Many of my friends, colleagues and readers have expressed an interest in my blogs: how and why I write them, where I get my ideas, how I maintain confidentiality, how I feel about having to turn out weekly material, and so on. So I decided that I would write a blog about my blogs and, hopefully, many of these questions will be answered.
When I first started blogging I was tremendously intimidated, not by the writing itself, but by the idea of tackling social media. To say the least, this was not my area of expertise. My foray into this arena was due to the prodding of Alia, the public relations person I hired after the publication of my book, Love and Loss in Life and in Treatment. She thought it would get my name “out there” and, hopefully, help promote my book. Has it? I have no idea. My guess is, not much. But I’m still blogging. And I still hear Alia’s admonition to write shorter, clearer, simpler, in a way that will engage readers.
I get mostly positive feedback on my blogs and, of course, that in itself is gratifying. But I suspect there’s another reason I keep blogging, a reason related to my need for someone to hear me, to listen to me now that my husband is no longer present in that role. He’s been deceased for over six years now. My ever constant supportive and appreciative audience is no more. So I blog instead, to a more anonymous audience who can’t of course replace all his love and warmth. Still, I’m drawn to my computer every Friday.
Yes, I write on Fridays, every Friday. That’s when I wrote my book; that’s when I write my blogs. Friends know not to call me on Fridays. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t find that discipline difficult. I love to write and even if I’m having a not-so-productive day, I stay at my computer. Sometimes having to produce weekly blogs can feel burdensome and I do occasionally give myself a vacation break. Basically, however, as I said, I appreciate having an audience.
Sometimes I’m asked how I can reveal so much about my patients in such an open a forum. I want to again offer the reassurance that I never violate my patients’ confidentiality. Most of the patients presented in my blogs are composites of various patients I have seen over the years; sometimes they are entirely fictionalized, springing seemingly unbidden from somewhere in my unconscious; very occasionally they are patients - still disguised - who have given me permission to write about them.
Some readers will then question how my blogs can have any clinical relevance if the patients presented are composites or fictional. My answer is that I always try to remain true to the patient or concept that I am attempting to portray. I also hope that my 40 plus years of clinical experience adds weight to my ability to paint an authentic clinical picture.
Others ask how I can be so self-revealing in my blogs, since present, past or future patients can potentially learn so much about me. I struggled with this question when I wrote Love and Loss which intertwines memoir with clinical material. I couldn’t write that book, the book that memorializes my husband and our relationship, without providing autobiographical material. It was a risk I chose to take and, as far as I can tell, it has had minimal consequences. Most patients seem not to know about my book – or my blog. Of those who do, some have chosen to read it, others have not. Those who read it have told me either that they felt enriched by getting to know me on another level or have seemed relatively unaffected by the content.
I have read and written about self-disclosure a good deal during the course of my career and have come to the conclusion that patients can fantasize as much about what they know about their therapist, as what they don’t know. For example, patients who know that I’m a widow have as much of a subjective spin on that fact, as those who don’t know. They can create whatever transference scenario that fits their own internal dynamics. I know I have colleagues who will disagree and say that I’m rationalizing my self-disclosure. Perhaps they are correct. I can only say that my experience has been that my self-disclosure has often deepened the treatment, as opposed to derailing it.
Please ask whatever further questions you might have about my blogs and I will attempt to answer them. Perhaps in another blog.