There has been a lot of focus on telepsychology over the last decade. What started out being about counseling over the phone has morphed to counseling via the video chat, text chat, instant message, social media, and even in virtual settings with avatars.
At times it seems like the wild west, that anything goes without regulation.
But now, more counseling related associations have developed standards for telehealthcare delivery. And licensing boards are also beginning to restrict who can offer telecounseling. Did you know that Georgia only allows Georgia licensed mental health providers to provide telecounseling to its citizens?
Ken Pope has an excellent website listing many resources you will need as you consider what you might be allowed to do. He lists standards of care, recent professional articles, and links to state boards who are beginning to regulate telepsychology. I encourage anyone who currently practices “Skype” counseling (BTW, SKYPE is not HIPPA compliant), to become informed.
I recently set up an acct with SKYPE to participate in an upcoming meeting. I’ve had past requests to use SKYPE in counseling people unable to come to the Philadelphia area. While I’m open to doing this (at least for brief consultations), there are a number of issues to resolve. I’m interested in hearing from readers having used it for counseling (feel free to remain anonymous). What was it like? How were confidentiality and informed consent handled? Was any mention of jurisdiction mentioned? Not sure what I mean, read on to consider these issues:
- Confidentiality & Privacy. Are SKYPE video conferences really private? What is the likelihood that someone can tap in?
- Informed Consent. Read any good Telehealth informed consent forms lately? Seems that you have to consider how to deal with crises that might be happening in another state. Insurances cannot be used. What about what files are maintained? I believe it is possible to record SKYPE calls.
- Jurisdiction. It is clear that licensed mental health practitioners must not practice in another jurisdiction (i.e., state) without getting licensed or approved for that jurisdiction. But what about consultations? What about Internet based interactions? Which state has jurisdiction? Some seem to think that the state of the “caller” is going to want to maintain control of the care of its citizens. Others think that informing “callers” that the point of service resides with the Counselor will be enough. Check out what they say at eCounseling.com.
This is what is known as a “Point-of-Service” issue. In our terms of service which both clients and counselors agree to upon eCounseling.com sign up, it states the following in section 5.8: 5.8 POINT-OF-SERVICE. For a client who resides outside their eCounselor’s state of residence and professional licensure, there is an important issue that should be understood by clients before counseling begins: By utilizing these counseling services, the client agrees that he or she is soliciting the services of a professional outside of his or her state of residence. By doing this, the client agrees that the “point-of-service” of counseling is to occur in the counselor’s state of residence and licensure, not the client’s. In essence, the client is using the telephone or the Internet (the “information highway”) to virtually travel to the counselor (the counselor’s state of professional practice). Hence, counselors are accountable to and agree to abide by the ethical and legal guidelines prescribed by their state of licensure and residence. By agreeing to solicit the counselor’s services, the client agrees to these terms. If you do not understand, or have any questions regarding this issue, please feel free to ask the counselor about this issue, or contact eCounseling.com support at email@example.com DISCLAIMER: The above should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about legality or liability, please contact a qualified legal professional.
What do you make of these issues?