Therapists are rapidly turning to telehealth as a flexible way to conduct their telemental health sessions, but sometimes the client’s strong aversion to technology is the first barrier that needs to be addressed. According to the Community Living Campaign, access, training, and equipment are the three pillars of technology literacy. Without them, clients may not have the digital literacy skills they need to engage fully in their telemental health session. In this article, you’ll find practical tips to close the tech gap between you and your client!
As a digital advocacy group, The National Digital Inclusion Alliance suggests that you first identify your client’s level of skillfulness with technology and what they’ll need to succeed. Once you’ve nailed down the barriers, you can assess your readiness to coach the client through the skill acquisition process. This could involve navigating a ZOOM log-in screen, adjusting a client’s microphone, or configuring the client’s speaker.
These are four easy-to-remember questions that can keep you on track when developing a client-centered technology plan:
- What does the client need? For example, can they use a computer but cannot manage the specific video conferencing platform used for therapy, or do they struggle with managing their email account to access a telemental health session link?
- Can you mend the client’s knowledge gap yourself? If not, perhaps directing them to an external resource or technology training center would be more appropriate.
- Would the client rather seek help elsewhere? Honoring the client’s preferences is a foundational skill for ethical therapy practice.
- Does the client need resources that you can’t offer? Some technology training centers provide instruction to clients who speak little to no English or have physical limitations. Additionally, if the client lacks a phone or computer, training centers might have knowledge of where your client could access free or discounted equipment.
Seeking digital literacy skills training has other benefits as well! Not only do group and individual classes increase tech proficiency, but they can also help clients work on therapeutic goals like community building, navigating challenging situations, and deepening self-efficacy.
If a client prefers an individualized tutor, consider inquiring at local libraries; many locations have staff members who assist with digital literacy. If clients want to stay at home, technology hotlines can provide step-by-step instructions by phone, or clients who have some familiarity with computers may get their technology training online to meet specific objectives like navigating a video conferencing platform or enabling a computer webcam.
Another key consideration when meeting the three pillars is that clients receive the mental health support they need while developing their digital proficiency. This could involve offering same-location sessions until the client has the confidence or equipment to start online therapy sessions. Knowing your professional and ethical obligations can help you stay on track as a culturally competent mental health practitioner. You may not have all the answers yet on how to help your client; but hopefully, you’re ready to embrace technological challenges with your client as they arise!
Community Living Campaign. (n.d.). Staying connected while sheltering at home. (Description: this organization provides access, community building, and classes on digital literacy).
National Digital Inclusion Alliance. (n.d.). Chapter 4: Digital literacy training. (Description: a guidebook on how to set up digital literacy classes.