At September’s AACC conference I attended a presentation entitled, “Technoethics” by Jana Vanderslice, a psychologist from Texas. She got me thinking about the use of e-mail and other Internet-based technologies with counselees. Here are some of the issues:

1. E-mail. Do you have a policy about your use of e-mail with counselees? Do you inform them about the limits or possible problems that might be encountered? Problems such as security and confidentiality, whether or not you will read them “in time”, what becomes of them (printed out and kept in a file?), whether or not you provide brief counseling through e-mail and possible charges, etc. Dr. Vanderslice suggests having a start to the email that says, “Confidential! This is not meant to take the place of in person consultation…”

2. If you do e-mail counseling, do you (a) know who you are emailing? What data do you collect from the person you provide email counseling to? And (b), do you think about how your email may sound if it is printed off and/or forwarded to others. You should assume that your electronic communications may be passed on. Further, if you have regular e-mail contact, how will you deal with the nature of always being at the beck and call of clientele?

3. Your Social networking accts. Do you use twitter? Do you have a Facebook or MySpace account or the like? Do you “friend” your clients? Do you have anything personal on the web you’d rather your clients didn’t see? This becomes a form of self-disclosure. There may be things revealed about yourself on-line that you would never reveal to a client. Remember, if the client is in the same Facebook network, they can likely see more of you than you might realize.

4. Google searches. Similarly, it might be worth your while to search yourself and see what is out there. Did you know that there are “rate my counselor” type sites out there? Many of these exist to help you find healthcare providers in your area, but include ratings by current or former clients. Do you know what others are saying about you?

5. IT and other providers. Who has access to your accounts and computer? Does your IT dept (if you are in a larger organization) know to honor HIPAA regulations? If you use a vendor (e.g., Geek Squad), they need to sign an agreement to maintain the privacy of the clientele data on your email or database. Can you encrypt email and/or WORD documents?

Can you think of other technoethics issues?

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Filed under Communication, confidentiality, counseling, counseling skills, ethics, Psychology, teaching counseling

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