Change is always a thing, but especially with the pandemic, COVID19, we are changing the way we do even the basics in our daily life. This change includes the way we meet for professional appointments. Fortunately, technology has progressed enough that consultations on a secure video platform are realistic and usually quite safe when handled properly.
What I’ve also learned since converting to telehealth in March of 2020 is that we really can build secure, meaningful, caring professional relationships via telehealth that are as effective as in-person consultation and treatment. The research says so and I have experienced now with quite a few wonderful clients. Even children seem to be enjoying their sessions and connecting with me via the screen, which is especially encouraging and heartwarming. As I turns out, this old dog can still learn new tricks—and if I can, you certainly can! So don’t be too worried about talking with me on a screen. We really can make it work.
What’s good about telehealth? Using telehealth, you can work with a specialist who is just the right fit for your particular needs. Telehealth is also great for you if you have difficulties traveling, you live in a rural area or if you are a professional or otherwise well-known person who, for reasons of privacy, would like to work with someone outside your immediate community. And who doesn’t love the convenience of not having to spend time driving in traffic to an office building, looking for parking, finding the suite, sitting in a waiting room, and then driving in traffic some more after the meeting!
At this point in time, while each state issues its own psychology licenses, there are temporarily loosened restrictions that may allow people outside of Colorado to work with me.In addition, there is something new developing called PSYPACT which will allow psychologists in quite a few states to practice across state lines. Each psychologist must apply for a specific permit to do this and I am currently in the process of making that application. I have completed some continuing education, consultation and reading about how to provide telehealth services effectively and safety and I am actively seeking more education, so that I can be sure I am offering you the highest quality services and care via telehealth.
Privacy and privacy risks: Your privacy and confidentiality are important to me and to you! For my telehealth practice, I use a fee-based, professional-grade Zoom account that Zoom states is HIPAA-compliant. There is special encryption and password-protected entry to the meeting room. Recording is not allowed. While nothing online can guarantee complete protection from privacy invasion, I believe I am offering a very high quality telehealth platform to my clients and am happy to pay the fees associated with making this possible. I have tried other platforms and am convinced the professional-grade Zoom account is the best option I can offer you at this time.
What you can do: Before your appointment, look for a quiet, comfortable, private place for yourself. A bedroom or office with a door that closes is ideal, but I have met with people via telehealth in their closets, backyards, basements, attics, laundry rooms, even in their cars out in the drive way. It’s so fun to meet people’s pets! Several of my clients have met mine, too.
Have a conversation with the people around you if you feel you can, asking them to protect your privacy. Try a white noise machine outside your closed door. Headphones may also protect your confidentiality. Check to be sure that your internet connection is strong enough to handle telehealth conferencing. You may get a better connection by shutting down other programs, moving your computer close to the WIFI router, and even plugging it in directly with a cable.
It’s best to use the largest screen you have available and to keep yourself approximately eye-level with the camera. Please prop your laptop, iPad, or, yes, even your phone on a table or set it up on some books, so you are close to eye-level. Having your device on a solid surface also keeps your image from bouncing up and down on the screen, and that also helps me on the other end not get dizzy and sick, so this courtesy is much appreciated! Good lighting helps, especially if you can position yourself in front of a good, bright light source.
Telehealth only for how long? I wish I could answer that question! For now, because of the pandemic, all my meetings are done via telehealth. This is for the protection of my clients and also for my own protection and the protection of my loved ones. I don’t mind sharing with you that in my home I have a family member with a chronic respiratory illness, so I will probably be one of the later psychologists to return to in-person appointments.
Do I have to do telehealth? You absolutely do not. You are free to work with any professional you choose, including someone who may be willing to meet with you in person sooner than I feel I can. If you or your child are court-ordered to work with me or you have stipulated to see me and decide you do not wish to begin or continue treatment on telehealth, I will in no way insist that you do so. You may find another provider and no problem, no hard feelings. If I am able to refer you to someone appropriate who is seeing clients in person, I am happy to do so upon request. There is no one-size-fits all during this pandemic, and I respect your right to choose as you see fit for yourself and your loved ones, just as I must for myself and my own.
For more information: There is a great website called Person Centered Tech that has a video that will show you how to set up and an article that will explain it. More information about online therapy with psychologists is available at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/online-therapy.aspx.