Winter 2010Psychology and TechnologyMichael T. Morris, PsyD
Psychology and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined, and many psychologists are finding enjoyment as well as challenges in the process of embracing new technological opportunities. Electronic billing, website marketing, electronic medical records, tele-therapy, and social networking are just a few of the areas where psychologists are blazing trails into using technology in their practice activities. The focus of this column explores the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter by psychologists, with other technology areas covered in future columns.
For many early career psychologists today, social networking is second nature. Many of them have used this medium throughout graduate school to stay in touch with family members and college friends. For others, the social networking environment can seem fraught with potential ethical pitfalls, and it is important to note that the ways in which the medium is used can lead to difficulties.
The important points to remember are privacy settings and the ways in which psychologists choose to use social networking. For many psychologists, the goal is to simply stay in touch with friends and colleagues. In this instance, the psychologist must ensure that the privacy settings are such that only people they approve have access to their profiles. In this situation, the psychologist must approve of any new “friends” who request access to their profile, thus eliminating the possibility that a client or potential client would have access to the psychologist’s information. An example of limiting access on social networking can be found at the DPA Facebook page, where anyone can become a fan of the page, but only DPA can make posts to the profile, thus ensuring that only approved material is broadcasted to fans of the page.
Other psychologists are expanding their usage of social networking in their marketing activities, and this is where ethical issues are much more important to consider. When opening up one’s social networking page to existing and potential clients, there are a few important points to consider. First, one must ensure that they maintain this page as a purely professional setting meeting the board requirements of public listings and of access they will give to their friends and the ways in which the profile will be used to market practice activities.
An example of a successful Facebook page for psychologists might include the following features:
Social networking is also a wonderful medium for professional organizations. After careful consideration regarding the ethical implications of social networking and of how psychologists are currently using this medium, DPA made the decision to explore ways in which social networking to explore ways in which social networking could benefit the organization and its members. The first step for the organization was to develop social networking pages on facebook and Twitter, where networking opportunities, social events, and important member and local psychologist accomplishments. It was astounding how quickly our members and non-member psychologists responded to this new opportunity to stay informed of the activities of the organization. Within the first few days of the DPA profile pages becoming active, the organization had over 50 “fans” on our facebook page, many of whom are members of DPA. The organization immediately saw the value of this new medium in the increased numbers of new members and the higher level of attendees at DPA workshops and social functions.
Given the positive experience that DPA has seen with social networking, this might just be the time to explore ways in which this medium could benefit you as a psychologist and your ongoing practice marketing activities. The organization is excited about moving in this direction, knowing that many other organizations and professionals have successfully used social networking before us. We will continue to let our members know about our successes and challenges with social networking so that our members can make informed decisions regarding their own participation in the future.
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