It takes some time and careful planning to effectively switch sessions from in person sessions to remote sessions. Anyone that has tried to make the switch thinking all they needed to know was which software to use can tell you that.
There’s a number of areas that are the therapist’s responsibility to know in order to be effective with their practice, properly manage a relationship with a facilitator, conduct proper assessments, adhere to privacy laws such as HIPAA and FERPA, and know how to troubleshoot when things are a little bit off to ensure that patients get the service they deserve.
We’re going to briefly go over 10 areas that are crucial for therapists to be familiar with to ensure they can properly make the transition between in person to remote teletherapy or telepractice.
While you can do your own research on each of these areas, if it is important to you to reassure your clients that you know how to properly administer teletherapy and adhere to the best practices in the field, consider becoming a Board Certified Telepractice Expert today.
1. Overview of Teletherapy and Telepractice
There’s a lot that’s different in the teletherapy world. It is important to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. There is a host of different terminology that goes along with teletherapy (or telepractice). Knowing this terminology establishes the therapist not just as a therapist that is using remote teletherapy methods, but a credible resource in both their field and teletherapy.
A foundational understanding of teletherapy and how it compares to in person practice is also key for both strategizing how to put together your own sessions and ensuring that there aren’t any unnecessary hiccups along the way.
Different governing bodies have different names they use for teletherapy, so it is important to know the relevant ones for your field.
This foundational knowledge will help to put their patients (and their parents or caregivers) at ease. This process starts well before the first teletherapy session, as proper preparation is important.
2. Environment- Differences and Similarities of Teletherapy
It is important for therapists to understand how the environment impacts teletherapy. This includes both the environment that the therapist is in as well as the environment of the patient. Many therapists new to teletherapy will make mistakes in this area.
3. Technology- What Platform do I use?
There’s a number of different platforms out there. Which one is the best? We have a couple of posts coming soon that will help you decide which platform is best for your purposes. While there are a number of free options available for video conferencing, be aware that most of them will not be options for the secure needs of teletherapy due to HIPAA concerns.
4. Teletherapy Licensing and Compliance- Know your State
Every state is different for teletherapy, but right now is a great time to start. Laws and regulations for teletherapy and telepractice have recently been relaxed due to COVID-19, allowing therapists to more easily transition to teletherapy.
However, it is still important to understand the laws pertaining to licensure in your areas of practice, as these changes are going to be a moving target.
5. Therapist-Facilitator- How do you manage the relationship?
With the therapist not able to be in person with the patient, often times a facilitator will be needed. Now a therapist needs to not only interact with the patient, but build a working relationship with the facilitator to ensure that they can get the collaboration they need to be effective as a therapist.
This will take some extra work beyond just showing up and asking the facilitator to do certain things during the session. It is important that the facilitator is properly trained and understands how to approach this relationship and set expectations. Many clinics and school districts who have been successfully delivering virtual services, require both the provider and the facilitator to go through training and certification prior to delivering services.
6. Teletherapy Scheduling- How do you do things differently than in person?
There’s some great benefits for the therapist of being able to do remote work- you don’t have to travel to see every patient! However, scheduling carries all the same concerns that an in person session does and even has a few others that are important to consider to ensure that your patient’s show up on time.
Most therapists only get reimbursed for services actually delivered (not just scheduled), so both you and the patient will want to make sure you avoid the easy roadblocks to ensure they can show up for therapy on time and ready to go.
7. Materials- Use the same or different materials?
Therapists will have to adapt to making sure that they can still get the same outcomes using video communication. Typically a therapist will be able to communicate with both the facilitator and the patient in order to get therapy administered effectively. It is important that through this process the facilitator has proper guidance and communication on how to utilize materials so that they can be as helpful as possible throughout the sessions.
8. Assessment- Make sure to do it right
Assessment is an important part of every therapist’s job. It is important to know a number of things about how to properly administer assessments remotely, as it is not the same as in person and if it is not done properly it can disqualify the results.
Knowing the ins and outs of remote assessment are an important part of establishing credibility and ensuring proper results.
9. Special Education Considerations- Know how it is the same and different
Special education always has special considerations. It is still important to take into consideration everything in a patient’s 504 or IDEA plan whenever possible in order to ensure best results.
As a therapist it is important to know how this applies to your practice with each patient to make sure you’re adhering to the best practices.
10. Overcoming Obstacles-Be prepared instead of blindsided
There’s always going to be unexpected challenges when switching to a new platform and a new style of therapy. It isn’t as simple as turning on your audio and video for your new teletherapy program and administering a session.
Make sure you’re prepared for how to deal with the most common problems or challenges, as they will come up eventually. Getting certified is a great way to get introduced to all the most common pitfalls and challenges before you have the experience.
Preparation is key. Make sure that before your first teletherapy session you feel comfortable with all of the ins and outs of teletherapy so that you can confidently deliver your first session. This will be important for achieving the therapy goals that you have established with your patients and their families in similar time frames. It will also establish that you are just as much of an expert with administering your services via teletherapy as you were doing them in person so they know their child’s therapy is in the right hands.
Need to learn about all of these areas so you can be a teletherapy and telepractice expert?
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