need to know about
More psychologists are providing services via
Skype, telephone and other technology. Here’s
a look at the key ethical and practice issues that
are still unfolding in this new realm of care.
BY ALICE G. WALTON
If your idea of psychology practice is treating clients in an office, day in and day out, it may be time to expand that vision.
Psychologists today aren’t just seeing clients in face-to-face visits;
they are counseling them via phone, text, email and video media,
A significant number of psychologists are now providing this
type of practice, known collectively as telehealth. According to a
2010 APA study of psychology health service providers, about 87
percent provided such services.
But as the practice grows locally and globally, so do
questions about how it works for psychologists and their
clients. “There are so many nuances when you start getting into
these practices,” says Ron Palomares, PhD, assistant executive
director of governance operations in APA’s Practice Directorate.
Top among those nuances are privacy, confidentiality and the
technological glitches that can arise with electronic gadgets.
That’s why over the last year APA’s Joint Telepsychology Task
Force has proposed Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology,
recommendations to help psychologists navigate some of the
stickier issues that can come with a telepsych practice. These
include what to do if the phone connection fails or how to
respond to a faraway emergency.
“The joint task force’s first goal was to lay out some answers to
the bigger issues, and then fine-tune them in the years to come,”
says Palomares, who heads APA’s staff support for the task force
with representatives from the Association of State and Provincial