Dec 21 2011

Ethics & Psychotherapy Listservs: 5 Steps Before Signing Up

Published by at 6:35 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

Listservs create a ready made opportunity for boundary crossings and violations.  

If you decide to explore participating, not just signing up, here are 5 Steps to take to protect yourself, your privacy, and your integrity.

I. Evaluate the Moderator

Usually, there is a single or team of moderators who read, review, approve posts for the listserv and determines when a topic has been exhausted.

You best make sure the moderator is online and really managing the process. If the moderator is not minding the shop, members of the list have a free reign to say almost anything they want.

Trust me. People can make some claims that will make your ears spin. You can tell who is passionate about what by the posts they write.

It can be wonderful and dreadful, and the moderator is the gatekeeper of members comfort zone.

II. Evaluate the Members

Listservs usually identify their purpose and set some rules about membership. If anyone can join, beware of posting.

Listservs which require licensing of the psychotherapists involved are perhaps safer, as each person is speaking the same language with the same general expectations.

III. Members Ethical Duties and Responsibilities

Its possible for a person to be a licensed psychotherapist, but not be a member of their professional organization, in part to avoid having to be ethically accountable to the public.

If a therapist is a member and subscribes to the Ethical standards of their profession through their membership, they are making a promise to the public and the client to practice in an ethical manner.

When a therapist does not subscribe to their professions ethical standards, they simply don’t have to worry about receiving a complaint and having to deal with it.

In fact, some therapists will kind of laugh at someone else who expresses a grievance with them.

IV. Evaluate Why You Want to Join

Therapists join listservs to be more connected, learn about their profession, dialogue online with kindred spirits, market themselves and products, and for more nefarious reasons as well, like internet bullying.

If you are looking to mainly market yourself and practice, it’s best to think of it as kindly and infrequent process.

V. Think Twice

You really have to jump in this pool at the shallow end first, should you think about applying to a listserv. You will learn quickly there is a big difference between a listserv that is moderated and one that is not.

Here are listserv terms and their definitions:

  • Owner: the person who has created, owns, and establishes the rules for the listserv.
  • Moderator: usually the owner, but can be anyone who screens and evaluates each post/message to the listserv for ethical communication.
  • Moderated listserv: a listserv with a moderator who approves or rejects initial posts to listserv by members.
  • Unmoderated listserv: in listserv language this is called “the wild, wild west” of online experiences. There is no moderator and any member can post any message at all to the entire list instaneously. This type of listserv will offend the sensitive, survivors of trauma and irritate the other people online who thinks it’s ok for provacative members to flaunt themselves for the greater glory need they have inside.

Avoid unmoderated listservs….and remember, because the listserv may say there is a moderator, they may be on vacation somewhere and turned the listserv switch to unmoderated.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Ethics & Psychotherapy Listservs: 5 Steps Before Signing Up”

  1. Rod Whiteleyon 22 Dec 2011 at 2:10 am

    Listservs can be difficult to moderate successfully.

    Here in the UK the main organization for CBT therapists, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) ran some listservs until earlier this year. They were unmoderated, but all members were bound by a common code of ethics.

    The listservs were shut down after a disagreement over whether a particular combination of two common English words was humorous or offensive. The disagreement also led to disciplinary action by the BABCP against two of its members.

    I now run a moderated web forum for BABCP members, but some still yearn for the wild days of unmoderated listservs 😉

  2. Bill Martin, LCSWon 23 Dec 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I can see how people can be disciplined for online behavior. A few colleagues and I started this new listserv because of some very unruly behavior on the larger list here in Chicago. I’m starting to do more writing about these issues, so I may contact you to hear more about your situation there in the UK.

    All the best! Bill

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