What Is Telepsychology, and What Are Its Benefits?What Is Telepsychology, and What Are Its Benefits?What Is Telepsychology, and What Are Its Benefits?
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Among the many changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought to our lives was a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth. This extended into telepsychology — psychological services being provided through telecommunications — which is here to stay. A study published in American Psychologist in 2021 reports that telepsychology:
Represented about 7% of psychologists’ clinical work prior to the pandemic
Represented almost 86% of their clinical work during the pandemic
Will represent nearly 35% of their clinical work after the pandemic
Telepsychology encompasses more than providing virtual therapy. For example, providers can perform screenings, conduct diagnostic interviews, and provide psychoanalysis, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Learning the definition of telepsychology — and related terms such as distance therapy and e-therapy — is a good way to become acquainted with this method of providing services. According to the APA:
Telepsychology is the process of providing psychological services through telecommunication technologies.
Distance therapy is psychotherapy that is not performed in face-to-face sessions but instead provided through telephone, videoconference, or audioconference.
E-therapy is a form of distance therapy conducted through a webcam, text messaging, email, or chat rooms. Providers can use telepsychology to treat a wide variety of issues. For example, the APA has cited studies noting that it can be effective in treating:
Providers can use telepsychology to treat a wide variety of issues. For example, the APA has cited studies noting that it can be effective in treating:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
The APA has cautioned, however, that more research is necessary to determine whether telepsychology is effective in treating serious mental illnesses such as psychotic disorder or schizophrenia. Similarly, more research is necessary on its effectiveness when conducting group therapy or in treating individuals with comorbidities (multiple disorders).
Exploring the Benefits of Telepsychology
The benefits of telepsychology are numerous. A 2020 Medical News Today report noted that it has:
Increased access to care, for example, for clients who live where it is difficult to obtain services or for clients who have mobility challenges
Reduced client costs associated with receiving care, such as transportation or child care
Strengthened clients’ sense of privacy by eliminating the need to sit in waiting rooms
Helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 by allowing clients to remain in their homes
Providers themselves also have benefited. For example, telepsychology can:
Expand a provider’s client base
Reduce a provider’s cost of doing business (for example, by eliminating the need to lease an office and pay for the cost of utilities)
The APA also has noted that telepsychology can reduce the stigma that some clients may feel about physically entering an office to receive care; as a result, it can serve as a new entry point to help ease clients into obtaining care.
Tips for Providing Telepsychology
Providers need to consider a number of factors surrounding this mode of service delivery, according to a 2020 Counseling Today report. Providers should:
Verify the identity and location of the client to whom they are providing services
Monitor relevant laws and regulations about telepsychology in the states where the provider and the client live
Verify that platforms are secure and feature two-way encryption
Ensure compliance with all requirements in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and ensure that any technology they use is compliant with HIPAA
Thoroughly describe the platform in forms documenting clients’ consent for services, so clients have a clear understanding of the method of service delivery
Develop a plan for glitches in technology and have a backup plan available
Form a plan for managing crisis situations that may arise while providing telepsychology services to clients
Make clients comfortable by showing them the provider’s workspace and by reducing distractions
In addition, a 2020 report in the journal Practice Innovations recommends that providers:
Seek opportunities for training on providing telepsychology
Consult with their liability insurance carriers on their coverage for remote service delivery and for providing services to clients in other states
Obtain advice from experts in areas such as malpractice and information technology
The APA offers advice specifically for providing services via telephone. For example, providers should:
Assess the risks and benefits associated with telephone treatment for each client
Avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi to make calls to provide services
Turn off all notifications, alarms, and ringers while providing services on a cellphone
Encourage clients to find a private place while receiving services
Pay attention to nonverbal cues from the client, such as pauses, changes in inflection, or hesitation
Charting a Path in Telepsychology
With its increasing use, telepsychology has the potential to bring psychological services to large numbers of clients who may not otherwise have access to them. While providers must exercise caution and heed the advice of professionals in the field, telepsychology can provide the opportunity for rewarding work and the chance to better the lives of a new group of clients.
Individuals who are interested in acquiring expertise for a future career in the field should explore Maryville University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online. Maryville’s curriculum helps expand students’ understanding of human behavior, with a focus on multicultural psychology, biological stressors, and critical thinking. Take the first brave step toward a rewarding career in psychology today.