Staff members with personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites must set privacy settings to the highest level of security to prevent clients from accessing personal information or sending messages to the staff member. Counseling Center staff will not use social media sites to gain information on any enrolled student. “Friend” requests from former student clients are best avoided or managed carefully so that there is no potential for perception of exploitation or conflicting multiple relationships.
The Counseling Center maintains social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Staff members are designated as administrators on these sites and post relevant items. Staff members and trainees who want to recommend postings to these sites should forward those to a site administrator. All staff and trainees are encouraged to “like” or “follow” the Center to be aware of what is being shared; appropriate privacy settings will prevent personal information from being accessed through the Counseling Center site.
POLICY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/about/social-media.aspx )highlights that, “First and foremost, public social networks are not private. Some may be open only to invited or approved members but even then, users should not expect privacy among the members. If you choose to participate on such Forums, assume that anything you post will be seen, read, and open for comment. Anything you say, post, link to, comment on, upload, etc., can and may be used against you by your peers, colleagues, employer, potential employers, fellow members, and so on.”
Based on the APA’s cautionary statement, Counseling Center staff who use social media (e.g., Facebook) and other forms of electronic communication should be mindful of how their communication may be perceived by clients, colleagues, university staff and faculty, and others in the professional community. As such, Counseling Center staff should make every effort to minimize material that may be deemed inappropriate for a mental health professional. To this end, all security settings should be considered carefully and most likely set to “private.” Counseling Center staff should avoid posting information/photos or using any language that could jeopardize their professional image. Staff should consider limiting the amount of personal information posted on these sites, and should never include clients as part of their social network, or include any information that might lead to the identification of a client, or compromise client confidentiality in any way. If staff report doing, or are depicted on a website or in an email as doing something unethical or illegal, then that information may be used by the Counseling Center as they determine a course of disciplinary action. As a preventive measure, the Counseling Center advises that staff approach social media carefully.
(Note: this policy is based in part on the policies developed by the University of Denver, Jenny Cornish; University of Albany; University of Kansas, Michael Roberts; and San Diego State University, Elizabeth Klonoff.)
The Counseling Center maintains a Facebook page that you are encouraged to view. You are also welcome to “like” our page, and while many students, faculty, and staff also like our site, please be aware that based on your liking of our site, some people may infer that you are in counseling at the Counseling Center or that you have been a client in the past.
While some members of the Counseling Center maintain personal social media accounts, it is our policy that staff members do not interact with, accept friend or contact requests, or “follow” current or former clients on any social networking site (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) or blog. We do not engage in these activities because doing so blurs the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship and because doing so interferes with everyone’s right to privacy. Additionally, these sites do not offer a technologically secure forum and your confidentiality is very likely to be compromised through interactions that are publically viewable. Any interactions become part of your legal record and they will be documented and archived in your chart.
If there are things from your online life that you wish to share with us, please bring them into your session where they can be viewed and explored with your counselor during the counseling hour.