Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past several decades, affording clinicians the opportunity to provide services in more unique and far reaching way ways than ever before. However, these advancements have not come without risk. “Unfortunately, professional psychologists have also identified a number of disadvantages associated with the increased use of technology in psychological practice, including difficulties in managing electronic database and communication security, unauthorized access to client data, inappropriate disclosures of identifying information, and unethical interactions in the social-media context,” said Jason Van Allen of the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas. “To further complicate matters, regulatory, ethical, and legal standards in psychology are not advancing at the same rate as technological advances. This technological adoption and infrastructure mismatch is associated with a variety of potential challenges and concerns (e.g., psychologists operating without guidance from the professional organizations or with a consensus of the professional community).”
In order to identify how compromised ethical and regulatory guidelines have become with cyber-psychotherapy, Van Allen surveyed 28 psychologists and assessed their responses to virtual conditions using the Critical Incident Technique (CIT). “Overall, survey responses suggest a variety of technology-related concerns among practicing psychologists,” said Van Allen. “Responses were frequently associated with inappropriate access and/or dissemination of client data, and challenges with the use of social media.”
The American Psychological Association is aware of these concerns, but has yet to issue its own guidelines for ensuring client confidentiality and ethical adherence in a virtual world. “Overall, responsibility for ethical and professional integration of technology in practice lies with individuals,” said Van Allen. “Although psychology governance can do more (and is taking initial steps at this time) to provide guidance, psychologists would benefit from assessing the security of their electronic communications, from establishing social-media policies for themselves or their organizations, and from proactively weighing the risks and benefits each time they consider incorporating new technologies in their professional activities.”
Van Allen, Jasono, and Michael C. Roberts. “Critical Incidents in the Marriage of Psychology and Technology: A Discussion of Potential Ethical Issues in Practice, Education, and Policy.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 42.6 (2011): 433-39. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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