What is teletherapy?

Teletherapy goes by many different names such as distance counseling, telehealth, telemental health, and telemedicine. What happens in a virtual session is essentially the same as an office-based session.  The only difference is a few additional considerations that we will talk about below.

What does teletherapy look like at Hidden Stone Counseling?

In my practice, I use only HIPAA-secure video and phone platforms. All of my sessions are conducted from my home office or equivalent to ensure privacy and security on my end. What does this mean? HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) set a standard for best practices to safeguard patient data. I do my everything in my power to ensure your data is protected.

  • Video sessions: Zoom for Healthcare with BAA.
    In order to access Zoom, you will need to download the application from Zoom’s website and create an account. It is completely free whether you are on a computer or mobile device. Prior to your first appointment, you will received a detailed email from me containing my private waiting room information, which is password protected for security. Make sure you have completed the download and signed in using your full name prior to your first appointment.  Please give yourself a few extra minutes in case it doesn’t work exactly how you are expecting. I’ll invite you from the virtual waiting room when your session is ready to begin. Your name is only visible to me, and anyone in the waiting room does not have access to the live sessions, so your privacy is ensured. This also means you are free to sign in early to alleviate any stress of being late or to troubleshoot any possible technology glitches.

  • Phone calls: GoogleVoice with BAA.
    Google Voice with BAA means they have signed a Business Associate’s Agreement ensuring your data is secure.  All you need to do is let me know your preferred phone number. My phone system will forward your call to voicemail so I do not disrupt any sessions that may be ongoing. Although I will not be reachable directly by phone, I will return all client calls within 72 hours.

OTHER SECURITY NOTES:

  • FaceTime, Skype, GoogleMeet, and Facebook may be popular or free, but they are NOT HIPAA secure. Due to ethical responsibilities, I will NOT use these platforms for video sessions.

  • Doxy.me is a web-based, HIPAA secure alternative to Zoom and does not require any download or account creation. If Zoom is inaccessible for your session, I will email further instructions to you. This happens rarely, but it’s always good to have a backup!

  • I do NOT recommend texting, especially regarding clinical content for security reasons, and I do NOT respond to text-based messages that contain clinical content. These messages are not considered teletherapy. Please use the client portal for direct messaging. It is secure on both ends, protecting both you and me. If you are having an emergency, please call 911 or 988 immediately. Any of my message systems should NOT be considered a substitute for emergency care and are NOT monitored 24/7.

What should you keep in mind?

DO YOU HAVE A PRIVATE SPACE?

  • Do you have a private, comfortable space?

    • Do you have a space you can secure with a lock? If not, will others around you avoid entering your space during appointment times?

    • Do you have a space where others outside cannot hear you speaking? If not, can you block the noise with a fan or white noise machine outside your door? Can you use earbuds or headphones to keep our conversation from being overheard?

  • If you don’t have a private room, some other ideas are a large closet, basement, attic, laundry room, or possibly a car (but ONLY if it is PARKED and in a SAFE spot).

YOUR SETUP

  • Your best setup is a laptop or desktop computer with a working microphone and webcam.  The larger screen gives a more “in-person” feel, reduces eye strain, and increases comfort. If you are participating in EMDR, it is also easier to follow eye movements on the bigger screen.

  • Your next best option is a tablet or smartphone with a working microphone and webcam.  You will need to find a way to prop up your device in a way that is stable and secure because 1) It’s hard to be engaged when you are holding the phone, and 2) It’s really uncomfortable to hold a device for the entirety of a 50 minute session.

  • Prior to our session, check and make sure your webcam is positioned as close to eye-level as possible.  You may need to get creative and use boxes or books to give you the best angle.  It will make your sessions feel more like we are in the same room having a conversation.

  • Try and make sure you are positioned so your light source is in front of you or is an ambient light.  If the light is behind you, you will become back lit, and will look like a shadow.

TECHY STUFF

  • The closer you are to the router, the better when using WiFi.

  • Close all open apps and programs.  They use the same internet as our session software and can cause glitches if they are left open.

  • PersonCenteredTech has a great guide HERE if you are having trouble.

Do you still have questions?  Schedule your free 15 minute consultation now.