Social networking and professional ethics: Client searches, informed consent, and disclosure

Sara E. Harris, Sharon Kurpius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


As mental health professionals are increasingly using technology in their clinical work, it is important that research examines the ethical implications of online behaviors. This study examined the online behaviors of 315 counseling and psychology graduate students. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine online client searches, informed consent, and disclosures. Increased disclosure of client information was related to lower scores on ethical decision-making and to program type (counseling, clinical, or school). Ethical decision-making moderated online disclosure for participants in school psychology programs. Of those with supervised clinical experience, a third had used the Internet to find information about a client. Progress in the participants' academic program, as measured by academic credits, and years of social networking experience were positively related to increased online client searches. The majority who conducted an online search did not obtain client informed consent before conducting the search. Reported therapeutic concern about client welfare and gathering information for intervention were significant predictors of obtaining informed consent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Disclosure
  • Informed consent
  • Online client search
  • Social networking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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