Ethical Use of Electronic Media in Social Work Practice

Ethical Use of Electronic Media in Social Work Practice | Sana LOUE

Abstract: A growing number of individuals worldwide rely on the internet to access information and to facilitate communication. A large proportion of these users use social media specifically to obtain health-related information.  Health care providers and mental health care providers, including social workers are increasingly relying on the internet to provide information to clients/patients, to seek advice about patients, to provide mental health treatment, and as part of an ongoing supervisory or consultant relationship. Research suggests that on-line counseling may overcome geographic barriers to obtaining mental health care, facilitate disclosure of higher levels of personal information sooner, and permit the establishment of a therapeutic alliance.  However, significant ethical and legal issues are associated with the use of electronic media in social work practice.  Ethical issues relate to notification to the client of the risks and limitations inherent in the use of on-line therapy, potential breaches of confidentiality, and limited ability to address crisis situations. Legal issues arise when a social worker is practicing via internet in a jurisdiction in which he or she is not licensed.  Suggestions are offered to address these issues.

Keywords: social work practice, ethics, electronic media, on-line counselling.