Susan Finley


Understanding cultural shifts towards the increasing trend of seeking treatment offered through online communication and utilization of social networking sites has changed the way mental health professionals approach alcohol use treatment. This study illuminates the ways in which mental health professionals are currently exploring methods of counseling through online communication and social networking sites to improve their practice and reach more clients, thus helping increasing numbers of people while earning a greater profit. Through the research, numerous benefits and drawbacks of social networking and online communication used in mental health treatment are identified, particularly when working in alcohol use treatment. When communicating with clients online, there are a multitude of observations derived from researchers, particularly surrounding the quality of the therapeutic experience affecting practitioner and client alike. Utilizing a grounded theory approach in the research process allowed for the ability to arrive at a theoretical construct based upon the use of open and axial coding. The findings derived from the research argue that social networking and online communication are excellent tools utilized for the mass dissemination of information. Examples include: increased opportunities for networking between professionals, and an opportunity to advertise on a larger scale to increase overall exposure, awareness, and outreach to clients. The use of careful observation around the findings based on interviewing 15 therapists matching common criteria indicate that social networking and online communication are not the preferred, nor appear to be the most effective means of treatment by mental health professionals when working with those who struggle with alcohol use. The study informs the profession that there remains ample room for further research, particularly in regard to establishing legal as well as ethical guidelines to ensure proper use of technology by professionals practicing in the field of alcohol use treatment. The findings derived from the study support the importance of educating counselors practicing alcohol use treatment in an age where technology is continually changing and methods of communication online are evolving. In addition to those professionals who are currently practicing in the field, graduate students in preparation to become mental health professionals working in alcohol use treatment will benefit from being introduced to research findings to ensure effective treatment outcomes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Alcoholism -- Treatment; Alcoholism -- Psychological aspects; Internet in psychotherapy; Social networks -- Therapeutic use

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Allen, Mark;