Telemental health can be a valuable way for practitioners to support and treat individuals with mental healthcare needs. Sometimes, it’s the only way for individuals with mobility restrictions, located remotely, or living with an inconvenient schedule to receive therapy and guidance.

In this article, we’ll take a good look at what falls under the telepsychology umbrella – from treatments and channels to software and platforms – to help both practitioners and patients understand the field a little better.

What is Telemental Health and Telepsychology?

Telemental health involves using telemedicine to remotely provide mental health assessments, interventions, and therapy to individuals with various conditions.[1]

e-Counseling

In contrast to traditional therapy, where in-person sessions are conducted in a physical psychologist’s office or surgery, telepsychology services are delivered online or using other communication technologies. It can thus encompass a range of solutions, including:

  • Therapy conducted by audio telephone calls or text message
  • Live instant messaging in private chat rooms
  • Video therapy with individuals or groups in real-time, or
  • Email therapy, an example of asynchronous teletherapy.

Blended Care Services

A variety of established treatments can also be delivered using the telemental health framework, depending on a patient or individual’s particular circumstances.

These may complement real-time psychotherapy or talk therapy treatments with a helping professional, or they may be used in its place – as lower-intensity treatments – where telepsychology is being implemented as part of a Stepped Care approach.

Examples include:

  • Psychoeducational resources, such as online lessons, courses, and activities
  • Peer support groups, digital forums, and social media groups, and
  • Self-help interventions, where structured courses and interventions are made available online for users to complete at their own pace.

Telemental health is a broad and growing field, in this respect, and a new one that evolves as new technology emerges. But at its core, it is a versatile, effective way for counselors and therapists to provide support and treatment to even more people in need.

Telemental health involves using telemedicine to remotely provide mental health assessments, interventions, and therapy to individuals with various conditions.

A Look At APA Guidelines

Across the United States, different jurisdictional criteria apply with regard to e-mental health services. Practically, this means that it’s often possible to provide licensed telemental health services in one state, but not in a different regional area.

In an effort to introduce some standardization to the rapidly growing field, however, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers ethical guidelines that all e-mental health practitioners can use as a framework to govern their services.

These include the following:[2]

  • That practitioners offering telepsychology services take reasonable steps to ensure their competence with the telehealth technologies leveraged and their possible impacts on patients, clients, and other key stakeholders.
  • That professional and ethical standards of care and practice are met at the beginning of a teletherapy service, and throughout its duration, and
  • That telepractitioners ensure reasonable measures are in place to safeguard the confidentiality and privacy of client data and information from third parties.

The full guidelines, which also address testing, assessment, and disposal of data among other issues, can be found on the APA Website.

Is It Effective? 7 Benefits of Telepsychology

Telemental health is no longer new, and fortunately, this means there is a decent amount of research into its efficacy.

While most studies typically compare key psychological assessment indicators for a certain mental health condition – such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, the results of such studies are mostly positive.

A Closer Look

In other words, and more specifically, telepsychology has had demonstrated good results as an effective way to:[1]

  • Assess mental health symptoms in different populations: Such as adults, children, ethnic groups, and geriatric demographics
  • Diagnose disorders across many settings: Including home healthcare, emergency contexts, and primary care sites, and
  • Treat and manage symptoms of common mental health conditions: E.g. stress-related disorders, depression, and anxiety.[3][4][5]

But its advantages extend well beyond its efficacy, as telemental health also offers a suite of accessibility advantages for both practitioners and patients alike.

Teletherapy is highly accessible. With an internet connection and basic equipment, anyone can access professional mental health treatment from the privacy of their home.

Advantages of Telemental Health

Among the many benefits of telepsychology, researchers and practitioners are quick to highlight a few key pros.

These include the fact that:

  • Teletherapy is highly accessible. With an internet connection and basic equipment, anyone can access professional mental health treatment from the privacy of their home. This includes individuals in remote locations or areas, with poor available transport, and those with mobility restrictions.
  • Telehealth is affordable. In the absence of any travel requirements or surgery overheads, therapy solutions often become more financially realistic for patients in underserved communities.
  • E-therapy is convenient. Treatments often extend well beyond one-on-one sessions to include interventions and activities that can be accessed at any convenient time for clients, such as in-app lessons and digital course content.
  • Frequently, telepsychology is engaging. Patient satisfaction studies have shown that online therapeutic treatments can be just as acceptable – if not more so – than in-person therapy.[6]

3 Best Platforms and Management Softwares

Research findings aside, another clear sign that telemental health is swiftly becoming a popular mode of treatment is the growth of the telehealth market.

In this section, we’ve reviewed a few examples of different therapy platforms and software solutions available to practitioners today.

Software

Details

My Clients Plus Telemental HealthMyClientsPlus features a range of mental health capabilities and practice management functions.

These include discipline-specific progress note templates, SOAP note tools, invoice management, telehealth videoconferencing, and client portal for session bookings.

