|The Business of Private Practice|
7 Tips for Doing Online Clinical Mental Health Counseling
By Deb Legge, PhD, CRC, LMHC
One way to increase your market is to put your practice online. It’s also a great way to offer more options to your clients, and to have a business that can move with you.
#1: Therapeutic Concerns
What is gained and lost in the physical distance, even if you are simply a computer screen away from your client? Consider your beliefs about change and your therapeutic style, and think about how, if at all, the distance will affect the therapeutic relationship and the therapy.
#2: Concerns About Identity
If you plan to do therapy via telephone or email, how will you know if the person on the other end of the line is who he or she claims to be? Some clinical mental health counselors satisfy this concern by requiring that at least one session be in-person, or via video.
#3: Issues of Confidentiality
No matter what, you can only assure your client of confidentiality to the extent allowed by the source of transmission. This is an issue even if you are using a service that guarantees “HIPAA compliant” email, video, chat, etc. Your control over confidentiality is limited, and your clients must be made aware of that limitation and risk.
#4: Technology Concerns
What if your client sends a text canceling the session, and you never receive it? What happens if you are mid-session and your server or Internet connection goes down? If these things happen, how do you handle financial liability for the sessions? How and when do you reschedule?
#5: Safety Issues
How do you manage things if your clients becomes seriously unstable, suicidal, or is actively abusing drugs or alcohol? What if you wake up to an “emergency” text from a client? These are situations that should be discussed as part of your policy when initiating the possibility of online options for clinical mental health counseling.
#6: Protecting Your License
Remember that you are limited by your state license. You may be able to provide counseling to a college student or a vacationing client in another state (as long as they are still legal residents of the state in which you are licensed), but make sure you know the laws of your state when it comes to distance counseling.
Be sure to adhere to your professional code of ethics.
Getting the information and support you need on “The Business of Private Practice” can help you to build a successful and sustainable business. Visit the AMHCA Member Library for additional articles by Deborah Legge, PhD, CRC, LMHC, on the business of private practice.