EthicsTechnology & Mental Health

Ethical Challenges Posed by Technology & Social media

Today’s therapists have the opportunity and challenge of using a variety of tools that did not exist (or were not readily accessible) 10 years ago.  Many private practitioners have websites and participate in on-line forums and list-serves.  Email, social media and text messaging all offer new ways for potentially communicating with clients.  In addition, how and when to move to electronic record keeping and other innovative practice management tools are questions most therapists need to consider. Not only do these new technologies pose technical challenges for clinicians (we must learn how to use them effectively) but new technology also raises a number of ethical challenges for clinicians. One major concern involves the security and confidentiality of various technologies.  Part of our obligation to our clients is to maintain confidentiality.  Introduction of additional technologies greatly increase this challenge.  Additional questions include when and how to use different technologies for communicating with clients.  While email and texting are very convenient they are not without challenges: how clear are text messages, do clinicians want to be responsible for managing multiple methods of communication, and how secure are these different means of communication?.

Fortunately, there are a number of solid resources for clinicians looking for guidance on these issues.  Keeley Kolmes, Psy.D., has an excellent website and offers clinicians guidance and resources on how to navigate the challenges posed by new technology and social media.  Kolmes describes her social media policy and generously offers clinicians the opportunity to copy and modify her policy.

For those interested in more resources on the topic the journal, “Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,” published a number of articles examining the impact of technology on clinical practice (see Dec. 2012, Vol. 43 #6, and Dec. 2011, Vol. 42, # 6).  A number of these articles focus on ethical challenges these innovations pose.  In addition,   the American Psychological Association’s has recently released a draft set of guidelines on Telepsychology:

In upcoming posts I will consider some of the specific challenges new technologies pose and offer some discussion and suggestions on how to respond to these challenges. Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues on the Illinois Psychology Association’s Ethics Committee for their thoughts and ideas on these issues, which have been invaluable in helping me continue to refine my thinking on these issues.