A lower-cost solution with both single- and multi-provider plans, payment plans are based on monthly subscriptions.

NameMyClientsPlus
Price$24.95+ monthly
Good ForTelepsychology, Video Therapy, e-Therapy, Practice Management, Solo Practitioners
Websitehttps://www.myclientsplus.com/

Platform

Details

Amwell Telemental Healthe-Mental health practitioners who prescribe, such as telepsychiatrists and GPs, can use Amwell to do so conveniently. An advanced telehealth tool that supports live clinical consultations, this program offers HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing tech as standard.

Designed for practicing, licensed general and mental health clinicians, Amwell is more of a digital telemedicine service than a software suite for organizations. Rather than consolidating your services and practice processes into one system, therefore, helping professionals sign up to deliver their services via the platform.

Amwell has a good reputation as a telepsychology platform for individuals with a range of medical and mental health issues.

NameAmwell
PriceAvailable on request
Good ForTeletherapy, Mental Health Coaching, Telepsychiatry, Video Therapy, Telemedicine
Websitehttps://business.amwell.com/

Software

Details

TheraNest Telemental HealthHIPAA-compliant TheraNest is ideal for secure patient-provider video sessions and document management, with a range of discipline-specific tools such as ICD and DSM codes for mental health practitioners.

The app includes telehealth functionality for live sessions with at least 6 group members and comes with a client portal and treatment planning features.

TheraNest is competitively priced with different group and solo practitioner subscriptions, and one of the more targeted solutions for helping professionals such as e-counselors, telepsychologists, social workers, and more. On top of its specialty-specific features, it comes with a full range of practice management functions.

NameTheraNest
Price$39+ monthly
Good ForPractice Management, Telepsychology, EHR, EMR, Video Therapy
Websitehttps://theranest.com/

Best Practices: 3 Tips For Your Business

As a rule of thumb, shopping for teletherapy software should always be done with the needs of your practice in mind.

Our detailed article on therapy software gives an exploration of different telemental health solution features in more depth. In choosing the right system for your business, however, 3 top tips include:

  1. Testing before investing: Most providers offer free trial periods ranging between 21 and 30 days, with no credit card information required. Trying out any potential software before you commit to a subscription is a good way to learn whether a solution is a good ‘fit’ for your organization.
  2. Comparing different features: Our Therapy Tools section is full of in-depth reviews of telemental health software solutions, as well as how they compare with their key competitors. Here, you’ll find screenshots from a range of different test drives we’ve conducted to help you in your search for the right software system.
  3. Consider the learning curve: Regardless of how robust a software solution may be, a steep learning curve will be a major hurdle in getting it implemented across your organization. If a solution happens to be great, and worth the learning time, make sure that the platform or system offers good customer support – this often makes a huge difference along the way.

Recommended: Coaching Management 101: Everything You Need to Know:

The Informed Consent In Your Telepractice

Both ethically and from a legal standpoint, getting Informed Consent from clients is essential for ensuring several things. Among them:

  • Patients must fully comprehend what their treatment will involve, including the nature and intended goals of the techniques and interventions being considered.
  • Second, whenever confidential information might be discussed, clients should understand how it will be handled or potentially released. This includes any session recordings or notes made and stored.[7]
  • Third, informed consent aims to protect clients from harm or exploitation, by ensuring they understand any reasonable expectations around their roles, responsibilities, and behaviors in the therapeutic relationship.[8]

Securing Informed Consent in an official, documented format protects both clients and practitioners, and it is critical in telemedical practices as well as conventional settings.

While many therapy apps and software come with standard Telehealth Consent Form templates built in, the APA also provides a handy checklist for e-practitioners to use when drafting their own Informed Consent forms.[9]

Top 3 Training Options

As consumer needs evolve, the demand for telemental health is growing, and increasingly more helping professionals are adapting their existing services to deliver them online as part of a blended care model.

Software Training Features

The good news here is that so are many telehealth software systems, which offer:

  • Comprehensive training on sign-up, such as video tutorials or live demonstrations with a sales advisor
  • Knowledge and resource banks full of articles on using different features, or forums and detailed walkthrough
  • Treatment planning features, which enable users to create personalized mental health treatment plans from existing services, and
  • Live, email, and in-app support.

Online Telemental Health Training

A range of online providers also specialize in telebehavioral health and telepsychology training; below, we’ve included a few examples.

Telemental Health Training

Details

TBHI Telemental Health TrainingThe Telebehavioral Health Institute offers BCTP-I Micro Certifications designed for employees in mental health organizations such as e-clinics, blended care practices, and hospitals.

For a monthly fee, users can access the basic training online and work through four core modules toward the organization’s ‘micro certification’ certificate.

