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Ethics and the Internet: Requesting clinical consultations over listservs

Dr. Stephen Behnke
APA Ethics Director
Monitor on Psychology
Volume 38, No. 7 July/August 2007

Exploring the advantages and the challenges of obtaining clinical consultations on listservs deepens our understanding of ethics and the Internet.

Listservs can be enormously helpful in seeking referrals, and in identifying professionals with specific expertise in a given area or literature relevant to a clinical question. Listservs can also be very useful in identifying important clinical considerations for a given condition or disorder and in calling attention to unique complexities and important competencies in certain treatments. When postings on listservs move the focus from more general issues to discussing details of a specific individual's clinical situation, the ethical issues become significantly more complex.
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Practicing safer listserv use: Ethical use of an invaluable resource.

Listservs are often used by professional psychologists to share resources and references, seek consultation or support, find referrals, discuss important issues, keep informed about upcoming events, and access other useful information. Topics of discussion include clients, students, research, insurance companies, and even other professionals. Listservs can help keep otherwise isolated professional psychologists connected with the psychological community. Listservs make such discussions and information more accessible to psychologists who are geographically isolated or cannot easily attend meetings and other events because of other demands on their time. There are risks involved in listserv use, however. Nothing shared over the Internet is ever completely secure. Confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Listservs potentially distribute messages about clients and other topics far more widely than a single e-mail communication does, thereby multiplying the risks involved. In this article, the author explains how listservs work, addresses the potential ethical problems connected with their use, and suggests some more secure methods for sensitive professional Internet exchanges. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)
Collins, Lynn H.: Department of Psychology, La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA, US
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 2007 Dec Vol 38(6) 690-698

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