Telepsychology Fact Sheet

 In Blog, Psychological Services, Uncategorized

Given concerns related to COVID-19, Insight Psychology on Norfolk has decided to suspend in-person clinical visits until further notice. Clinical care remains a top priority, so we are moving our appointments online and over the phone in a new service we are offering called “telepsychology”. To help our clients navigate this transition and answer common related questions, we have assembled this fact sheet. For more information, please consult the list of resources at the bottom, contact your clinician, or give us a call at 519-823-2323.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is telepsychology?
    • Telepsychology (TP) is defined as the provision of psychological services using telecommunication technologies. Telecommunications is the preparation, transmission, communication, or related processing of information by electrical, electromagnetic, electromechanical, electro-optical, or electronic means (Committee on National Security Systems, 2010). Telecommunication technologies include but are not limited to telephone, mobile devices, interactive videoconferencing, e-mail, chat, text, and Internet (e.g., self-help websites, blogs).
    • Currently, at Insight, clinicians are offering phone and video conferencing sessions, which may be supplemented with email exchanges.
  2. Who can provide telepsychology sessions?
    • In order to provide telepsychology, clinicians must be registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO), or be supervised by a registered member. Telepsychology services are regulated in the same manner as in-person psychological services, with a high degree of oversight.
    • Other professionals, such as social workers, psychotherapists, occupational therapists, etc. may offer teletherapy services.
  3. Are telepsychology (TP) sessions “real sessions”? How are they different from in-person sessions?
    • The substance of TP sessions is similar to that of in-person sessions, but the form (or medium) is different. TP sessions are real sessions, because you are receiving the same service (i.e., therapy from a qualified professional). Some of the specific therapy interventions may be different, for example, a clinician may not be able to show you a diagram if you are having a phone session, but may email that to you for your consideration instead.
    • Basically, the content of in-person sessions is adapted for phone or video sessions.
  4. Are TP sessions as effective?
    • There is a wealth of research that demonstrates that TP sessions are comparably effective with in-person sessions, particularly with highly structured therapies like CBT.
  5. Are there any benefits that TP sessions have over in-person sessions?
    • Many people consider TP sessions to be more convenient (i.e., sessions may be scheduled more flexibly) and cost-effective (i.e., removing the need for driving to the clinic, parking, etc.).
    • Some people find that therapy can be more comfortable if they are in their own homes while discussing difficult topics.
    • TP sessions are more accessible for people with different ability levels
  6. Do I have to be “tech savvy” for TP sessions?
    • You will need a computer (laptop or desktop) or mobile device with a headset or microphone, and a camera.
    • If you choose video sessions, familiarity with your computer or smartphone (how to download an app, use your webcam, location of your microphone) will be helpful. Beyond this, your clinician will send you step-by-step instructions for how to access the video platform.
  7. Are TP sessions safe?
    • It is the ethical responsibility of the clinician to ensure that they are using a video conferencing platform that is compliant with the standards of their regulating body (i.e., CPO). We only select video platforms that have a high standard for security and privacy.
    • Importantly, clinicians can only ensure environmental privacy at their location, it is your responsibility to ensure that you engage in the sessions in a private and secure spot (i.e., make sure no one in your home can overhear your sessions).
  8. What is the cost?
    • The cost of one telepsychology session is the same as an in-person session. Should you be experiencing financial concerns, please contact your clinician.
    • If you are accessing extended health benefits, please check with your provider to ensure that they cover telepsychology services.
  9. Can I come for in-person sessions in the future?
    • If you agree to telepsychology services, you are not forgoing future options to come to in-person sessions. We currently cannot guarantee when we will be resuming in-person sessions, as we are following the guidelines recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  10. What’s the difference between phone and video sessions?

 

  Phone Video
Required resources Cell phone or land line Smart phone or computer, headphones or microphone if necessary

May need to download and/or create account for selected videoconferencing software

Therapy Method Evidence-based interventions Evidence-based interventions
Therapy Form Reliance on voice alone.

No non-verbal cues (i.e., body language, facial expressions)

May only be looking at each others’ faces up close.
Reliability Fairly reliable (reception may differ based on location). Video/Audio may lag depending on quality of internet connection/traffic on related websites.

 

  1. What do I need to know before my first session?
    • If you are already a client at Insight, your clinician will send you specific instructions. You may need to download an app on your computer or phone, or provide the best number to reach you at. You will want to ensure that, before you agree to TP sessions, you have a private location where you can engage in these sessions.
    • If you are a new client, your first TP session will look a lot like a first in-person session, and will include discussions around informed consent, limits of confidentiality, and a treatment plan. You may be asked to discuss your mental health history and goals for treatment.
    • Your clinician will also make a plan with you about what to do if the technology fails (e.g., they may call you if the video freezes/internet cuts out).
  2. What should I expect from my first session? Will it be weird?
    • It’s not uncommon for people to feel awkward or a bit uncomfortable when switching to TP sessions, or initiating services through TP. Often people find that this discomfort dissipates after the first session.
    • During the first session, your clinician will explain the plan for the session (perhaps by setting an “agenda”), and will ask you if there’s anything you want to address or prioritize. You may be given some homework or skills to practice that will be reviewed in the next session.
  3. Does the TP session have to be 50 mins or 1 hour?
    • As with in-person sessions, many clinicians have the option to modify the length of sessions to suit your needs. For example, you may decide to temporarily have weekly 30 min “check ins” rather than full sessions as you wait for in-person sessions to resume. Please consult your clinician to discuss your options.
  4. Are any problems NOT appropriate for TP sessions?
    • Depending on your own comfort level, there may be certain topics that you do not want to discuss over the phone or through video chat with someone you haven’t yet met in person. If this is the case, you may find that after a few TP sessions, you feel more comfortable to disclose these experiences, or you may decide that you would prefer to see someone in person. At all times, we respect your individual needs and circumstances and will honour any boundaries you set.

 References and Helpful Resources

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/amp-a0035001.pdf

https://www.apa.org/pi/disability/resources/publications/telepsychology

https://globalteletherapy.com/what-is-teletherapy/

https://positivepsychology.com/teletherapy/ ** includes evidence of effectiveness

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/10/teletherapy-on-the-rise-as-employees-try-to-cope-with-247-workday.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/teletherapy-online-coronavirus_l_5e723effc5b6eab7794073c3

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