Online Counseling and Therapy FAQs

California Online TherapistIn response to the need of their clients, mental health professionals everywhere are using online therapy and online counseling. Although online therapy has been around since NASA started using it to provide care to astronauts in the 1960’s, it has only recently become a mainstream method for healthcare delivery. Below are the most common considerations for clients who want to use online counseling.

Telehealth Therapy Q & A

Q. What is Telehealth Therapy?

A. Telehealth Therapy is the practice of providing care to clients at a distance using telecommunications technology. In other words, it is a method of treating patients using the internet and telephone. This can take the form of real-time video visits, secure email, or remotely monitoring a client’s progress.

Q. Are Telehealth Therapy and Telemedicine the same thing?

A. The terms Telehealth Therapy and Telemedicine are often used as if they were the same thing, but technically telemedicine is a subset of telehealth. Online Counseling and Therapy also includes non-clinical uses of telecommunications technology such as self monitoring, provider and patient education, and medical records management.

California Online TherapistQ. Is Telehealth Therapy technology difficult to use?

A. Of course, this depends on the specific application and each person’s familiarity with technology, but in general, telehealth software is designed to be as easy to use as other familiar modern applications. Patients and providers with a basic familiarity with online apps should be able to quickly figure out how to use a telehealth application.

Q. Do therapists need special training to provide Telehealth Therapy?

A. Most states, such as California, don’t require training to provide Online Counseling and Therapy services. As with all psychotherapy services, it is important that the therapist is competent and knowledgeable about using technology in providing treatment. It’s also important to recognize the risks and benefits of providing Online Counseling and Therapy services and therapists are required to explain that to their clients.

Q. What is unique about Telehealth Therapy compared to In-Office Therapy?

A. The same ethical and legal aspects of confidentiality apply to TelehealOnline Counseling and Therapyth as In-Office Therapy. One primary difference is that the therapist is required by law to ask the client where they are physically located at the beginning of each session, whether it’s Online Therapy or Phone Therapy. This is so the therapist can notify the authorities in case of an emergency.

Q. Is Online Therapy as secure as Phone Therapy?

A. Phone Therapy may be somewhat more secure than Online Therapy. With online therapy, third-party applications potentially introduce privacy risks even when provider enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using such applications. Of course, there are probably other video communication applications that are also vulnerable.

Q. Is it safe?

A. If by safe, you mean confidential and secure, yes. Therapists typically use a system that is HIPAA complaint, meaning it meets the strict federal standards for protecting Private Health Information (PHI). There are certain other risks and benefits to therapy, whether by internet or in-person. Your therapist can address these with you during your first session.

Q. With Phone Therapy and Online Therapy how does a therapist help a client if a crisis occurs?

A. A therapist’s job is to make sure that the client is always safe. When doing Phone Therapy or Online Therapy sessions, a therapist not only gets the client’s full name, address, phone number and emergency contact information, they also ask at the beginning of every session where the client is located at that moment. That way, the therapist can help if there is an emergency and send an ambulance or the authorities.

Q. Do I have to show my face?

A. No. Many people are camera shy and prefer not to be seen during online therapy. You can put tape on the camera lens or turn your computer or phone at an angle so that your therapist can not see you directly.  Another great alternative is to do phone therapy instead of video therapy.

Q. What if I can’t find a private space in my home?

A. Many people have this issue. Many clients are creating a private space for their therapy hour by driving to another location and sitting in their car or by sitting in their car in the driveway. ​Using a headset with both earphones and a microphone will greatly decrease the ability of others to listen in.

Q. Isn’t online therapy less personal than face to face therapy?

A. It can be. It cannot be denied that there is a screen or phone between the therapist and the client. However, there are positive aspects of the experience:

  1. It can help lesson the anxiety associated with being face-to-face and emotionally vulnerable
  2. You and your therapist get to connect with each other in a different setting
  3. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new with your therapist there to help you through it

Q. Will insurance cover online therapy?

Most therapists (around 70 percent) don’t take insurance directly. But whether you are using your insurance with a therapist or getting reimbursed after you paid, you will need to contact your insurance provider to find out what they cover.

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