Remember writing the essay “technology: a boon or bane” in school? Well, it’s now years later, and we’ve not gotten too far ahead in the debate. While a business’ digital presence is now a necessity, it poses multiple challenges for a profession that follows a meticulous code of ethics.
Therapists and counsellors may need to use social media for multiple reasons—marketing their businesses, networking with other professionals, or reaching out to people in need. But a healthy practice is to set a clear ethical boundary at the very onset.
When you promote your practice online, the goal is to draw in potential clients. Hence, your efforts will be directed towards generating maximum online visibility, striving to get exposure on every possible social media platform. But in doing so, as a therapist or counselor, you should not breach certain ethical codes of conduct that are integral to the profession. Let’s take a deep dive into this concept.
In today’s digital world, social media is the most predominant medium of engaging with people. Almost 4.89 billion people are expected to use social media in 2023 globally, which means as a professional you can now reach out to millions of people at the click of a button.
However, for mental health professionals, social media acts as a double-edged sword. On one hand, the scope and usage of social media in the mental health profession is vast. On the other hand, it’s equally tricky but critical to safeguard the interest of the practitioners and their clients. Here’s a few social media codes of conduct that all mental health practitioners should be mindful of:
1. Maintain a separate professional account for different social media platforms
Facebook has around 2.85 billion monthly active users globally, followed by YouTube with 2.3 billion users worldwide. Twitter, Instagram, etc. are equally popular social media platforms. Naturally, these platforms have plenty of eligible clients for your practice. It is obvious that you would want to use these channels to promote your practice. However, it is always advisable to create a separate business account. Your personal and professional social media accounts should be two different entities and the message should be clearly conveyed to your clients. It is recommended to keep your personal social media account private.
2. Keep your posts and comments business-appropriate
Here are some tips to help you navigate this grey area:
a. When sharing content, make sure it’s professional in nature, language and tonality. Ensure the terminology you use in your posts or comments is strictly professional.
b. Steer clear from sharing your personal opinion on controversial, inappropriate or sensitive issues. Stick to information that is accurate and up-to-date.
c. Your clients or prospects might be visiting your account, so refrain from posts that could negatively affect or act as a trigger for someone in distress.
d. It’s better to avoid using your linguistic idiosyncrasies in your professional posts and comments.
e. You may share inspirational posts, but it’s not advisable to upload personal information or photographs in your business account.
f. Refrain from sharing confidential information on social media. Needless to say, do not share client information online without their consent.
g. Abstain from diagnosing clients on social media, even if the individual is a public figure.
3. Make proper utilization of the privacy tools
Most social media platforms offer privacy tools to users to protect their account from unwanted visitors. Make the effort to understand these privacy tools and filters, review them thoroughly, and implement the right privacy setting for your personal and business accounts. This safeguards your profile from potential security threats, and also keeps the visible profile information within its threshold. However, this doesn’t mean that your target clients will not be able to get in touch with you. This will only help you regulate what information they can access.
4. Interact carefully with fellow professionals
Many therapists and counsellors make use of social media platforms to interact with fellow professionals. It’s a great way to bult networks among co-workers. However, it’s very important to nurture awareness on social media and its ethical boundaries among fellow mental health professionals. Avoid sharing your opinion publicly on a controversial or an unethical post from anyone from your professional network.
5. Do not fabricate information related to licensure, qualification, etc.
Always provide correct and precise information about your educational qualifications, accreditations, licensure, membership, expertise, etc. Fabrication of any such information even on social media may lead to serious legal consequences.
Social media platforms are integral to any business’ marketing strategies. To help your therapy or counseling practice grow, you too will have to build your professional social media presence. However, you need to take extra precautions while treading online. One tip always helps stay true —treat your professional social media accounts as your business card.
Sources: Goodtherapy, Counseling, Mytherapyflow, JSWVE
1. What are the 7 ethical principles of counselling?
The 7 ethical principles of counselling are: anatomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, fidelity, justice, veracity, and self-interest.
2. What is the main challenge faced by therapists while using social media?
There’s a very thin line between what’s right and what’s wrong ethically on social media when it comes to the mental health profession. One of the main challenges of therapists using social media is to maintain that fine balance and stick to the unspoken ethical code of conduct that social media demands from them.
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