Now I would love nothing more than to include information about the ethics of the Internet in my presentations. But here's the rub - go find it. Every couple of months I do a search for any articles/conferences/presentations touching upon the ethics of online professional practice, and I usually come up empty handed.
The truth of the matter is that the Internet, social media, and a broad range of web based applications are developing at warp speed, and the ethics folks are just beginning to come to grips with the implications of these technologies. A major association recently revamped their code of ethics and they didn't even touch upon online counseling.
Another confession: until recently, I had a bias that online counseling was somehow less than face-to-face counseling. Then, at last year's 2008 World EAP (Employee Assistance Program) Conference, the head of India's largest EAP revealed in a presentation to conference attendees that in India, 70% of all EAP counseling is delivered online, via e-mail. Turns out that over there, counseling is still a major taboo. If you have problems, your family is supposed to help you solve them, NOT a therapist. I would venture to guess that counseling services of all stripes in India are delivered primarily via the Internet. So wrangling with the ethics of all of this would seem to be important and timely.
Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I came across some resources, at least about the ethics of online counseling.
- The International Society for Mental Health Online
- Suggested Principles for the Online Provision of Mental Health Services - these date from 2000 but are a good starting point)
- The Online Therapy Institute Blog
- A new book, Therapy Online - A Practical Guide by Kate Anthony and DeeAnna Nagel, is slated for publication in fall 2009. If you subscribe to the Online Therapy Blog, you will get an announcement about the book.