Providing mental health using telehealth requires all clinicians to take extra steps to make sure their clients are safe during sessions, and that they are in a private location where no one can listen in.

But providing telehealth services gets even trickier when you are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and your clients are young sexual abuse survivors. Some may even be living with their abusers.

Patsy Fuller is a counselor in Louisiana with more than 10 years of experience. She’s worked with clients coping with severe mental illnesses, addiction, and childhood sexual trauma. She’s currently with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, or S.T.A.R, an agency that supports survivors of sexual trauma.

Fuller was working with addicted clients at a psychiatric hospital when she discovered that many of her clients also had a very different issue.

Patrick Hendry is a pioneer in the peer mentoring field who has spent three decades promoting the benefits of peer support in the behavioral health workforce. He has witnessed the problematic medical model that too often demoralizes or dismisses the needs of mentally ill individuals. Peer support workers develop meaningful rapport with their peers by telling them, I’ve been there too!

As the Vice President of Peer Advocacy Supports and Services for Mental Health America, Patrick has used his own lived experience with a mental illness to help others who are starting or continuing their recovery journeys. Patrick delivers training and national advocacy projects for peer specialists and professionals with a focus on human rights, social inclusion, peer support, peer services, and self-directed care.

Michael Cappiello, LCSW, is the President of New York State’s NASW Chapter (NASW-NYS) and introduces students to the best online educational platforms for their learning experience. Michael puts his MSW training to use every day across the social work spectrum as NASW-NYS president, a school social worker for the NYC Department of Education, and through his own counseling practice. 

Schools have hit their newest paradigm shift with the unexpected appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students who relied on structured in-person classes are struggling to adapt those skills to the online learning space. Michael’s social work background explains this predicament through the gold-standard biopsychosocial model. As a frequent user of mental health assessments, Michael places equal emphasis on each part of a student’s life. His student-centered approach moves the conversation away from the child’s psychological symptoms and towards broader explanations for their educational challenges.

Sheela Ivlev is an Licensed Occupational Therapist who understands the relationship between emotional and physical pain. After completing her practical training in the psychiatric field, Sheela saw how unresolved emotional stress wears down the physical body. Now through her practice, Sheela offers occupational therapy for adults with disabilities, mental illnesses, clients with pain disorders, and individuals on the autism spectrum. 

Occupational therapists are trained to assess both the emotional and physical health of their clients, but not all professionals maintain this integrated perspective. Sheela’s main goal is to help her clients with all of their occupations, any activity that enriches their life and brings them deeper meaning. Sheela’s clinical perspective is thoughtful, holistic, and always puts her clients first. 

COVID-19 has necessitated that schools nationwide protect the safety of staff and students by offering crucial academic and behavioral health services through telehealth. In October 2020, the Telehealth Certification Institute hosted a webinar titled, “Telehealth in School Environment- Meeting Student Needs Amid Covid-19” which featured experts on telehealth and behavioral health in the school environment. This webinar sought to equip educational professionals to meet the needs of students in a constantly-evolving virtual environment. This webinar also included CE hours for mental health professionals and covered information such as issues of justice within virtual learning environments, how to relate with stakeholders virtually, and best practices for implementing virtual assessments. Participants had the opportunity to submit questions throughout the session and panelists answered questions live during the webinar. 

Millions of Americans are impacted by infertility, birth trauma, and reproductive loss. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with infertility but are less likely to seek treatment, according to Dr. Kristy Christopher-Holloway, director of New Vision Counseling Center, in Douglasville, Georgia, and an expert on the mental health impacts of infertility. In an interview with Raymond Barrett, CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute, Dr. Christopher-Holloway discussed how telehealth is helping expand her practice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Christopher-Holloway says about 20% of the U.S. population is impacted by an infertility diagnosis every year. Black women are about 1.5 times more likely to experience the diagnosis of infertility, but they typically will seek help or treatment for the diagnosis at lesser rates.

Her current research includes perinatal mental health and infertility. “We know that this is an under-researched population area, and when there is no research we cannot do an effective treatment.”

Do no harm. Your ethical code as a clinician requires that above all, you promote the welfare of your client and avoid harm. 

Now that COVID-19 is raging across America, this mandate takes on a new question: how do clinicians avoid physically harming clients amid a global pandemic?

According to the CDC, in-person talk therapy in an office seems an ideal way to spread the coronavirus if either the clinician or client is infected:

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has the perennial responsibility of setting social work standards and ethics. In recent years, technological options for client engagement have flourished, resulting in an explosive demand for new mandates, guidelines, and tech boundaries in the social work field. 

The NASW is the largest professional organization dedicated to ethical social work practice. Represented by 130,000 members from 50 US states, they have established safety principles for social workers and their clients. The NASW clinical social work standards are widely cited by students, professionals, and educators to inform their practice behaviors. Though they are the leading member organization, the NASW partners with other social work groups. An example of their partnership is with The Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB). The NASW used the ASWB’s 2015 Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice as a partial framework for the 2017 Technology in Social Work Practice Guidelines. The 2017 document represents the most current provisions for the ethical use of technology. In addition to the NASW and ASWB, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) have contributed to the current technology recommendations for the social work profession. The four collaborative organizations arrived at the 2017 standards after forming the Task Force for Technology Standards in Social Work Practice.

Jay Ostrowski describes how his telemental health platform, Adaptive Telehealth, offers modern features for well-reasoned clinicians. With expertise in HIPAA compliance, Jay created his platform to anchor therapists as they walk an unstable mental health tightrope. Choosing Adaptive as your telehealth home base accommodates your clients, while attuning to your practice goals.

In a notoriously digital age, the healthcare industry has been the newest convert to online, virtual, and distance-based telehealth technology. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), the Alliance for Connected Care, and the American Telemedicine Association—with enthusiastic support from 22 experts on various points of the healthcare spectrum—have formed a synergistic Taskforce on Telehealth policy (TTP). The group recently launched a forward-thinking campaign that targets three fundamental categories:

  1. The cost of telehealth service expansion (programmatic concerns).
  2. Protections and safeguards for patients in remote environments (patient concerns).
  3. Data flow, care integration, and quality control (system-level concerns).