In all likelihood, in the near future, you will begin to get requests from clients to provide Tele-Mental health services. There are several manifestations of this phenomenon, but I’ll focus on the concept of providing traditional psychotherapy services through real-time videoconferencing. Many therapists are already using Skype or encrypted on-line Internet vehicles such as Vsee to do coaching and distance counseling sessions with clients. Although it might seem easier for everyone involved to offer therapy sessions on-line, it’s actually still a complicated issue for the therapist. If you chose to use digital technology to do therapy, it’s critically important to use a platform that is HIPAA compliant. You need to get clarity about the proper use of CPT codes in order to get reimbursed for Tele-Mental health services, and confirm that your client’s insurance will reimburse for e-therapy. It’s even trickier when you are licensed to practice in one state and you’re providing treatment to a client who lives in a different state where you are not licensed. You should also confirm that your malpractice insurance covers e-therapy services. Although it is not illegal to do Tele-mental health, it is still being discouraged by some Professional Boards until formal rules have been established regarding the ethics and efficacy of this form of psychotherapy.
Recognizing the importance of being open-minded, here are some of the potential advantages to e-therapy:
- For clients who live in remote areas where access to mental health providers is scarce, technology can allow them to receive the care they need. The same is true for people in rural areas or foreign countries who require a therapist with a specific expertise that is not available. Without e-therapy one could make the case that they have to settle for substandard care.
- For clients who are housebound either by debilitating mental health conditions such as agoraphobia or PTSD, or physical conditions that compromise their mobility, on- line therapy can be a blessing.
- One could also make the case that e-counseling can help to defray or even eliminate the financial stress of transportation and child care costs for clients, increasing their ability to participate in therapy.
- And, therapists who have physical disabilities or personal circumstances that make going to the office difficult can continue to practice their trade through e-counseling.
As you move towards to decide whether or not to incorporate e-therapy into your work, stay mindful of other issues including clients’ rights to privacy, confidentiality and informed consent. In this ever changing and more technologically based world, we will all have to grapple with the possibility of conducting what used to be a very intimate process over our computers.
Do you use a form of Tele-Mental health service with your clients? If so, let us know what works best for you and how your clients are responding.