Monday, February 28, 2011

Anonymity... Comment by Anonymous

Saturday I wrote about suicide by overeating, the topic at our OA meeting that day. One person commented as follows:

Anonymous said...

"A" meetings are "safe" places where we can go and talk because we are told that "what is said in a meeting, stays in a meeting". We learn to build trust again through these meetings. I think it may have been an oversight on your end that you didn't realize that sharing one word, one sentence, one story is a breach of that trust. You are given a gift at those meetings by people who are as raw and hurting as you are, so a gentle reminder to keep that boundary.

Thanks for the reminder! I wish to apologize to whoever wrote the above comment and give my promise to be more careful in the future. I do value the safe space we have in our meetings to say whatever we need to say. And, yes, of course the atmosphere of safety depends on anonymity.

I guess when I wrote the post (here), it didn't seem likely that anybody could identify any of the members from what I wrote. However, one never knows who might read my post and be able to put two and two together. The post is now edited to remove all specific content from our OA meeting. Hopefully what remains is not in violation of any trust.

Actually, I'd like to know, who are you Anonymous? I'd like to apologize directly to you and understand more completely your interpretation of the OA anonymity policy. If you wish, please contact me by email: WordsPaint[at]gmail[dot]com or directly if you know me. Thanks.


  1. I struggle with the topic of anonimity / secrecy too in regard to my therapygroup. What is said during sessions is supposed to stay there and never leave the room. The hard thing is though, that some things do touch me so deeply that I still carry them with me when at home. Then, not sharing would be a violation of my own need to take good care of myself.
    I think there is no good solution to this dilemma. The way I deal with this is that I do talk to my husband about what happened and focus on what the story did to me. How it touched me, how it affected my thoughts and feelings. On top I never reveal the full names of my groupmembers or any other info that could identify them. I hope to honour the safety of the group in this way and to take care of my needs at the same time.
    I would like to hear the comment of anonymous on my view. I think you did right by your groupmembers, but then again I live across the great ocean.
    (funny, the word verification reads advis... advice?)

  2. On the other hand... I use examples all the time from my Hospice cases... I don't use the names.... of course.
    It's not about the names and the people. It's about the stories. And how they apply to our lives. And what we learn and feel about it!
    So no breach of trust intended or implied!

  3. I don't understand how what you wrote could hurt anyone. You didn't mention names or where the meeting is. Also your intent was not to betray anyone, it was to learn and grown. I would like to know what anonymous thinks is distructive about your post.

  4. Well. I guess I'll weigh in on this a little late.

    I am a professional counselor. I have run hundreds of groups. Really. I am not exagerating. I ran at least 2 groups a week for 5 years.

    Granted they were not OA meetings, but they were heavy hitters as far as having wounded people in them who needed to be able to trust. They were meetings for adults who had been sexually abused as children.

    Here is what I told them in regard to confidentiality and anonymity:

    "These groups are confidential and you are required to keep that confidentiality. You may not, under any circumstance, reveal who is in this group. You may also not repeat what anyone says within this meeting on the outside. Nothing.

    You may tell people what YOU said, or thought--but not what you heard from another. Not even "a woman there said..." NOthing.

    You may certainly discuss the subject. What you thought about the subject. How it made you feel. But not share other members actions or input.

    You may absolutely repeat anything I say. I am bound by confidentiality--but I hold no right to it for myself. What I say is fair game.

    This is not a secret society. We are not practicing covert activity. We are respecting each person's need to be safe and protected.

    The only way for this to remain a safe place to share is if everyone knows that what they say or do will not be disclosed.

    If you are concerned about someone's safety because of what they have said, please talk to me about it and I will follow up as needed. "

    I did not say all of that in one spiel without a breath. :) I would pause and let members ask questions. Often some of the above would be given as an answer to those questions. However it got said, tho, all of it got said.

    So, I haven't read your post in question, but you might want to measure it by the above and see how it stands. And then apply whatever OA specifically says, too.

    I hope that helps.

    Really, in counseling, the most imprtant work happens BETWEEN sessions. That is when the client considers, applies, works thru, what they heard, felt, experienced in session. so, for a client to discuss the topic of group is usually a helpful thing. I just needs to be done without adding the group members 2 bits into it.

    Your thoughts. Your wonderings. your feelings. Well, they are yours, after all.


    (There was also the caveat given that I would hold confidentiality unless someone threatened harm to themselves or others or there was report of child abuse. At that point I may be required to break confidentiality. But that is not germaine to this discussion.)


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it very much.