Everything You Need to Know Before You Sign Up For Online Therapy Amid the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

There's been a rise in teletherapy due to the #coronavirus. Here's everything you need to know about it.

4/24/2020 1:49:00 AM

There's been a rise in teletherapy due to the coronavirus. Here's everything you need to know about it.

How to get started with teletherapy, what options you have, and what to expect during your teletherapy sessions during the coronavirus pandemic.

can both cause anxiety and stress, not being able to go to scheduled face-to-face therapy appointments is a problem, especially for those with mental illness. That's where teletherapy comes in.Teletherapy is exactly how it sounds. Simply put, it's the act of receiving therapy by phone or video call from a therapist who is licensed in your state. Each state has its own licensing board for therapists, and during this time, some are permitting therapists to practice across state lines — many therapists POPSUGAR spoke to have verified this. It also depends on what type of license a therapist has. Here, you can find a

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state-by-state rundown of emergency waiversand actions announced, as released by the American Psychological Association.Some states are also making it easier to get temporarily licensed in order to accommodate therapy across state borders. Sheina Schochet, LMHC, for instance, who's licensed in New York and Florida, said she recently received a temporary license lasting 180 days to

. Regardless, those conducting therapy should check in with their individual state's licensing board for more information.Teletherapy Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak: HIPAA, Insurance, and GrowthTeletherapy and HIPAATypically, teletherapy sessions need to be conducted with technology that's compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA); in other words, through platforms that guarantee privacy for the client's information. For instance, my therapist uses a platform called Doxy for video sessions, and there are other services such as Zoom for Healthcare and Updox. Basically, you can't just pull up FaceTime.

"There could be legal trouble in general from not using HIPAA-compliant devices and technologies to use and disclose patient health information," Alissa Smith, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney who represents different organizations and workers in the healthcare industry, told POPSUGAR."Because mental health information is more sensitive and protected, the stakes are higher, and providers should exercise even greater caution to protect the information."

That being said, due to the national emergency declared,HIPAA rules have been waivedon telehealth, making it easier to communicate with patients through personal devices and apps that aren't HIPAA compliant, such as FaceTime and Google Hangouts. Therapy sessions are included in this, according to Smith."HIPAA applies to all healthcare providers, so the waivers also apply to all healthcare providers, including therapists," she said."However, if states have more restrictive privacy and security requirements for mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, then the state law would continue to apply."

That was echoed by Mary Jo Monahan, MSW, LCSW, the CEO of the Association of Social Work Boards, which works with all of the licensure boards throughout the United States and in Canada. If teletherapy rules instated by individual state boards are more restrictive than HIPAA, those rules should be followed, she said. As a regulator, Monahan said she would not encourage any therapist to use technology that is not HIPAA compliant."If anything, during an emergency when people are distraught and vulnerable, therapists have to be at their best and their most competent, and practicing safely," she told POPSUGAR. When in doubt, a therapist should check with their state licensing board during this time.

Is Training Required For Teletherapy?Additionally, in order to practice teletherapy ethically and, as Monahan said, competently, it's generally encouraged to have some sort of training. For instance,Natalie Jones, PsyD, a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) and psychotherapist in California, told POPSUGAR that she received a teletherapy certification through continuing education. Getting extra training in teletherapy is simple for licensed mental health providers to do, Dr. Jones said,"and if not a certification, it's at least in your best interest to be well-versed in the requirements of teletherapy." Note: Dr. Jones said she uses Zoom and Skype business accounts that are HIPAA compliant as well as Google Voice for phone calls, which is also HIPAA compliant.

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