Telebehavioral health, or distance counseling, is the use of a digital platform that provides secure, encrypted, audio-video conferencing to communicate with a client in real time. This does not include nonsynchronous (not real time) texts, calls, digital chats, emails to and from counselors and their clients.
Many professional counselors have found telebehavioral health to be a great addition to their practice and their work with clients, including the ability to reach clients while obstacles may limit or prevent clients from in person counseling.
We understand with the arrival of the 2020 global pandemic, the topic of telebehavioral health has become more prominent as a means of continuing work with existing clients, and beginning work with new clients.
All requirements for working with clients remain in place with telebehavioral health. The usual standards of care counselors use when working with clients still apply. When using telebehavioral health, counselors must now consider additional issues along with having training and competency to deliver services through this means.
The practice of telebehavioral health involves the consideration of:
Skills required to effectively work with a client without in-person interactions
Using appropriate technological platforms where security standards conform with the recommendations of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (DHHS).
Resources for Counselors Working in Health Care
We know there are counselors working in health care facilities and directly with those who have been infected. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has tips for managing and preventing stress and a guide to management stress in crisis response professions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information about caring for patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19 Infection.