Method: This paper focuses on eight core issues in professionalism and digital technology: confidentiality, patient and practitioner privacy, liability, safety/mandated reporting, libel, netiquette, conflicts of interest and issues unique to psychotherapy. Each concept, as it applies to working with adolescents, is illustrated and discussed in the context of clinical vignettes. Thus, an overall conceptual framework and underlying thought process are emphasized here, rather than specific “do’s and don’ts.” While much of the research cited in this article is from studies of physicians, especially psychiatrists, the principles identified are applicable to all mental health professionals.
Results: Online professionalism concerns for mental health professionals who work with adolescents cover a wide range of activities and types of communication. They may be usefully grouped into eight domains: 1) confidentiality, 2) privacy, 3) liability, 4) safety/mandated reporting, 5) libel, 6) “netiquette,” 7) conflicts of interest, and 8) issues unique to psychotherapy.
Conclusions: Many situations do not have a clear-cut solution, but having an increased consciousness about and being able to think through relevant issues can prevent online professionalism breaches before they happen. Adolescent mental health providers need to exercise a judicious balance between embracing technology that serves to improve patient care and spurning online behaviors and digital modalities that threaten the fundamentals of professionalism.