by Mercedes Samudio, LCSW
Mercedes Samudio FB Live
Mercedes Samudio on Facebook Live.
Applications (or apps) such as Periscope and Facebook Live have taken off in the past year, allowing users to create live videos so viewers can interact and listen in on topics that range from the mundane to the profound. And, although this technology may seem a bit beyond what we do as social workers, it can be a great way to give clients (both actual and potential) and our communities a look into what we do to help and how we go about doing it!
What is live broadcasting?
Live broadcasting is the use of an online platform (such as Periscope, Facebook Live, or Google Hangouts) to create a live video feed to an audience of followers. This type of technology can seem daunting to learn, but it can also be viewed as a gateway to support our clients and communities. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, however, it’s safe to say that these types of apps are accessible to our clients, and they are most likely using them to access information.
What can a social worker do while using this platform?
I have used both Periscope and Facebook Live to share content with my community. I have used both platforms to engage viewers in what I do as a parent coach and how I help parents. When I’m on these platforms, I use the following strategies to help the viewers understand what I do and how I do it, as well as provide content that can support them in various aspects of their lives.
You can do live broadcasts that provide psychoeducation to your community, including various topics in the mental health field. If you choose to do a broadcast like this, be sure that the topics you’re educating the audience on are within your scope of practice and expertise. I also recommend directing the viewers to resources where they can read up on the topic. You can do this by mentioning a book, website, author, or topic expert while doing the live broadcast.
Give a Presentation
Many live broadcast apps allow you to use your tablet or phone to do the live video. This allows you to flip between your rear- and front-facing cameras, which you can use to showcase slides or articles that you want to present. When I use this technique, I have the slides pulled up on my desktop computer and hold my device using the rear-facing camera, so I can show the audience the slideshow presentation (you can also use a tripod to steady the device).
Be a Referral Source
This type of live broadcast allows you to become a resource for information in your community, as well as provide a space for clients and professionals to get information about what is available to them locally. A few examples of this include:
- live broadcasting from a community event
- interviewing local mental health professionals/agencies/organizations
- doing a live broadcast at a conference you’re attending
Why would you want to use live broadcasting as a social worker?
There are a few really good reasons why you shouldn’t completely write off live broadcasting as a social worker.
We’re accessing the technology that affects our clients’ lives. Being professionally aware of how this technology affects our clients becomes clinically significant for helping them navigate often messy online relationships and experiences.
It can connect us to other professionals. This is a two-way street. We can introduce ourselves to professionals and colleagues in our communities who connect with our clients, and they get to know more about how we serve and heal people.
It opens the discussion on ending mental health stigma. In using this technology, we get to be the faces and voices that support the mission to end mental health stigma. We can use live broadcasts to share normalizing information on what mental health truly looks like in our world.
Always think about the ethical considerations and pitfalls.
There are, of course, always ethical considerations to address when bringing a new source of interaction into our work. Clients may access your live videos (or the replay of the video after the live broadcast) at any place in their journey, so you must maintain that the videos are not substitutes for actual therapeutic interventions. Here are a few ethical considerations and pitfalls to consider when making the decision to use live broadcasting:
I encourage you to begin and/or end each broadcast with a disclaimer that it is not therapy and that the content in the video is for informational purposes only. The reasoning behind this is to cover your credentials and professional liability, and to make sure that clients know they are not to substitute the video for accessing therapy. Also, state that this is not telehealth, either. If you’re interested in that platform for serving clients, I highly recommend taking a course on telehealth.
Scope of Practice. A common pitfall I have seen and want to caution you against is going outside of your scope of practice while live broadcasting. The best rule of thumb is to make sure you stay within your scope of practice by introducing yourself, your credentials, and your specialty in the beginning and/or end of your live broadcasts. An example of this could look like:
Hi, I’m Mercedes Samudio, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Parent Coach. In today’s video, I’ll be talking about parenting. As a certified nonviolent parent educator, I want to share….
