Internet, Online Tools Raise New Ethical Questions for Therapists

The growing use of Internet searches and social networking has raised new questions about how and when therapists should use the Internet when treating patients as reported by a reputed news source.

Traditionally, therapists have obtained information about their patients solely from face-to-face dialogues, or with the expressed consent of the patient to use outside sources, such as family members or a previous mental-health provider.

However, widespread use of Internet search tools and social networking sites, such as Google or Facebook, have led to questions about:

  • Whether therapists should review Internet information without a patient’s consent;
  • If it is appropriate for a therapist to post personal information on the Internet; and,
  • What possible risks are associated with therapist-patient interaction online.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association do not have rules governing therapists’ online activity. However, ethical advisers with the psychiatric association say that conducting online searches about patients is not wrong, so long as it is done in the patient’s interest .