During the outbreak of COVID-19, many mental health providers are turning to Telehealth solutions so that they may continue to provide services to individuals, couples, and families. Here are a few things to pay attention to when receiving Telehealth from a mental health provider.Your provider should be using a HIPAA compliant platform when providing you with a Telehealth option. While it is the responsibility of the provider to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations, those laws and rules are in place to protect your privacy as a client. Even though there has been a temporary condition allowing for the use of non-HIPAA approved web-conferencing software to be used, your provider should incur the expense of an authorized HIPAA compliant Telehealth option to protect your privacy.
If you have met with your therapist face to face prior to a Telehealth session, you will likely have picked up on what its like to interact with them. Although audio and video gets close to replicating a face to face interaction, there are therapeutic differences. Your provider should have prior experience and possibly supervision with delivering distance based therapy. If not, then they should currently be receiving supervision if they have recently begun a Telehealth option without prior experience.
Your connection matters. Although you typically rely on mobile devices for transferring small packets of information such as a social media post, or a text message, transferring encrypted video and audio signals require more bandwidth than anticipated. When possible, use a hard-line connection to your device (plug a CAT 5, CAT5e or CAT6 cable directly to your computer) or use a secure, high speed WIFI connection. Do not use public WIFI connections as you cannot ensure that they are secure.
Rely on your therapist to manage the session. Therapists are trained to assess, diagnose, and intervene within a variety of situations. During times of crisis or transition, your therapist can easily direct and manage the session, even though the session may be occurring in a different format than traditional face to face therapy.
Create a quite and distraction free environment. Your therapist works hard to create a quiet and distraction free environment in their office so that a therapeutic experience can occur most readily. While our home or office environments aren't carefully calculated to be therapeutic in nature, it helps when you can find a quiet or secluded place free of unnecessary noise or distractions.
It is my hope that through times of distress, unsurity, disruption, and transition, that people can continue to receive the kind of mental health therapy which will support them in their needs. If you, or a loved one is in need of therapy at this time, feel free to contact me to setup a face to face or Telehealth session.
Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE