Ethical Practice of Social Media

counselling trust Social media and Counsellors

Counsellors are well-known for offering a secure and confidential environment to assist individuals facing various life challenges. Ensuring the ethical use of social media is of utmost importance.

The field of counselling is experiencing rapid changes due to emerging technologies, particularly in the realm of social media. Many within the counselling profession are questioning the ethical implications of integrating social media into their practice while maintaining the sanctity of the client-counsellor relationship. I firmly believe that there is a responsible place for using social media within counselling. However, it is crucial for us as counsellors to consider how we present ourselves in the digital world.

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship, and clients must have complete trust that their information will remain private. Trustworthiness and autonomy are two key principles outlined in the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Ethical framework.

Clients must trust that I will never disclose any information shared within the therapeutic relationship on social media platforms. For instance, if a client confides in me about financial concerns, I would never use their username in a tweet that could potentially identify them. Furthermore, to safeguard a client’s autonomy, it’s imperative to explain the risks associated with commenting on public platforms like Facebook or any other social media page. For instance, if a client follows my Counselling Facebook page, it’s essential to inform them that their comments may inadvertently become public, but it’s ultimately their choice how they wish to act.

So how do counsellors maintain confidentiality and restrict any disclosure of confidential information in the social media world?

I have devised a list of Social Media Rules for any counsellor to use when thinking or using social media.

  • Never disclose any information about your clients on any social media forum.
  • Never engage with a client on social media.
  • Keep your professional and personal lives separate. Social media is public. Anyone can see it. Your relationship with your client is a professional one. You would not disclose your personal life in the counselling room so clients should not be able to see this information on the internet. For example, I have a business and a personal Facebook account. I do not accept any friend requests from anyone apart from friends or family on my personal Facebook account. My personal Facebook account is hidden from public view.
  • If using anonymous testimonials on any social media sites ensure  that you have the client’s written permission.
  • Do not ask clients to write a review on LinkedIn or Facebook. Ensure you make clear that if they choose to that it may compromise their confidentiality and your counselling relationship.

As a counsellor you will respect your client’s confidentiality. But how do counsellors ensure that our clients are clear about the use of social media, and its possible impact on the therapeutic relationship? You can help by having a social media policy. This will clearly state how you conduct yourself on twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs and LinkedIn, and more importantly, what you expect of the client. I have devised a social media policy which is available on my website and is referred to in my counselling contract.

Do you recommend any other social media rules for counsellors or would anything else to my social media policy?

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