How COVID-19 is Changing the World of Online Counseling
You may have been an early adopter of telehealth services; perhaps you thought that you would never provide care from a distance; or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. The fact of the matter is that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic - we have all been forced into becoming distance providers.
Questions you may have asked yourself: Am I allowed to provide telehealth services? Can I deliver those services competently and ethically? Will I be able to follow the constantly changing regulations?
Raymond Barrett faced these similar questions when his very first client requested phone sessions. Having never been taught this skill in training or during supervision, he scrambled to learn how to provide those services competently. He has been immersed in the world of telemental health ever since. Ray has become an expert in the field of telemental health training and consultation, and maintains a limited private practice as well.
Six weeks into quarantine, Ray met with Clay Cockrell for a podcast episode on The Online Counseling Podcast during which they discussed transitions in the field of telemental health care over the past 20 years, credentialing and licensure, what it takes to learn to provide telemental health care, the impact COVID-19 is having in the world of behavioral health, and how Telehealth Certification Institute was hosting a 3-day virtual Summit to provide answers to these questions for clinicians in all fields of telehealth.
Listen to the podcast episode in full to hear details about licensing and the credentialing process, about maintaining competencies, about following laws/contracts/insurance regulations for clinicians, and about how COVID-19 is impacting the behavioral health field.
COVID-19 has changed everything. The Federal Government wants states to relax their licensure laws, but that doesn't mean your state has. Just because HIPAA is relaxed, does not indicate that your license allows for looser regulations. A clinician must "check all the boxes" to be sure they are adhering to their license. A frequently updated resource for state rules including COVID-19 temporary regulations can be found at the Center for Connected Health Policy.
On May 18-20, 2020, Telehealth Certification Institute hosted the Telemental Health Preparedness Summit 2020. The Summit was created to address three topics:
1) How to respond to the trauma of the pandemic
2) How to transition to using technology, and
3) How to provide support for each other and promote self-care
Thousands of clinicians, students and many others interested in the field gathered by online attendance to participate in topical sessions, join breakout rooms with those of similar interests, meet experts and ask direct questions and shared experiences with each other. Speakers addressed behavioral health care, supervision, legal aspects, technology, and, of course, self-care.
The day after the three-day Summit came to a close, Ray Barrett said that he is “...taking a big, deep breath. Now it is time to care for ourselves, to learn what is coming and to ‘up the game’ for telemental health counseling.” During COVID-19, people need telemental health on a daily basis for many reasons, and Clay Cockrell states, we need to "...be prepared to meet them where they are, and to meet them competently."