Why You Need a Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Social Media Policy on Your Therapy Website

You decided that having a presence on the internet will be good for your practice and help you generate clients. So, you invested in a well-optimized and easy to navigate therapy website with great content.

You also realized that blogging will help your website to grow, ultimately assisting you in making it rank better on search engines and attracting more visitors. For that reason, you consistently add informative and well-written blog posts to your site.

No small accomplishments!

Those were crucial first steps to take.

One more thing is missing, though. A technical/legal matter that you shouldn’t overlook: adding a privacy policy, terms of service, and social media policy on your therapy website.

If you’re groaning now, you’re not alone.

Admittedly, dealing with this part of your internet presence can not only be dull, but it can also seem pretty daunting to contemplate.

So, what exactly are these technical documents?

Aren’t they only required for big businesses?

Do you truly need them? Yes.

Why You Need Terms of Service and Policy Documents on Your Therapy Website

We highly recommend you have all three documents (Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, Social Media Policy) on separate pages on your site:

1. Privacy Policy

What is it?

A Privacy Policy is all about customer data and how you protect it. It’s essentially a statement or document that gives details about the ways you gather, use, and manage the personal information of your clients or customers. That may include but is not limited to such things as their names, email addresses, phone numbers, or IP addresses.

Why do you need it?

It’s part of Privacy Law and fulfills the legal requirement that anyone collecting personal data via their website must protect their customer or client’s privacy. Therefore, a Privacy Policy needs to disclose why and how you gather this information. As a matter of fact, if you fail to inform your clients that you collect this material, you could be fined or prosecuted.

But, what if you’re not building an email list? Do you still need it?

Absolutely. You may only have a simple contact page, and you might not even consciously or proactively gather any personal information, but there are still ways your website collects visitor data in the background. Via analytic software, your site gathers information through cookies: how many visitors you had on your website each day, how many of them were repeat visitors, how long they stayed or how many pages they looked at, and more. It all goes on without any direct influence from you.

Considering that Google actually requires you to have a Privacy Policy if you’re using Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Adwords, or Google AdSense—and the same holds true for Facebook—drafting a statement for your therapy website is well worth the effort.

Contact us if you need help drafting, updating, or publishing your privacy policy.

2. Terms of Service

What is it?

A Terms of Service (TOS) statement protects you, the therapist. It is basically a compilation of standards by which your customers or clients must agree to abide so they can use your services. As regards to your therapy website, that may mean you add a disclaimer that tells a person if they want to utilize your site, they are agreeing to the terms you specify.

Why do you need it?

While the Terms of Service may be the dullest page on your website, you should take it seriously enough for it to hold up in court. It can protect your right to the content on your therapy website and limit your liability.

As a therapist, in particular, it’s important that visitors clearly understand that accessing the information on your website doesn’t constitute a therapist-client relationship. If it comes down to it, a court may actually look at your TOS to determine the status of your legal relationship with site visitors and/or clients.

Our web experts can help draft, update, and place Terms of Service on your website.

3. Social Media Policy

What is it?

Much the same as the Privacy Policy, a Social Media Policy is about protecting your client’s confidentiality and privacy. It should explain how you conduct yourself on social media sites and how you will act in case you have online interactions with your clients.

Either this policy needs to be on your website or you must share it with your clients as part of your intake process or treatment agreement. It’s noteworthy that the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics actually added the requirement for counselors with an online presence to distribute a Social Media Policy.

Why do you need it?

The fact is that digital technology, such as social networking sites, can present ethical challenges for therapists. In the field of psychotherapy, you may have situations where dual or multiple relationships exist between you and your client. Moreover, the ethical implications you have to deal with aren’t always clear or fixed.

For example, the question may arise if accepting a friend request from a client on Facebook would establish a dual relationship. The general answer is that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Although there are many factors that weigh into that decision—due caution is warranted. That’s why you must consider these matters thoughtfully, decide how you would handle such a situation, and state your responses clearly on your Social Media Policy.

Need help getting your Social Media Policy finished and placed on your website? We’ll work with you to create the right policy for your practice.

Remember, at CounselingWise we are not attorneys, nor do we give legal advice. What we are interested in is providing you with information that will help you stay up-to-date with developments related to your online presence and getting the most out of your therapy website.

If you have an unusual situation that you need to consider when outlining your Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, or Social Media Policy documents—mixing therapy and coaching, for example—you may want to consider consulting an attorney.

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