Student Therapists Seek Out Client Information Online

An Article Review

DiLillo, D., & Gale, E. (2011). To Google or not to Google: Graduate students’ use of the internet to access personal information about clients. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 5(3), 160-166.

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Few clinicians would dispute their clients’ right to privacy, including when and to what extent to share personal information in therapy. However, as DiLillo and Gale (2011) point out, the current advances in the use of the Internet – such as the development of search engines and social networks, for example – have led to certain dissolution of interpersonal boundaries and expectations of privacy. Interested in the attitudes and behaviors of student therapists toward the use of websites to obtain information about their clients, the authors surveyed 854 psychology doctoral students in the United States and Canada.

They found that almost all of the surveyed therapists in training who reported seeing clients had also used a search engine (e.g., Google) or a networking website (e.g., Facebook or MySpace) to gather information about a client. Interestingly, over two-thirds of them also reported that they believed it was either always unacceptable or usually unacceptable to use the Internet to obtain information about clients. While in most cases the therapists indicated that their clients were aware of the conducted online searches, almost 20% of clients were reported to have not been informed of it. The study’s authors discuss this discrepancy between clinical trainees’ attitudes and behaviors in light of the increasing role of the Internet in people’s lives. They further address possible interpretations of their findings, as well as their ethical and educational implications.

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Cite This Article

Stoycheva, V., & Fuertes, J. (2012, February). Student therapists seek out client information online: An article review [Web article] [Review of the article To Google or not to Google: Graduate students’ use of the Internet to access personal information about clients, by D. K. DiLillo, & E. B. Gale]. Retrieved from