Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) in a Psychological Practice

The use of social media tools within a professional mental health practice is game-changing but not without potential pitfalls.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with new and better ways of incorporating social media tools into my practice.  Just yesterday, I developed a list of CBT-based exposure ideas for reducing symptoms of OCD, perfectionism, and social anxiety.  What was unique about these exposure ideas was that they were all targeted specifically toward actions one might take online using social media communities like Twitter and Facebook.  Using these very same social media tools, I was able to quickly distribute this content to several different online communities.  Although this face of my practice is virtually brand new, I can already see the power in it.  Although my readership is still small, it’s growing (of course, you could always help it grow faster by following me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+).

The use of social media tools within a professional mental health practice is potentially game-changing.  It becomes simple to disseminate information rapidly, including my blog posts which represent some of the ideas that are foremost in my mind at any given time.  Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ also allow me to interact with my readership in a new and dynamic way, giving me the means by which to get direct feedback and reactions from the larger public.  These tools give me a venue to discuss the ideas that excite me, hear about breaking news on the psychology front, get exposed to new ideas I wouldn’t have considered on my own, and connect easily with others who might either share or disagree with my opinions.  This is powerful stuff, particularly for psychologists who are involved in small private practices.

However, the very ease of communication that I so enjoy in one context can become problematic in another, such as when I’m communicating with mental health consumers.  Potential pitfalls include maintaining privacy and confidentiality in an online world, explaining to consumers that I can only provide therapy within the context of a therapist-client relationship, finding the time to maintain an active and reciprocal online presence, and keeping abreast of all the rapid technological changes that define (and will continue to define) this medium.  I am cognizant of these issues, and I have informally implemented policies that safeguard against any such problems that might arise.

Nevertheless, with these issues in mind, I am in the process of documenting a formal social media policy that will guide my online activities.  Fortunately, I don’t have to invent the wheel; other knowledgeable mental health care providers have already paved the way for this.

Regardless of whether you are a consumer or a mental health professional, I’d welcome your input on these issues.  What are your concerns about the intersection of mental health and social media?

Questions? Comments? Sound off below.