Finding a training for telephone counseling can be an exhausting, time-intensive process for clinicians. Knowing what to look for, and why training is essential to begin with, are key pieces of information for over the phone counseling. First, let’s start with what topics are essential for phone counseling—

  • Legal considerations for telephonic counseling 
  • Ethical implications when using a verbal-only clinical modality 
  • How to keep your phone safe and HIPAA compliant? 
  • What to know about crisis planning for phone counseling

Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers in New York State (NASW-NYS), Dr. Samantha Fletcher, has a PhD in social work and is a passionate advocate for ethical social work practice. Samantha argues that racial disparities are permeating almost every aspect of our society. Her even-handed response calls for education, personal responsibility, and having enough humility to be wrong.

The social work profession was built on generalist practice. This approach gives social workers a perspective that is unique to the field: an eye for injustice that impacts social systems at the micro (person-to-person), mezzo (organization, group, and community), or macro (society at large) levels. Social workers have a distinct interpretation of social issues because of their role flexibility; and in Samantha’s view, justice is best achieved when all of these factors are considered.

The use of telehealth services rapidly expanded in the U.S. after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. The changes in the way that health care was delivered were needed to help stop the spread of the disease.

But will the momentum continue after the pandemic subsides? There are signs that it might.

You may have switched your practice to telehealth-only sessions when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and – like many in America – you are still working from home. You also may be paying rent for an office you’re no longer using. 

Why not just give up the office and work from home for the foreseeable future? Can you continue your practice as a telehealth-only home-based business? Is it just a matter of filling out a few change-of-address forms and ending your lease? 

Here are some things to keep in mind before switching to a telehealth-only home office:

Alison Connelly-Flores is a certified physician assistant and chief medical information officer at Urban Health Plan Inc. in New York City. The onset of COVID-19 triggered a last-minute IT whirlwind, leaving Alison scrambling to devise, develop, and demonstrate the effectiveness of telemedicine services for Urban Health Plan. Tasked with merging clinical and technological initiatives, Alison has worked around the clock to attain the federally qualified health center status for Urban Health Plan and remain financially competitive. 

Jorge Mastrapa, the co-founder of the cybersecurity company CySeSo, discusses his user-friendly approach to helping healthcare organizations feel more secure. As an MBA/PhD with an executive background in analysis, strategic development, and international business, Jorge brings a wealth of experience to his consultations. CySeSo helps organizations keep their patient data safe from predatory digital opportunists.

Most of CySeSo’s customers are individual practitioners or medium-sized healthcare companies seeking end-to-end cyber solutions. Issues range from security breaches to comprehensive disaster recovery scenarios. Regardless of their specific concerns, Jorge individualizes consultations to construct a security plan around the existing business. 

In September 2020, the Telehealth Certification Institute hosted a webinar titled, “Identifying and Resourcing Trafficking Victims” which featured leading voices in the field of anti-trafficking. This webinar sought to equip practitioners from multiple disciplines to identify trafficking victims both virtually and in-person as well as provide resources to access critical, trauma-informed care. This webinar also included CE hours for mental health professionals and covered information such as signs of trafficking, best practices for trauma care, how to be an effective mental health professional with trafficking survivors, and building therapeutic trust with trafficking survivors. Participants had the opportunity to submit their questions throughout the session and the panelists answered them live during the webinar. 

The healthcare industry is taking a simple and effective step in protecting its nurse workforce: listening to and allying with their needs. Groups like the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) have put pieces in place to enhance the work-life balance of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). The APRN compact, influenced by a big legislative push from the NCSBN, is restructuring how patients are treated across the U.S. The compact has opened a new channel for multi-state practice for nurses licensed in a state that has signed the agreement.

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably by the public, even though they describe distinct processes. In the most generic sense, telehealth and telemedicine involve conducting health care services remotely. The difference between the two terms arises when one examines the medical portion of telemedicine. The nuance isn’t just a lexicological typo, it ties a specific clinical component to the provided services. 

Telehealth, on the other hand, is more inclusive. Non-clinical activities related to education, staff training, healthcare administration, professional conferences, or patient-provider clinical services all fall under the telehealth label. Three of the main telehealth modalities are live patient-provider video sessions, the store-and-forward technique—which collects clinical data and sends it to a separate location for evaluation—and off-site patient monitoring that studies clinical data as it elapses in real-time.

History of Telehealth Services

The telehealth revolution found its footing in a 1925 science fiction premise, which questioned the possibility of remote-based medical procedures. Matt Novak of Smithsonian Magazine pointed to entrepreneur and author, Hugo Gernsback, who imagined a world where doctors could interact with patients using radio waves—an insight that has helped clinicians grow their virtual presence and deliver patient-centered care over the internet. 

How can I safely reopen my practice and offer face-to-face counseling sessions during a global pandemic? Many therapists are grappling with this question.

Counselors, psychologists and social workers quickly switched to Telemental Health sessions in March 2020 when the dangers of the deadly new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) hit home in America. Telemental Health has allowed us to continue offering much-needed therapy to clients during this national crisis without risk of exposing ourselves to the virus or spreading it to our clients.

Many of us are opting to keep using Telemental Health until a vaccine for the virus becomes available. The American Psychological Association recommends psychologists continue using telehealth if possible. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) reminds social workers they are “not professionally or ethically required to provide in-person services.”

It’s not just behavioral health clinicians who have made the switch to distance counseling. The CDC recommends all healthcare providers keep using telehealth if possible to “provide necessary care to patients while minimizing the transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to healthcare personnel (HCP) and patients.”

But not all counseling clients are comfortable with Telemental Health, and it may not work at all for young children or clients with attention deficit and other mental health disorders.