- Products & Services
- Knowledge Base
JACKSONVILLE, FL, March 06, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Professional Development Resources has announced a new addition to its online continuing education (CE) curriculum for mental health professionals: Ethics and Social Media. The course is designed to help psychotherapists observe caution in the use of social media like Facebook in their practices.
Is it useful or appropriate (or ethical or therapeutic) for a therapist and a client to share the kinds of information that are routinely posted on Social Networking Services (SNS) like Facebook, Twitter, and others? Isn't privacy an issue? How are psychotherapists to handle "friending" requests from clients?
"Most psychotherapists fall into one of two categories when it comes to using social media like Facebook and Twitter," says Leo Christie, PhD, author of the course. "Some of us (usually younger therapists) are 'digital natives,' those who were born and bred using their Facebook pages for socializing with their digital friends. Others (generally older therapists) are 'digital immigrants,' stumbling through the 21st-century digital landscape barely understanding what we are seeing."
Digital natives and digital immigrants alike face the same question: what are the ethical problems that occur when you try to combine social media contacts and psychotherapy? Here are just a few:
- Privacy and confidentiality - how can these be protected when they take place on a public website?
- Multiple relationships - being Facebook "friends" with a client may constitute an unethical dual relationship
- Record-keeping - therapists are required to keep records of their client contacts; how does one record texts, tweets and Facebook postings?
The first and most obvious problem is that of privacy and confidentiality. Confidentiality in professional communications is the cornerstone of successful psychotherapy. There are many ethical and legal standards addressing the requirement that therapists carefully protect the privacy of their dealings with clients. If those dealings take place in a public medium like Facebook where postings can be viewed by others, the client's privacy can be shredded.
While platforms like Facebook offer a continuum of privacy options for its users, the issue of client confidentiality is so important that therapists must go much further to protect it. Since social networking sites were specifically designed to propagate information, it is very difficult to keep it private, and once you post something you can't take it back.
Christie adds "the other major ethics issue here is that psychotherapists are required to avoid having multiple relationships with their clients. This means that - once in a therapy relationship - the therapist has to take care not to confuse it by also having a friend or business relationship with the client. In this light, Facebook 'friending' poses problems."
How should therapists respond when receiving friending requests from clients, as they inevitably will? At first glance, it seems to be a no-win situation: if the therapist rejects the client's request, there can be hurt feelings and resentment; if he or she accepts, then there are boundary and multiple relationship issues.
So, what are therapists to do? Ethics and Social Media offers a number of concrete suggestions for managing the dilemma:
- Remember that the whole issue of whether to friend can be a minefield
- Decide whether or not to maintain a Facebook presence at all
- If you do use Facebook, segment your list of friends into limited profile contacts
- Be prepared to discuss friending issues in therapy sessions
- Be sure new clients understand your policies on Facebook friending at the start of treatment
To make these choices even more difficult, most of the professional codes of ethics were published prior to the proliferation of social networking. Therefore, there are no official specific guidelines at the present time. Until there are, therapists are left to study the issues on their own and make the best clinical judgments they can.
About Professional Development Resources, Inc.
Professional Development Resources is a Florida nonprofit educational corporation founded in 1992 by licensed marriage and family therapist Leo Christie, PhD. The company, which is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - as well as many other national and state boards - has focused its efforts on making accredited continuing education units more cost-effective and widely accessible to health professionals by offering online home study coursework. Its current expanded curriculum includes a wide variety of clinical topics intended to equip health professionals to offer state-of-the art services to their clients.
Leo Christie, PhD, CEO
Professional Development Resources, Inc.
The purpose of this course is to offer psychotherapists the opportunity to examine their practices in regard to the use of social networking services in their professional relationships and communications.
# # #