Monday, July 7, 2008

It's a small world

Blogger is being stupid and not letting me add a picture. Either that, or it's firefox. It could definitely be firefox, I've been having problems with it all day. In any case, here is a completely new ethical concern I never even thought about until it happened.

I recently did an intake for someone I knew. Only, I didn't realize I knew them till partway through the intake. How is this possible you say? I only knew them through an internet message board and msn. I'd seen pictures, but it was quarter to midnight and dark in the shelter where I went and got her to bring her to the intake room. So the thing is, I'm pretty open on this website, and so was she, and so we both know lots of deep, deep stuff about each other never expecting that we'd meet... and we met. awkward much?

And I was a bit unprofessional... sigh. Things we think of in retrospect. I recognized her and she didn't recognize me. It was late, she was very nervous, etc... And so I told her I knew her and where from, I was hoping it would help her nervousness, to know someone, you know? I totally shouldn't have done that... just kept it anonymous.

I reassured her that anything I knew about her from our past relationship I would keep out of our professional contact. My intake doesn't reflect anything she didn't say... I hope. Sometimes it's hard to keep those things out... I'll try and pass off her file each time I'm in detox. Maybe I should have passed off her intake once I realized it too, but I was the only one back there (nights), and it felt okay at the time. It's not like we were all that close on the internet, we hadn't talked at all in probably over a year. More like just a mutual message board knowledge of each other.

But, it also makes me feel kind of vulnerable. Because she knows tons of stuff about me that I would NOT want getting to the staff at work. I've barred my soul on that website. Not recently, but in the past.

The internet really changes things. It changes the way we think of friends, the way we think of relationships. It changes the way I think of conflict of interest situations. It also makes stop and think, and realize that I need to narrow this down for myself. My city's big, but not that big, when does my knowing someone become a conflict of interest? I've had the file of someone I played with when I was 6 and 7 at my dad's drop in center... That didn't seem like a conflict of interest to me, and I don't think it was, but this?

These are times when I regret taking a job that's not explicitly a social work job. No social work supervision. And really, the supervision sucks. Not enough debrief, not enough feedback, not enough time to talk ethics... and honestly, ethics just doesn't seem to be on the mind of most of these people. alas.

1 comment:

cb said...

It sounds really tough and I think the importance of supervision can't really be underestimated - just having somewhere to put all the things you are learning as you go into context really. I've become a lot more assertive about my need for good supervision as I've gone on, basically because I have increasingly recognised the value of it and the need for debriefing really.
And these conflicts of interest are the main reason I stay as anonymous as I can online - in all contexts really.
The nature of friendships is very much changing but its definitely something that's worth considering.
Sometimes and often actually, you have to 'make mistakes' in order to learn and I imagine if a similar situation arises again, you might not act in the same way.. not very helpful at the moment, but its the way that experience grows.