What is Telemental Health?
“Telemental health” is a means of providing mental health services where the therapist and client, from separate physical locations, engage in services delivered over electronic media.
My Decision to Offer Therapy Using Only Telemental Health
Until the stay-at-home orders were announced in Oregon in response to the COVID-19 pandemic rise, I saw clients for individual and couples therapy in-person at my office in Southeast Portland. I had little experience with holding sessions using online video conferencing technology. Suddenly, I had to either make that transition almost instantly, or risk losing therapeutic contact with my clients, each of them as disrupted as I was. Gratefully, I am comfortable and experienced with computer technology and its unexpected challenges.
I set up a space in my home, bought a larger monitor to see people better, contacted all my clients encouraging them to consider continuing with the means we had available. We learned together how to make it work, whether it was by computer, iPad or phone screen, in their home, car, or office, anyway we could create a safe container and good connection. Only a few folks were unable to adjust to video sessions for various reasons. Within a short time, people were readily seeking to begin therapy using telemental health out of necessity. After seeing clients by video or phone for over a year, I have come to appreciate the form, seeing benefits that have led me to permanently shift my practice from in-person to remote using secure online video or phone as needed.
Within a month of transitioning my practice to telemental health, to best serve my clients, I began doing as many continuing education trainings as I could find on best practices and ethics of telemental health. As a certified national counselor (NCC), an addition to my license as a professional counselor in the state of Oregon, I found that I could get educated and board- certified in telemental health therapy. I went through an approved training program offered by New College Institute: Star Telehealth, and then sat for and passed the exam given by the National Board of Certified Counselors Center for Credentialing and Certification board certification in telemental health.
Although research clearly demonstrates telemental health as being comparably effective in outcomes as in-person therapy, services delivered via telemental health are not a good fit for every person.
Benefits and Risks of Telemental Health Therapy
Receiving services using telemental health allows you to experience:
Flexibility: Allowing for sessions at times or in places where you may not otherwise be available.
Convenience: Ability to engage in therapy sessions in a way that may be more accommodating to specific needs.
Ease and Comfort: Allowing sessions when you are physically or emotionally unable to travel to an office. Able to remain in the safety and comfort of a familiar place.
Improved Access: Participate in therapy sessions from anywhere in the state of Oregon.
The unique characteristics of the telemental health process may also help some people make improved progress in their mental health or personal growth goals that would otherwise not be achievable. This may be particularly true for those who know themselves to be introverted, highly sensitive, environmentally sensitive, or differently abled.
Receiving services via telemental health has the following risks:
Telemental health services can be interrupted by technical failures, introduce risks to your privacy, or reduce your service provider’s ability to directly intervene in a crisis or emergency. Examples include:
Internet connections and cloud services cease working or become too unstable to use.
Computer or smartphone hardware failure or depleted battery power, or local power services go out.
Private information transmitted in the process of a telemental health session is accessed by unknown internet entities (hackers).
Note: I use a secure HIPAA compliant telemental health platform through my electronic practice management program: Simple Practice.
Download Telehealth Guide from Simple Practice