This may seem silly and redundant to do in each video, and I’m certainly not going to be policing you. But think about the fact that anyone can access your live broadcasts, and you definitely don’t want them to misconstrue your expertise or experience on the topic you’re discussing.
Managing Distressed Viewers. Another ethical consideration to strongly consider when you decide to live broadcast is the fact that many people access live videos, and you can never be completely sure who is watching you. When people interact with you, they could potentially be in distress or experiencing life threatening symptoms. What I have done when this has happened (yes, I had a person on a live broadcast who was in an active state of depression) and what I will recommend to you is to rely on your clinical skills and do the following:
- Address the person in distress by username.
- State that you can see that the person is in distress and ask if there is anything you can do to help guide the person to some support.
- Reiterate that although you are a mental health professional, this is not the best platform to access services.
- Suggest that the person seek emergency support immediately if feeling unsafe or in high distress.
If you must get off the broadcast because the person continues to use the live video as a source for therapeutic support, do so. Do as much as you can to contact the person via username and/or profile. And, you can also call 9-1-1 yourself to report the distressed person, the platform where you last saw the viewer, and the person’s profile.
Maintaining Boundaries. Dr. Ofer Zur (2015) defines a dual relationship as “any situation where multiple roles exist between a therapist and a client.” When you are live broadcasting, remember that you are acting as a source of information for those watching. I’ve seen many mental health professionals use this as a marketing strategy. Although I don’t believe that it is unethical to do so—mostly because live broadcasting is no different from giving a lecture or doing a workshop—I encourage you to maintain professional boundaries while live broadcasting.
As this is an informal way of connecting with our communities, it can be tempting to share personal details and/or be casual with the audience. To avoid this pitfall, don’t share too many personal details during a broadcast, and let viewers know how to contact you or schedule a session if they’d like to speak with you more in depth about their issues.
Overall, live broadcasting can be a great tool to connect with our clients/community, share resources, and normalize mental health. As social workers venturing into this online world, we still must uphold our ethical and professional boundaries though. Essentially, the best ways to be safe while using this tool include being clear about your intentions for doing the live broadcast, sharing your credentials and expertise, ensuring that the viewers know this is not a substitute for therapy, and having a plan in place to manage distressed viewers with safety.
Resources and References
Garst, K. (2016). How to use Facebook Live. Retrieved from http://kimgarst.com/how-to-use-facebook-live
Mansfield, M. (2015). What is Periscope and how do I use it. Retrieved from http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/what-is-periscope-how-do-i-use-it.html
National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC. NASW Press. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
Varghese, M. (2015). Selling the couch podcast session 43: Using Periscope to connect with your audience. Retrieved from http://sellingthecouch.com/session-43-using-periscope-to-connect-with-your-audience/
Zur, O. (2015). Dual relationships, multiple relationships, boundaries, boundary crossings & boundary violations in psychotherapy, counseling & mental health. Retrieved from http://www.zurinstitute.com/dualrelationships.html
Zur, O. (n.d.). Resources on digital ethics, telemental health, Googling, mental health apps, e-mails & texting, and other digital ethics issues for psychotherapists, counselors, mental health professionals and related fields—Online Publication. Retrieved from http://www.zurinstitute.com/articles_digitalethics.html#facebooktherapy
Zur, O., & Zur, A. (2016): On digital immigrants and digital natives: How the digital divide affects families, educational institutions, and the workplace. Zur Institute. Retrieved from http://www.zurinstitute.com/digital_divide.html
Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, is a parent coach who supports parents as they discover and unlock their unique parenting powers. She is a leading parenting expert certified in nonviolent child-raising and attachment parenting, the author of The Homework Wars: Strategies To Finally Win The Homework Battle, and has been featured in The Huffington Post, Your Teen for Parents, Woman’s Day, Daily Parent, and Parenting OC Magazine. You can learn more about Mercedes at http://theparentingskill.com.