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Ethical Concerns When A Psychologist Is A Social Media Influencer


In the past, psychologists worked solely in offices but lately, they have become more prominent on social media, particularly in TikTok feeds. This is bringing up ethical issues, particularly as they pertain to client privacy.

The amount of mental health content on TikTok shot up during the COVID pandemic as people struggled with everyday life. Today, the #mentalhealth tag has more than 70 billion views. This presents an opportunity for psychologists to showcase their knowledge on social media. However, this puts client privacy at risk.

As more and more therapists have started posting advice online, the American Psychological Association (APA) has struggled to keep up. It published its first set of social media guidelines for psychologists in October 2021. These guidelines call for the online and physical worlds to be kept separate as much as possible. Psychologists should strive to avoid contact with their current or past clients on social media, since this could blur boundaries of the professional relationship.

When a psychologist is posting content online, there’s the temptation to use real-life clients as inspiration for content, but this is absolutely not allowed. This happened to a man, who found his therapist through social media. The man had a specific emotional issue he wanted help with, and he came across a therapist who created YouTube content about this niche issue. He realized this person was a practicing psychologist in the same state as him, so he reached out and began sessions with him.

However, a couple of days after a session, the man would notice that the therapist would upload a video that contained content related to what they discussed. The man never confronted his therapist about it, and stopped seeing him after six months.

Psychologists are also facing negative consequences from being open about their work online. In August 2022, a licensed counselor posted a video telling men to go to therapy. The video went viral and she was terminated from her job later that week. Another therapist posted a TikTok in which she complained about a client “trauma-dumping,” or oversharing traumatic details without the other person’s consent. The therapist deleted her TikTok account after receiving negative comments and reviews.

One psychologist says social media ethics training should be required. The training could include types of ethical dilemmas therapists may encounter on social media. This could help increase awareness of various issues and provide them with guidance so they can handle these situations with ease. 

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Psychologist Licensing Lawyer

Clients expect a certain amount of privacy from their therapists. When their mental problems are being used as inspiration for social media, this is an ethical issue that can lead to disciplinary action, including license loss.

If you are facing administrative issues with your license over social media content, a Tampa psychologist licensing lawyer from The Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. can help you resolve the situation and keep your license. Schedule a consultation by filling out the online form or calling (813) 968-6633.