What is Telemental Health?
Author: Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC
Telemental health is simply receiving therapy through electronic means whereby the client and clinician are in two different locations. Video sessions are accessed through a secure video conferencing platform. After assessing for a good fit for this form of counseling, I will provide you with log in information to the system. I use Counsol for video sessions as well as client registration and billing.
What are the Technology Requirements?
To use telemental health for your therapy, you will need a secure setting for the session that will ensure your privacy, and a computer with internet connection. The system is cloud based with point to point encryption which meets HIPAA criteria for privacy. Platforms such as Skype and Face Time are not considered secure.
What are the Benefits of Telemental Health?
Telemental health provides easier access to counseling and expertise than traditional in office sessions. It can save on travel time to and from sessions. You can use your lunch hour for sessions. In circumstances where scheduling or distance is challenging, telemental health allows access to services that would otherwise be unattainable.
Telemental health provides an avenue for members of a family who are in a different location to participate in sessions. For example, in the case of co-parenting, one parent may be too far away to make counseling reasonable. Or one member of a couple may not be able to get across town at the appointment time and can participate through video.
This also gives people access to clinicians outside your geographical area who may have expertise not available in your area. You are more able to pick a counselor that meets your needs without proximity being an issue.
Research which supports the use of telemedicine:
- Multiple studies show online counseling as effective as “in-person” counseling
- Depressed clients tend to stay in counseling longer online than in person
- A higher percentage of online clients say then would seek counseling again
Who is Telemental Health For?
Telemental health can provide greater access to services in the following situations:
- Individuals who travel for work
- Work from home
- Stay at home parents
- Health issues that keep you from leaving home
- Rural communities lacking adequate resources
- Nursing homes
- Those with disabilities
- No transportation to get to appointments
- Fear face to face interaction
- Prefer technology based interactions
- Co-parenting when both parents can’t be in the office at the same time
- Couples or family sessions when members are in different locations
- Support groups with members in various locations
- Weather restrictions
- Between session coaching and accountability
When is Telemental Health NOT Used :
Clients with severe mental illness that may require emergency services are not appropriate for this form of counseling and need to see a clinician in the office for the safety of the client.
Mental health professionals which are licensed to provide counseling services are only ethically and legally allowed to provide services in the state in which they are licensed. Although there are many advocating for licensing mobility, at this time clinicians are unable to provide services outside of the state they are licensed in. There are a few exceptions to this, which can be addressed on a case to case basis.
Special considerations for the clinician:
- Client comfort with technology
- Explanation of technology used
- Client Identity verification
- Backup plans for technology issues
- Identify location of client during session
- Establish an emergency response plan and emergency contact person
- Appropriate level of care for the severity of symptoms
- Confidentiality in client’s environment ie. Who might overhear session