Client Confidentiality in the Age of Social Media
I had the pleasure of presenting at Community Services of Greater Brockton on March 4, 2015 to talk about client confidentiality in the age of social media. My colleague, Melanie Sage, has done related work and graciously allowed me to repost her related infographic. Here are some talking points from the Brockton presentation.
General Talking Points:
- It is not a matter of if we use technology, it is a matter of how we use technology
- Social worker voices tend to be missing from conversations and decisions about tech
- Confusion and fear about how to proceed with technology in practice drives avoidance not solutions
- This does a disservice to our clients, who may expect practitioners and services to meet them where they are with technology
- We run the risk of being culturally incompetent with clients
- How can we practice effectively if we don’t understand significant aspects of client’s lives, and this includes technology?
- Social media allows us to have asynchronous, non-geographically bound conversations, interactions, and connections with others
- These interactions can reach more people than ever before, and typically publicly archived
- We can advertise our services, provide the most up to date information for clients, and share research findings related to our practice, etc.
- Social media presents opportunities and challenges for social workers
- To avoid or lessen complications, develop a social media policy
In terms of confidentiality, the following guidelines from the Online Therapy Institute Ethical Framework for the Use of Social Media by Mental Health Professionals are helpful:
- Be upfront about appropriate methods of contact (i.e., text messages, email, public messaging)
- Provide the best level of protection for client data
- Recognize client concerns and be upfront about the challenges and risks involved with security and privacy. For example, if you email me I may have no control if my account is hacked, but here is how I protect your information as much as possible and what I will do if there is a problem. (Source).
- Not discuss confidential information on social media
- Be upfront about avoiding dual relationships on social media
- Have a policy in place if a client discovers on social media mutual friends, interests, or cultural groups with you. For example, I do not friend or follow current students on social media. If students find me, I welcome their conversation and dialogue, and questions.
- Do not ask for reviews on consumer review sites, and do not respond on consumer reviews in any way confirming whether someone is or was a therapy client
- Kolmes, K., Merz Nagel, D., & Anthony, K. (2010). Ethical framework for the use of social media by mental health professionals. Retrieved from http://onlinetherapyinstitute.com/ethical-framework-for-the-use-of-social-media-by-mental-health-professionals/
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Center for Workforce Studies. (2011, February). The tech-davy social worker: Prepared for the challenges of 21st century practice. Retrieved from http://careers.socialworkers.org/documents/TechSavvy.pdf
- Reamer, F. (2011, July 1). Eye on ethics: Developing a social media ethics policy. Retrieved from http://www.socialworktoday.com/news/eoe_070111.shtml
- Sage, M., Quinn, A., & Fitch, D. (2014). Use of social media in direct practice. Implications for training and policy. Presented at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting, Dallas, TX. Retrieved from http://melaniesagephd.blogspot.com/2014/02/social-media-and-social-workers.html
- Smyth, N. (2010, September 10). When is cultural incompetence okay? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://njsmyth.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/when-is-cultural-incompetence-okay/