Modules include:

  • An introduction to telehealth theory and practice
  • Rules, Regulations & Risk Management
  • Essential Telehealth Technologies, and
  • Clinical Telehealth Issues I
NameTelebehavioral Health Institute
Price$183+ monthly
Good Fore-Clinics, Hospitals, Mental Health Organizations
Websitehttps://telehealth.org/telehealth-certification/

Telemental Health Training

Details

Zurich Institute Telemental Health TrainingThe Zurich Institute offers a Certificate Program in TeleMental Health & Digital Ethics, which covers key Ethical, Legal, Clinical, Technological, and Practice-related issues involved in teletherapy.

For 24 CE hours in total, the program includes modules on:

  • Practical applications for telehealth
  • Clinical and ethical considerations for Digital and Social Media, and
  • Video Therapy essentials

It is designed for Psychologists, Social Workers, Counselors, and Nurses in e-mental health fields.

NameThe Zurich Institute
Price$144
Good ForTelepsychology, e-Clinics, Hospitals, Mental Health Organizations
Websitehttps://www.zurinstitute.com/course/certificate-program-in-telemental-health/

Telemental Health Training

Details

CCE Telemental Health TrainingTo study for a BC-TMH Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider certification at The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), practitioners must meet some prerequisites.

These criteria include a current, active qualifying license to practice behavioral health field at the state- or national level, and an active National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification.

Course content includes:

  • Presentation Skills for Telemental Health
  • HIPAA Compliance for Telemental Health
  • Best Practices in Video Telemental Health
  • Crisis Planning & Protocols in Video Telemental Health, and
  • Choosing and Using Technology in Telemental Health
NameCenter for Credentialing and Education
Price$150 application fee
Good ForTelecounseling, Solo Practitioners, Telepsychologists, e-Therapy, e-Clinics
Websitehttps://www.cce-global.org/credentialing/bctmh

A Note On Telehealth Group Therapy

Family therapy, peer support groups, and mental health coaching classes are several examples of group therapy applications that translate well into telehealth settings.

Using technology such as screen-sharing and multi-party calls, virtual group therapy sessions make it possible for practitioners to support the mental health needs of the broader community in real-time, despite geographical constraints.

Family therapy, peer support groups, and mental health coaching classes are several examples of group therapy applications that translate well into telehealth settings.

Group Therapy Telehealth Checklist

If you’re hoping to leverage telehealth sessions to deliver group therapy, however, there are a few things to consider first – use the checklist below to guide you.[10]

  • Check that the software solution you’re considering supports group calls, as many platforms with otherwise robust capabilities do not support this feature.
  • Review your Telehealth Informed Consent documentation: As the APA notes, group therapists and facilitators are legally bound to uphold patient confidentiality. The same, however, doesn’t apply to participants, so a separate clause may need to be included.
  • Consider preparatory sessions: Especially with new clients, these can be important in ensuring all participants are aware of the guidelines, etiquette, and Informed Consent details related to your sessions, and
  • Research the regulations on inter-state group therapy: The laws on telehealth differ between states, and when group members may be dispersed across the country, there is a particular risk that you may not be licensed to practice in their area.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a licensed practitioner hoping to deliver your services online, telemental health is a promising field to be in.

More patients and clients than ever are embracing digital solutions such as e-therapy, telepsychiatry, and online coaching to take ownership of their mental health, and new technology grows rapidly more advanced.

Use this article as a guide, and along with our Therapy Tools reviews, you can be practicing online and reaching even more clients in no time.

References

  1. ^ Aboujaoude, E., Salame, W., & Naim, L. (2015). Telemental health: a status update. World Psychiatry, 14(2), 223.
  2. ^ APA. (2020). Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/telepsychology
  3. ^ Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M., & Shapira, N. A. (2008). A comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of internet-based psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 26(2-4), 109.
  4. ^ Paxling, B., Almlöv, J., Dahlin, M., Carlbring, P., Breitholtz, E., Eriksson, T., & Andersson, G. (2011). Guided internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 40(3), 159.
  5. ^ Kessler, D., Lewis, G., Kaur, S., Wiles, N., King, M., Weich, S., & Peters, T. J. (2009). Therapist-delivered Internet psychotherapy for depression in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 374(9690), 628.
  6. ^ Ashwick, R., Turgoose, D., & Murphy, D. (2019). Exploring the acceptability of delivering Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to UK veterans with PTSD over Skype: a qualitative study. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 10(1), 1573128.
  7. ^ Zurich Institute. (2020). Introduction to Informed Consent in Psychotherapy, Counseling, and Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.zurinstitute.com/informed-consent/
  8. ^ Barnett, J. E., Wise, E. H., Johnson-Greene, D., & Bucky, S. F. (2007). Informed consent: Too much of a good thing or not enough? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 179.
  9. ^ APA. (2020). Informed Consent Checklist for Telepsychological Services. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/informed-consent-checklist
  10. ^ APA Services. (2020). How to do group therapy using telehealth. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/legal/technology/group-therapy-telehealth-covid-19

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