Part 3 of 5 in our Four Core Principles series. Click here to see the whole series together.

Appropriate Use“Counselors inform clients of the benefits and limitations of using information technology applications in the counseling process and in business/billing procedures. Such technologies include but are not limited to computer hardware and software, telephones, the World Wide Web, the Internet, online assessment instruments and other communication devices.”
(ACA Code of Ethics 2005 A.12.b)

Once you’ve got your Proactive Awareness going, you can evaluate tools for Appropriate Use. This means assessing them on several dimensions. Here are the dimensions I use:

  • Reliability: Will this tool come through when I need it to? If it doesn’t come through at a bad time, will that cause a significant problem? Do I have a backup in case it does fail? How reliable is the backup?
  • Security: Does use of this tool harm my client? What are the chances and sources of harm?
  • Goodness of Fit: Is this tool right for the work I’m doing with this client? This needs to evaluated for each client, continuously over time.

Reliability can be sticky. A personal example: I used to have phone service for my practice through a cheap cellular phone carrier. Call quality was fine and it worked around the city, so it seemed good enough. I discovered, however, that the reception in my own office was terrible. I found that poor phone reception in my office had the potential for harm, and I have no backup for an unreliable phone. So I switched to a company that I could rely on.

Security can be difficult to judge without technical knowledge. This is another item that inspired Person-Centered Tech’s existence. One way to evaluate security is to find out what colleagues collectively consider to be secure or unsecure. One caveat, however: standards among colleagues are sometimes more about protecting the clinician’s liability than protecting clients. This generally makes people more conservative, which isn’t always a bad thing. Simply be aware that with education and time, ideas about the security of a particular tool may shift. Also, security is sometimes trumped by usability. Cellular phones and email, for example, have poor security. They are very useful, however, and many people use them in clinical contexts despite the security flaws.

Goodness of Fit is about matching your tools to your therapy with each client. A client with agoraphobia, for example, could benefit greatly from the opportunity to get distance counseling in the home via the Internet or telephone. Over time, however, this technological blessing can become a curse as the client is enabled to remain at home and not venture out to a real-world office. Goodness of Fit needs to be evaluated in an ongoing fashion.


Learn more about the services and tools we recommend in your practice:

This is Step 1: Service Selection of the PCT Way.

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