Therapy and mental health apps

therapy and mental Health Apps

Information for Professional Counselors

Many apps and services have been launched within the last few years, and it can be overwhelming to understand or know what services to use or recommend to others. Technology is quickly becoming something counselors can’t ignore.

ACA has developed new resources for our members related to the intersection of emerging technology and professional counseling ethics:

Who has to follow HIPAA privacy regulations?

There is often confusion when it comes to knowing what types of companies are required to abide by HIPAA, and a regulatory gray area still exists. Many companies are not automatically considered covered entities (e.g., health care providers and their business associates). Therefore, they are not required to adhere to legal privacy regulations since they are a vendor or self-help resource provider, not a licensed health care service provider. Vendors working with health care providers are considered business associates and must adhere to HIPAA laws and regulations. If and when a company providing an app, platform or website is legally considered a business associate is not always clear. Also, most “mental health apps” on the market that provide self-help services and education are not considered either a covered health care provider or business associate, and therefore no requirement to abide by privacy practices exists for these noncovered entities.

What do counselors need to look for?

Parent mental healthIt is important to ground whatever approach or actions one takes in our profession’s ethics to ensure the safety of one’s clients and the public above all else. Ethics requires counselors to know about any technology one uses or recommends, including its privacy practices. Counselors should be aware of not just what companies say they do or don’t do but also what they actually do with user information. Although many companies are transparent about what information they compile about and from their users (customers, patients, clients) and how they gather, use, store and sell that information, others are more vague or unclear.  

There are some key differences between types of platforms and services. Read more about these differences.

Therapy Apps

Apps & Websites

Traditional Therapy

Traditional Therapy Platforms

Emerging Therapy

Emerging Therapy Apps

Mental Health Apps

Mental Health Apps

Digital Therapeutics

Digital Therapeutics

Mixed use and websites

Mixed-Use Apps and Websites

Disclaimer: The contents of this publication are for informational and educational purposes only. Health care law is complex, and specific requirements vary by state. Adherence to any health care legislation referenced herein requires expertise and information that is outside the scope of this article. This resource is not a substitute for seeking out personal legal advice and/or consultation. ACA does not and cannot provide legal advice or direction to our members or state associations. We encourage all professional counselors to consult with their state licensure board and a health care attorney to ensure compliance with state and federal legislation.