In every area imaginable, technology has paved the way for innovations that make life more convenient—from the first television, to the microwave oven, to smartphones, the list is constantly growing. And the field of mental health is no exception. People who desire to speak with a psychologist can now do so from the comfort of their homes. Telepsychology is a method of therapy that provides psychological services using technology such as telephone, e-mail, online chat, text, and videoconferencing.
Telepsychology allows more flexibility, increasing access between doctor and patient because the session isn’t limited to face-to-face visits. However, questions remain as to its legitimacy and effectiveness. In response to these questions, the American Psychological Association (APA) has prepared eight guidelines to educate psychologists and their patients regarding the opportunities and challenges to using telepsychology. The guidelines were developed by the Joint Task Force for the Development of Telepsychology Guidelines for Psychologists, established by the following three entities: The APA, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, and the APA Insurance Trust.
The guidelines for psychologists using telepsychology are as follows:
Guideline #1: The Competence of the Psychologist – Take appropriate trainings to ensure they are competent to use the technology and that they tailor the technology to the needs of the patient.
Guideline #2: Standards of Care in the Delivery of Telepsychology Services – Ensure the same ethical and professional standards of care are followed as when providing in-person services.
Guideline #3: Informed Consent – Obtain consent, following applicable laws, regulations, and requirements that specifically address the unique concerns related to providing telepsychology services.
Guideline #4: Confidentiality of Data and Information – Protect and maintain the confidentiality of patient data and inform patients of any potential risk in loss of confidentiality due to the use of telecommunication.
Guideline #5: Security and Transmission of Data and Information – Ensure security measures are in place to protect data from unintended access or disclosure.
Guideline #6: Disposal of Data and Information and Technologies – Dispose of data and the technologies used to prevent unauthorized access and dispose data safely and appropriately.
Guideline #7: Testing and Assessment – Consider the unique limitations inherent in administering tests and assessments that are normally designed to be implemented in person.
Guideline #8: Interjurisdictional Practice – Comply with all relevant laws and regulations when providing telepsychology services across jurisdictional and international borders.
These guidelines are intended to offer the best guidance for incorporating telecommunication technology into the doctor/patient relationship. As telepsychology evolves, these guidelines can help psychologists to provide their telepsychology clients with the same level of professionalism as their in-person clients.
Do you use telepsychology in your practice? What tips can you share? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!