about this old photo?" He should be able to either say yes or no and explain why.
posted by jasper411 at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2009

You actually SHOULD ask your therapist to see a photo of them when they were in third grade, just because it would spark an interesting and potentially-revealing discussion. I doubt it would result in you actually getting to see an old photo, though!
posted by chowflap at 1:22 PM on January 16, 2009

Word. Ask him straight up. If he won't divulge, it is to maintain professional ethics and you should respect that (cuz it's for your own good).
posted by HolyWood at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2009

Most therapists are pretty careful about letting too much information about themselves be available to their patients. It's not just that they can be stalked; it can also screw up the therapeutic transference.

Speaking of which, you need to bring this up in your next session.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:32 PM on January 17, 2009

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