Social media use is a relatively new and a growing phenomenon, occupying both personal professional environments.

Why should counsellors of all modalities consider personal social media use?

Social media use is a relatively new and a growing phenomenon, occupying both personal professional environments. The posting of online information, photographs, events, and other information makes it possible for the wider public, and clients, to easily find information about their counsellor. Such information may have previously been difficult or impossible to access.

This opens up questions about what is appropriate and professional use of social media, and what safeguards or guidelines would be useful to support practitioners’ boundaries of self-disclosure. What may start with a seemingly harmless social media posting may be the start of something more significant; the beginning of a ‘slippery slope’ – increasing concern and potential risk of harm to clients (Gutheil & Gabbard 1993).

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) says it is not unusual for clients to look for information about their practitioners before or during therapy (2015). Diverse age and social groups have different levels and types of engagement and skills in the use of social media. For young people, there is an emerging body of evidence about mental health issues being increased by social media use, notably from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) who found increases in low self-esteem, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and depression (2016). These issues may not be widely considered or understood by counsellors. This research aims to offer help in these matters.

More about the research

This research aims to identify levels of UK counselling practitioners’ awareness, understanding and experiences of the use of all types of social media, and its relationship with the ability to choose, protect, manage and/or maintain professional boundaries, and manage self-disclosure to clients.

The research will comprise of an initial focus group of counselling practitioners to identify key issues. The findings of which will be used to inform the development of a confidential online attitudinal questionnaire. The research will invite participation from trainee and experienced counsellors practicing across all counselling modalities.

Findings and outcomes of the research will be used to inform recommendations for a review or update of UK ethical guidelines for counselling practitioners. All data will be anonymised, and you are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

Get involved: please complete the survey and then pass it on to interested colleagues across the UK password: socialmedia

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