Counsellors, Psychotherapists and the Internet. Devices, Ethics, Social Media

Originally published 27 September, 2016

There are many approaches and guidelines on how to use the equipment you find in the kitchen. Call them directions, user guides or instructions, aka destructions in my household as no one ever reads them. Therein lies the problem…#skimming or #ignoring or #doesntapplytome (I’m using hashtags # to highlight the fact that this can be trend/pattern)

So if there was indeed a user guide for cyberspace would you ignore it? Skim over it? Throw it in the bin or digest every ounce of the contents?

Did you know a document such as this actually exists for counsellors and psychotherapists and has done for a while?

Ethical Framework for the Use of Social Media by Mental Health Professionals

That’s the one. Have you read it?

What do you think about it, what are your reflections and what rights do you think you have for using your social media accounts as you see fit? What do you think about your clients and their social media usage?

Do you have rights? Do your clients? What might these be? What do you expect from the sites and applications (programs) that you use when it comes to privacy, harassment, location services and your right to express yourself as a human being on the Internet?

Ethical dilemma after ethical dilemma right?

What about the question that can often go unnoticed… What happens about your past or your opinions of today becoming your future?

(or future past for that matter)

What effect will this have on you or your clients?

I have deliberately put questions forward in this article to get you thinking. Please feel free to feedback and let’s open this up for debate, I’m sure you will be surprised at both your response and others too. (I should also insert a comment about trolling and respect for each other, however, the point is exactly that- – you never know the response that will occur after posting)

Now onto working with clients who bring technology into the room, again what rights do you have a counsellor to insist that the device is turned off or not brought into your room? Why would this be ethical or unethical? Do you know about geolocation and tagging? (go and google these terms if you’re not sure)

Would this have an effect on your practice? Do you have a right to have your device in the room?

What about access to the Internet? What about the content a client may show you that is on their phone? (Think #sexting and #underageconsent). Do you know enough about the internet to know what apps are safe, underage, ethical, secret or indeed coercive?

Should you be asking your clients every session to turn their phone off before coming in? What about new clients? How do you ask this question? Does it become part of your contract? What about beforehand, do you ask them to turn it off before driving/walking down the street to your practice?

Do you allow it? What do you say to clients who have a phone that buzzes and they pay attention to that and not the session? Do you ask them to turn it face down, put it away? What about the phone that rings and the client answers?

What about the clients that add you on social media accounts or follow you on public forums?

What about clients that text you, for example asking to change appointment times and then start a ‘text session’ or ‘email session’. How do you put your boundaries in place?

For those of you who work creatively (with adults or children) is it ethical to share pictures of your clients work? Do you have to wait for a reasonable amount of time between the session and posting? Do you need written permission to share (after all data protection and client identification?) What about if a client retracts that consent in years to come?

These are only a few of the questions I ask/teach and answer in my training. Ask me about this via email.

Do you have enough knowledge about this?

Are you safe online? What about your clients?

This really is a subject you need to engage with. It isn’t going away. (even if it did it will be in virtual existence for a long, long, long time)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: