Telehealth training- Do I need it? Telehealth has been gaining in popularity for the past decade. The coronavirus pandemic has only hastened the arrival of online platforms as a popular way to receive psychotherapeutic telehealth services. Performing therapy online (teletherapy) has some definite advantages over traditional in-person therapy: convenience, accessibility, and appeal to those people that have difficulties being in an office environment. While the advantages are substantial, no one is claiming it is the same as in-person therapy. Working online involves certain considerations that you may not think about with traditional counseling. That is why therapists that are performing virtual therapy may want to consider taking specific training in teletherapy.
The Benefits of Telehealth Training
As a therapist, it may be tempting to jump on a videoconferencing platform and conduct therapy online just as you would with a client in person. In fact, many therapists have done just that due to the social distancing requirements of COVID-19. But, as any therapist who has done both can tell you, there are numerous elements of teletherapy that you may not have thought through before you went online.
The foremost consideration with teletherapy is the question of competence. Competence is an ethical obligation for all therapists. And just because you may have competence as a therapist, does not mean you are competent as a teletherapist. Further, many therapist organizations, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors and the National Association of Social Workers, explicitly state the need to be competent in telehealth. Besides basic competence, there are laws, ethics guidelines, and clinical skills that need to be redetermined in an online world. For example, are you proficient enough with online technology to screen share relevant materials as you would present them during in-person therapy? When you have a client’s needs in mind, it is best not to fumble through weeks of mistakes and violations that could have been prevented with some basic telehealth training.
Additionally, it won’t hurt your marketing efforts to be able to sell yourself as a therapist with specific training in teletherapy. Many clients have some hesitation seeking therapy online and certification in telehealth might put them more at ease. Further, because so many therapists are performing teletherapy without any training, advertising yourself as being certified might just give you a leg up on the competition.
What Should I Expect from Telehealth (teletherapy) Training?
The following are some of the most critical areas to be covered in telehealth training:
• Billing and practice issues. For example, is there a special billing designation for teletherapy in your state, and can you perform therapy with someone in another state where you are not licensed?
• Informed Consent. How will you modify your informed consent to educate and reflect issues that arise from teletherapy?
• Privacy and confidentiality. Whenever you use technology, there are questions as to how you will keep a client’s personal information secure. For instance, is the platform you use for teletherapy HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, and are your procedures secure enough to ensure that a client’s information will stay confidential?
• Clinical issues. Are there specific therapeutic techniques that work well with teletherapy? How do you establish rapport online? Is teletherapy appropriate for severely ill, suicidal, and hard-to-treat clients?
• Boundaries. How do you keep appropriate boundaries with clients in an online world? Rules for social media engagement and communication with clients need to be determined.
Telehealth Training Options for Mental Health Providers
There has been an explosion of telehealth training options over the past few years. These run the gamut from a single CE course to a full-fledged “board certification” requiring numerous hours of training. As of now, almost all of these are offered exclusively online. Here are some of the most credible options:
• The Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider (BC-TMH) credential was developed by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE), an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). It is a nationally recognized certification in the use of teletherapy.
• PESI is a leader in continuing education for therapists. They offer training that provides a Certified Clinical Telemental Health Provider (CTMH) credential.
• Person Centered Tech offers a comprehensive Telemental Health Certificate that, in addition to traditional learning modules, provides live support for three months while you are getting used to providing teletherapy.
• The TeleMental Health Training Certificate (THTC), offered by the Telehealth Training Institute, provides options for self-help and live webinars, as well as an hour consultation with an expert in telehealth. In addition to workbooks, they also provide forms that can act as a template for your practice.
• Besides these options, most professional therapy organizations offer courses in telehealth. For example, the American Psychological Association, the National Association for Social Workers, and The American Counseling Association all offer teletherapy training opportunities on their websites.
Telehealth Training Tips
• We all learn differently. Some people may want interactive support with a real person while others may only require a few self-help resources. Many of these training programs give you the option to choose what components you want to receive. Don’t feel like you have to try every one if you feel like only one part will do.
• When seeking telehealth training go with trusted sources. Make sure they are endorsed by respected colleagues or known professional organizations. Further, if you want to receive CE credits they need to be approved by your state licensing board.
• It is important to note that there is no one official teletherapy training certification. Instead, many private companies are offering different levels of training resources. So, when you see fancy titles, such as “board-certified” these are created by the companies, rather than an official professional entity. You will need to dig a little deeper to see if they offer what you are looking for. Getting a shiny new certificate does not mean it will meet your particular needs.
Do I Need Teletherapy Training?
The vast number of therapists currently practicing online have not received training in telehealth. There is no law or licensing obligation that requires you to receive any specialized education in this area. However, there are numerous legal, ethical, and clinical issues that need to be considered for anyone conducting virtual therapy. You are doing a disservice to yourself and your clients if you undertake teletherapy without some sort of education. This does not mean you have to take a protracted 20-hour course but there are many other types of training opportunities that can improve your telehealth practice. Do yourself a favor and find the option that is right for you.
In addition to educating yourself about teletherapy alone via telehealth, don’t forget to receive training on how to use a video conferencing platform. TheraPlatform (EHR with a free built-in video conferencing) offers both pre-recorded and live training on how to use their platform. It is the most comprehensive telehealth option on the market and the most cost effective. In addition to built in video conferencing, it offers interactive whiteboard; personalized resources library, screen sharing, EHR, scheduling, documenting, billing, insurance and much more. They offer a 30 -day free trial with no credit card and their basic plan starts at $29. Sign up for their 30- day trial here.
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