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Ethical Principles Regarding Clinical Care and Social Media

February 6th, 2017
Clinical Care and Social Media

An online presence can be an important part of any mental health professional’s practice, especially practitioners who work online as part of their practice. In addition, many mental health professionals have personal social media accounts of their own. There are numerous ethical rules and principles that can relate to online activity and it is important for anyone in the field to recognize and adhere to the proper code of conduct. The following are only a few of many ethical principles that relate to social media.

Status Updates – Practitioners should never include any confidential or client-related information in Facebook status updates, Tweets, blog postings, or other social media interactions. Even if you believe that you do not include specific information about your client, there may be enough information for someone else to determine or assume their identity. Do not rely on privacy settings to protect you, as others may come to view your posting that should not be seeing any such confidential information.

Client Connections – By agreeing to “friend” or “follow” a client on social media, you may be compromising their confidentiality as a client or may lead to relationships with others that may cause ethical conflicts.

Using Search Engines – Mental health professionals should not ever secretly “Google” a client’s name or use other online resources to gather information about a client. If they do search for information online, they should inform the client of when such a practice may occur (such as in the case of an emergency) and such searches should be documented if it is part of clinical assessment or care.

Communication by Email or Messaging Services – Mental health professionals should ensure clients understand that contacting them by email or short message service (SMS) is not necessarily confidential and may open up their information to third parties. In addition, even seemingly mundane communications via email or SMS should be included in the client’s records.

The above are only some of the ethical principles that all mental health professionals should keep in mind when using social media or online communications. If you ever have any ethical or professional complaints regarding social media use, you should seek help from an attorney who specifically understands the mental health ethical standards for online activity and communication.

Call 732 238-8686 today for more information.

At the law firm of Bowne Barry & Barry in New Jersey, we assist mental health professionals with a wide array of legal services, including professional ethics consultations and defense, license defense, and business development. Please call our office today to discuss how we can assist with your mental health practice.