Social workers run the gamut on technology and social media. Some hate it and some love it. I love it! If you are reading this article – you are participating in it. My personal opinion is that technology is the way of the world and we can embrace and utilize it or be left behind.
Social media assists the social worker with connecting with others. People spend a lot of time on their computers and smart phones. Social Media helps you market your practice and lets your clients know who you are. I don’t know how many times someone said to me “Your website was so welcoming” or “the quotes you put on Facebook really help me be more positive.” It humanizes you and you can share your message with others.
Social Media also opens up a path to communicating with other professionals. There are therapists in different states that I have never met in person but I have shared dialogue with and learned from. It allows for perspectives outside of just our immediate circle. Randomly, it has also helped me engage with my adolescent clients. In the world of technology I am old! The youth I see teach me about different sites and apps and it helps build rapport. (I would have no idea how to use or even what snapchat is if it weren’t for my adolescent clients!!!)
If you do utilize social media as business, remember that once you put something on the internet – it is there forever. Even if you delete a post, someone will be able to find. Think carefully about what you put out there. It is ethically responsible to have a social media policy. It isn’t OK for you to be Facebook friends with your clients. As the social worker, you will have to make the effort to maintain boundaries. Here’s a quick example of a social media policy but they can definitely be more inclusive and specific.
Social Media Policy
I do not accept friend or contact requests from current or former clients on any social networking site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). I believe that adding clients as friends or contacts on these sites can compromise your confidentiality and our respective privacy. It may also blur the boundaries of our therapeutic relationship.
I keep a Professional Facebook Page for my practice to allow people to share my blog posts and other information I think is interesting or may be useful. You are welcome to “like” my professional page. No one except me is able to see who likes my page. Please remember if you post on my page that everything else on the page is available for anyone to read. Your privacy and confidentiality are my upmost concern.
Using technology can also give a means to offering services to individuals who may otherwise not get services. Someone may live in a rural area or be afraid to leave their house or not have transportation or have issues with mobility – and with technology they can still receive services. Obviously, online therapy is not right for everyone – for example someone who is suicidal – but I hope social workers don’t just dismiss the idea out of hand. Here is my online therapy page so you have an explanation example.
Are their risks to online therapy and using social media? YES. Yes in big letters. First be knowledgeable. Get educated in using online technology. Spend time on the internet educating yourself on best practice. There is even a distance learning credential you can earn. Take time to learn about the ins and outs of the online world. For example, did you know that Skype isn’t HIPAA compliant? Thankfully there are HIPAA compliant online therapy platforms out there. Also think about email. I use a confidential email through an internet medical records program for passing protected health information. If I use my other email (usually for scheduling purposes only) there is a disclosure indicating that the email isn’t necessarily confidential.
Here is an example of my disclosure. Again, just an example and not meant to be inclusive for all.
Please keep in mind that email communications are not to be necessarily considered secure.
Please be cautious with the information you reveal through these methods as I cannot assure confidentiality in those cases.
Remember that email may not be read in a timely manner. If this is an emergency, please go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify the sender by e-mail at the address shown. This e-mail transmission may contain confidential information. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) or entity to whom it is intended even if addressed incorrectly. Please delete it from your files if you are not the intended recipient. Thank you for your compliance.
I’m not trying to scare you with all these disclosures – just want to make sure you start thinking about the big picture of using the internet. I participate in several social media platforms including Facebook, Pinterest and twitter and I blog out my thoughts too so I am embracing technology.
We haven’t even begun to discuss Apps. There are tons of apps that can help clients. I’ve used some that help with cognitive processing therapy, that track anxiety/moods and even ones that help with motivational thoughts. Go into the App store on your tablet or smart phone and search for mental health apps. You might be surprised at the wealth of useful tools.
Fortuitously, Jay Taylor offered to share this infogram regarding social work and technology. It is an excellent snapshot of social work and technology!