Abstract

Digital, online, and other electronic technology has transformed the nature of social work practice. Contemporary social workers can provide services to clients by using online counseling, telephone counseling, video counseling, cybertherapy (avatar therapy), self-guided Web-based interventions, electronic social networks, e-mail, and text messages. The introduction of diverse digital, online, and other forms of electronic social services has created a wide range of complex ethical and related risk management issues. This article provides an overview of current digital, online, and electronic social work services; identifies compelling ethical issues related to practitioner competence, client privacy and confidentiality, informed consent, conflicts of interest, boundaries and dual relationships, consultation and client referral, termination and interruption of services, documentation, and research evidence; and offers practical risk management strategies designed to protect clients and social workers. The author identifies relevant standards from the NASW Code of Ethics and other resources designed to guide practice.

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