Many people would like to be able to expand their practices and the clients they serve. Providing sessions via video or telephone is an appealing option to accomplish this. Technology assisted mental health services can also serve an important purpose, including:
- Providing access to mental health services in rural, remote areas where in person services are not available or are inaccessible due to distance;
- Enabling those who are house bound or lack necessary transportation to not have to go to an office to receive needed mental health services;
- Making therapy more convenient and accessible, which may make it more likely people will seek treatment;
- Allowing continuity of care, if a client moves away from their treating provider;
- Enabling clients to access certain specialty treatments that might not be available to them locally.
Given all these advantages, there are also important considerations and guidelines to which you should be aware. Most importantly, per the NCSWCLB (NC Social Work Certification and Licensure Board) Position Paper on Technology Assisted Services, an LCSW who chooses to provide distance services (which includes video psychotherapy) must at minimum, determine the need for licensure in the State in which the client resides along with being licensed to practice as a LCSW in NC. This means ensuring compliance with regulatory/licensure requirements for the jurisdiction in which the social worker provides services as well as the jurisdiction in which the client receives services.
Other recommendations include:
- Contacting your malpractice insurance carrier and confirm that these services are covered by your carrier.
- Reading and complying with the other items identified in the Position Paper published by the NCSWCLB at http://www.ncswboard.org/files/Position_Stmt_on_Tech_Facil_Services_Amended_2017.2.1.pdf
- Always remaining in compliance with ethical standards of any professional association of which you are a member.
- If you accept insurance, being certain that the client’s insurance, if applicable, covers services provided via technology (phone, video etc.)
- Ensuring that your services are compliant with HIPAA, including a HIPAA compliant video service and that services are provided in a private location as you would an in person session.
- Making sure your consents include any disclosure that might be appropriate with this type of service delivery, such as risks and benefits of video or telephonic therapy.
- Ensuring services meet the same standards as you would an in person session, such as your setting, appearance, etc.
- Establishing an appropriate crisis plan, including knowledge of clients local crisis resources.
Lastly, you always want to make sure that this method of service delivery is clinically and ethically appropriate to the clients needs. This includes assessing whether the client would be better served by a provider local to them that they can meet with in person. This would be especially true, where knowledge of the clients local resources and environment are critical to the needs of the client and effective service delivery.
Michelle Topal, MSW, LCSW Advocacy Committee Chair
Laurie Conaty, MSW, LCSW, LCAS. Ethics Committee Chair