Is TeleCounseling the Next Big Leap Forward for the Helping Professions?

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(c)2014-2015 Rick Macnamara LCSW

Many social media sites allow us to use the phrase “It’s Complicated” next to our relationship status and for many of us, that is no exaggeration. All the modern conveniences that were supposed to make our lives simpler and more empowered just seem to add extra layers of complication and frustration. Even finding nurturing and healing time for ourselves between caring for others can be almost impossibly complicated and so we put our own self-care on a back burner. But now, thanks to improvements in technology, access to a healing professional can be as close as your laptop, tablet or smart phone.

In the 1960’s, NASA commissioned a study of what became known as telemedicine to reach patients in rural areas or who were otherwise isolated by disability. Telemedicine allows a clinician to speak over a video chat program with someone many miles away from their hospital, even someone on the other side of the world. Typically, their medical information is displayed on the screen and it enables the practitioner to provide ongoing health coaching and assessment to persons who otherwise would not have access. In New Jersey and other areas, telemedicine is also used by psychiatrists working in one hospital who can interview patients at another hospital and make recommendations for treatment.

As telemedicine technology has improved, it is increasingly used by counselors and therapists who “meet” with patients over a secure connection rather than the patient having to travel to the professional’s office. This means that a patient can easily fit in a 45-minute counseling session after the kids are in bed or before picking them up at soccer practice, right from their own couch or easy chair with a hot cup of tea right next to them.

This same technology can easily be adapted to other types of professional practices. Job coaches, spiritual counselors, even energy workers may find this to be a new way to connect with clients who might otherwise not have found the time to travel to their office for a session.

Setting up a therapy session is the easy part. There are a number of excellent software platforms that provide a virtual waiting room, instant payment by PayPal, even the ability to send helpful written materials in real time. The software is fast and easy to install.

Just as you would during an initial phone contact or first office visit, you should always make sure that the professional is properly credentialed and, if required by State law, has a current active license. Another consideration for this new way of meeting with a helping professional is that the Video chat used should be HIPPA-compliant so that your personal and health information is safe and secure. It was recently discovered, for example, that Skype does not provide this sort of confidentiality and many professionals are now moving to services such as SecureVideo and Vsee that uses military-grade encryption.

Technology may be part of the complication of our lives, but Online Therapy technology could become part of the solution. A quick search on the internet can show you a new world of convenient connections with someone who will listen to you and help you find ways to reduce your stress and make your life less complicated.

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