A Therapist Guide to Using Ethical Social Media

Therapist using tablet to access accounts of social mediaTechnology can make life easier in myriad ways. But it can also pose challenges, especially for therapists and counselors who are trying to support a fine code of conduct and maintain their boundaries between their personal and professional digital presence.

In a rapidly digested world, it is almost impossible to succeed as a business without some kind of social media use. Whether you use social media to promote your practices, keep in touch with other professionals, continue with continuing education opportunities, or contact people seeking your services, you may be worried about some ethical issues that might arise as a result use of social media.

Here we will discuss some common concerns about the use of ethical social media by mental health service providers.

Defining boundaries in a digital world

As you begin marketing your private treatment practice (or clinic), you will most likely address all of the available channels to achieve the greatest visibility. Today, most of these marketing opportunities are online on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

It's very common to have a Facebook account. More than 2 billion people worldwide and 68% of Americans use Facebook every month. Twitter has over 300 million monthly users and many professionals also use Twitter to market their practice. If you use these or other social media channels, it is generally advisable to create a professional or professional page and its clear indication. Then use the privacy tools to make your personal Facebook profile (what you share with your friends and family) as private as you can. This may not prevent your customers from searching you online, but it may limit the information they have access to. You can use the privacy tools to set what you publish in "Friends Only" or you can customize your settings to each new location.

Using the professional language can help your business bloom. While your personal style of communication can include many exclamation points, smiling faces and other emoticons, or curse words, you keep the language on your professional page clean and without talking on the internet is recommended. In your private practice, you can choose to be yourself with your clients in order to encourage them to bring their true healing to themselves. Many therapists believe that swearing or otherwise hanging in their usual language at a session can help promote this goal and develop the therapeutic relationship. However, it may be best to let customers know your philosophy at the session, where you can give them an explanation instead of the social media account that serves as their first introduction to you.

Keep your places fit for business. Sharing promotional cards and other graphics is usually good, but it is generally recommended that you keep personal photos, even positive or happy (such as your new kittens) for your private page. Keep in mind that those who are struggling with different topics may view your page at any time. Before you create a post, consider whether it can adversely affect a person at risk. If there is a reasonable chance of doing so, avoid posting it on your business page.

When a person in treatment sends a friend request

At some point, a person you are working on can send you a friend request via Facebook. There is no code of conduct that explicitly forbids accepting such a request, but the guidelines of the American Psychological Society and Mental Health Experts recommend not having clients as friends of Facebook.

Some clients may not fully understand the treatment relationship, so it could help them remind them that while many therapists and clients have a strong bond, the bond is different from a personal relationship or friendship.People often use social media accounts to share very revealing information about themselves. Having a friend on Facebook will give you the opportunity to see life details that may not share with you in treatment that they may not have considered when they send you friends request. They could also see details about your life that you would not share in the healing relationship. Accessing this level of detailed personal information can significantly affect your relationship with your client on both sides. This is also important if you are thinking of looking at your client online. This may be necessary if you have a real concern about one's security, but in most cases it is not advisory or appropriate.

You may be worried that rejecting a friend request can hurt your client's feelings or make them feel they do not care. A particularly vulnerable customer may have an even greater negative reaction. Developing a social media policy and sharing it with people at your first session can help you avoid alienating customers and can prevent friends from being harmed. In your policy, tell your customers that you never accept friend requests to protect their confidentiality and maintain an effective treatment relationship.

Some clients may not fully understand the treatment relationship, so it could help them remind them that while many therapists and clients have a strong bond, the bond is different from a personal relationship or friendship.

Marketing your practice in social media

When setting up your business page on Facebook or Twitter, think about it as a business card or an ad you've downloaded. In other words, enter yourself into potential customers with your social media page.

Consider the following tips for etiquette of social media for therapists as you start to share your online practice:

  • Remember that your preferences and comments are often public. Everyone does not use privacy settings. If you like a public post or leave a comment, anyone can see this activity. The best practice here can only be to like or comment on other professional posts that are directly related to treatment or mental health services. Caution is still recommended. Even if you do not disclose any customer information, consider whether your words are likely to help someone identify a person to treatment. If there is any chance, re-review your comment. In short, use caution when they like places, even those from other private practices or therapists, and see how your likes and comments can reflect on you and your practice.
  • Interact carefully with other therapists. Building a social network of other mental health providers can be a great way for professional use of social media, but it is necessary to foster awareness of possible ethical concerns. If another therapist shares client information that could violate confidentiality, for example, avoid answering publicly. However, you can think of addressing the therapist through a private message to express your concerns.
  • Avoid interactions with publications that may be unprofessional. If another healer's page or private practice shares information you feel is more personal than a professional, breaking the post is perhaps the best course of action. As mentioned above, a better option might be to send a private message to the professional, who will tell them why their posting might seem inappropriate if you feel comfortable.
  • Consider preventing incoming On Facebook, you can set your business page settings to allow incoming messages, but you can also prevent that. Because Facebook's mail is not private, you may want to prevent potential customers from sending Facebook messages that may contain sensitive information about their mental health. Instead, post your contact information clearly on the business page. Include your phone number and email address if you receive emails and urge customers to contact you with these methods.

When you make a post you are sorry about

Therapists are people and all people make mistakes. A common internet mistake is to make a social broadcast that you later emigrate. You can understand this, of course, but often not before many, perhaps hundreds, people have seen it. Perhaps you participated in a public discussion with another therapist and some of the exchange turned to the unprofessional. Perhaps the language on one of the cards you shared or in your covert observation gave someone a bad impression or implied lack of sensitivity. Or, possibly, a comment you left on a page indicates your political expectations and offends a person you are working with.

No matter the situation, it is important to take a step back before we react emotionally. No matter the situation, it is important to take a step back before we react emotionally. First, ask yourself if you are really wrong or if someone is unintentionally infected or pulls you. For example, expressing your disappointment that people with mental health problems have difficulty accessing affordable care under the current civilian administration may not be an ideal public position, but it is not inherently inappropriate or harmful. Removing the position from silence and weakening the issue may be enough.

Other types of places may require apology. Positions that use non-confirmatory language for transsexuals or people with gender variants or that imply responsibility for survivors of sexual assault, for example, should not simply be abolished. Create a new location that lets your fans know that you do not know your language or post was harmful. Apologize sincerely, recognizing that you have been wrong.

Moving forward, you should be careful to use more attention to your social media positions. If you want to share something on a topic that you are not well-versed in, think about asking someone with more experience for their input. Remember to engage in concentration. Nobody is perfect. You made a mistake, but you did not intend to cause damage. Learn from experience and let what has happened to help you grow up as a therapist and person.


Navigating the internet and learning how to make the best choices for your private practice is provocative to many, but it does not have to be difficult. If you hesitate to use social media for your treatment, consider continuing your course on this subject. These can help you learn how to use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook ethically and effectively.

For over a decade, GoodTherapy has supported mental health professionals in developing their practices, achieving their goals and improving digital marketing. On average, we found that GoodTherapy members can produce more than 4 to 1 return on investment per year! Click here to register or learn more.

Bibliographical references:

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