Online therapy, or telehealth, is an field that is rapidly evolving. As technology continues to advance, so do the ways in which we are able to deliver therapy. While the rules and regulations are straining to keep up, there are some guidelines that can help therapists to protect themselves as well as their patients. Whether you are a mental health therapist, social worker, behavioral therapist, or speech therapist, if you are interested in doing therapy with your patients online, you will need to do your due diligence to make sure that you remain in compliance.
When you begin to make plans for your teletherapy practice, wondering where to start may be a bit overwhelming. However, it might be helpful to begin the process by turning to your professional association. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology, which state that “Psychologists should make reasonable effort to be familiar with and, as appropriate, to address the laws and regulations that govern telepsychology service delivery within the jurisdictions in which they are situated and the jurisdictions where their clients/patients are located.” But what are the laws in these states?
When it comes to complying with state laws, you may want to start out by checking with your state legislature or state licensing board. For example, if you live in New York, the New York State Office of the Professions provides links to relevant “Laws, Rules, & Regulations” for each profession (psychologist, social worker, etc.). Once you have a good understanding of your state’s laws that relate to your specific profession, you’ll still need to do some more research for the states in which your clients reside if you plan to serve people that live outside of your home state. And then, there are still the federal laws to contend with.
When you begin your teletherapy practice, it is vitally important to have an understanding of relevant federal laws. You could start out at the Federal Laws and Regulations page at USA.gov. From there you can find your way to relevant legislation like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While the process may be cumbersome, you may have a partner through it all in the form of the platform that you choose for your teletherapy practice. A secure and HIPAA-compliant platform is required by law when providing teletherapy, and TheraPlatform was built to meet and exceed all HIPAA requirements. This is why having a partner like TheraPlatform with you through the process can make delivering your services so much easier.
Teletherapy can be a wonderful way to reach isolated populations and those that prefer communicating through technology. As a therapist, it is your responsibility to make sure that you comply with all of the relevant professional guidelines as well as state and federal laws. With enough research, and the right platform, you can set yourself up for teletherapy success.