Googling or Otherwise Searching for Information about Patients and Clients Online

Google clientsThings rarely seem to be as clear as most of us would like when we look at professional issues online. Googling a prospective collaborator or colleague may be ok, but what about Googling a client or patient?

  • When you find relevant information, how much do you trust? How do you know if what you read is true?
  • What information do you verify with your client or patient, and how much do you disregard?
  • How successful are you when you try to disregard information that you would rather not believe?
  • When you try to verify information in-session, how did your client or patient react?
  • Or are you keeping your Internet searches to yourself?
  • Do you document any searches and the results? How do you decide which findings to document vs, which to ignore?
  • In your informed consent document and verbal discussion of such, do you include the possibility of using online search engines to gather information about your client?

Unfortunately, our ethical codes haven’t begun to address the issue of online counseling, never mind whether or not we should be searching the Internet for information about patients.

Given how our professional associations are more reactionary than proactive with most issues, if we wait for our professional associations to speak to this search issue, another decade could pass. Given that technology advances another generation every 15 months or so, who knows which newer technologies will be challenging us by then? Many of us who work with technology need to find our own way with these issues by discussing them amongst ourselves.

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