Telepsychology, telemental health, teletherapy, and telemedicine all touch on the same basic principle of offering health services through the digital space. With an expanding world of technology and the increased need for mental health services, it is common and best practice to offer digital services as part of counseling practices. Telepsychology has its particular challenges through setup, incorporation, and follow-through. Though there are hurdles to leap over in telepsychology, it has several clear advantages. Additionally, avoiding digital offerings can limit the size and productivity of a practice.
Understanding telepsychology best practices before initializing this offering is critical to its success.
Telepsychology Best Practices 101 | Optimize Office Space
If you’re spending a significant part of each day working with clients remotely, you’ll want to cater your space for that use. Take some of the considerations below into account as you consider adding telepsychology to your practice.
Choose your Office Space(s)
In the modern-day, it’s possible to be working from home or an office. Having tools and software that can flex with you has made it necessary to create multiple spaces for meetings. Whether in your living room, a home office, or a formal office setting, make sure your background is clean and tidy. Some popular backgrounds are bookcases, art, or a nice accent wall. When providing therapy via telehealth, your background is a focal point for clients. Give careful thought about what’s behind you, whether in your usual space or on the go.
The modern world is a distracting enough place on its own. Minimizing notifications on your devices, removing barking dogs, and enabling proper focus for your sessions are imperative. Setting the stage for open communication and growth is a telepsychology best practice that can’t be forgotten or tossed to the wayside.
Invest in Comfort
It may seem extra, but invest the time and money it takes to make your space a place you love. If you’re able to relax, that will come through in your sessions. Evaluate your desk and chair. Quick fixes like painting the walls, buying a new rug, or hanging a fresh piece of art can set the stage. This may mean setting up 2 or 3 spaces that you can flexibly move around to or from, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Telepsychology Best Practices 101 | Legal Implications
Understand Licensing Challenges
Telepsychology offerings open up the opportunity to see clients from anywhere. However, many states require licensure in the state you are operating from and the state your clients reside in. In general, seeing clients over state lines is not an acceptable practice, so be aware of your limitations.
Ensure Malpractice Insurance Covers Telepsychology
Not all malpractice policies cover telepsychology sessions. Get in touch with your malpractice insurance provider and ensure that your policy covers you when providing virtual care.
Use HIPAA Compliant Products
Using services like Skype or FaceTime poses an unnecessary risk to client privacy. A good telepsychology software will offer HIPAA-compliant video with end-to-end encryption.
Telepsychology Best Practices 101 | Relationship Management
Schedule Down Time Between Sessions
When seeing patients remotely, don’t schedule sessions too close together. Give yourself enough time between clients to get up, take a short walk, or put your new coffee or tea station to use.
Be Clear About the Limitations of Telepsychology
With all of the clear benefits of telepsychology, it still isn’t the same as working with someone in-person. Be transparent with clients about the potential challenges of telehealth, especially for individuals who are used to meeting for sessions face to face.
Collect Feedback from Patients about Telepsychology
After a few sessions, ask clients for feedback. Knowing how to improve the experience from their perspective can help incur progress within the individual relationship and across the practice.
Identify Patients that Won’t Be a Good Fit
Some patients, such as those with high suicide risk, may not be well-suited for remote sessions. Consider the needs of your current and future clients; remote care may not meet some individuals’ needs.
Telepsychology Best Practices 101 | Use Supportive Technology
Find the Right Software Tool
A quality telehealth software tool can make seeing clients remotely easy and effective. It’s imperative to use a HIPAA compliant, high-quality video with an easy user interface for users.
Use a High-Quality Camera
Your video quality can only be as good as the webcam. Older computers may not be able to provide the necessary quality; consider investing in a newer external webcam or computer. An external webcam can be easier to custom position to give the client the clearest view of your face.
Establish Back Up Plans for Technology Issues
Unexpected events can happen during telepsychology sessions. Have a written plan outlining what to do if your internet connection is lost or someone walks into the room. Review with clients to make sure you’re both familiar with the plan if the session gets interrupted.
Create Policies for Digital Communication
Digital communication methods have a firm place in the modern world. It’s essential to have policies that provide guidelines on communication. Email, texting, and social media can be a slippery slope. Review your current policy with telehealth clients and refer to it when communication gets fuzzy.
Use Tools Between Sessions to Keep on Track
It’s easy to close the notebook at the end of a session and take a pause, but healing doesn’t take timeouts. Supplying clients and patients with supportive tools and exercises to continue the work outside of the session is a great way to keep a goal of healing in front of mind. Choosing apps and products that keep progress moving is extremely helpful to individuals looking to make a change.
Advantages of Incorporating Telepsychology Best Practices
- Improve Access to Care
- Flexibility in Schedule and Location
- Cost Savings
- Encourages Continuity and Consistency
Even as practices start to shift towards digital communication, there can be pitfalls and concerns. Initiating communication with patients early about the potential of digital therapy is a great way to mitigate some of these challenges. In the end, the ultimate goal is to help patients toward recovery smoothly and efficiently.
There are many applications and tools for therapists to use with clients in the digital space. Utilizing the best technology as part of a therapy plan can help clients use evidence-based exercises for between-session support, leaving more time during sessions for focused work.
Noble aims to continue growing and developing quality materials to help build out better between-session care for in-person and digital therapy. We support mental health professionals and patients to stay on track while marking progress. By enabling patients and counselors to continue care outside of sessions, Noble is paving a smoother path to healing.
Contact Noble today if you have questions about integrating our platform into your practice.