Family Innovations is now offering web based counseling for adults, and in some situations, couples, or older teenagers with the consent of a parent. Other terms for web based counseling include virtual therapy or telemental health counseling. This service is provided through a secured, confidential web platform in a “virtual office,” with the ability for the therapist to “lock” this virtual office for added security – all web based sessions are as secure and confidential as an actual office visit. Similar to Skype, but offered through a secure, encrypted video streaming platform, web based counseling provides flexibility for individuals who may have difficulty traveling to a counseling office, taking time to travel to or from their own job, or cannot arrange for child care if parenting smaller children.
Why Should I Choose Web Based Counseling?
Difficulty leaving work, having small children at home, busy schedules, lack of transportation, and traveling for work are examples of barriers people face in making an office based counseling appointment. Other people may simply prefer to receive counseling in the privacy of their own home or work environment. Web based appointments can be scheduled at a variety of times and offer flexibility for individuals with demanding work or personal schedules.
If the company you are employed with offers an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) for short term therapy, meeting virtually with a therapist is a very good option. Web based counseling allows for less time away from work while still allowing for one-on-one therapy with your therapist in a confidential setting (assuming that a work environment has a private office along with internet access, a computer and web cam). Check with your Human Resources Department regarding EAP options for web based therapy.
For many issues, web based counseling has been shown to be as effective as office based, in-person counseling. Please see the following links for more information: http://telehealth.org/ or http://www.americantelemed.org/.
How Does Web Based Counseling Work?
All clients must meet in-office for the initial intake appointment in order for their therapist to conduct a Diagnostic Assessment and make sure that web-based therapy will be an appropriate means of service (see below for when web based counseling is not advised). At this initial session, a consent form to engage in web based therapy will need to be signed to ensure that you are informed of the nature of the virtual therapy process, its requirements and limitations.
As a client of web based counseling, you will need access to the internet, a computer with a web camera, microphone and speakers, and a private area free from interruptions such as children, pets, phone calls or co-workers. Click here for minimum computer system requirements.
Once you are enrolled as a web based client with Family Innovations, your therapist will send you an invitation to your email prior to each virtual session, with a secure link allowing you to access the “virtual office.” Your therapist will manage all appointments, as well as the security and confidentiality of each virtual session, just as they would with an office visit.
You are responsible for managing the space you are in while attending your virtual office counseling appointment. Shutting doors, turning off phones, and not allowing onlookers is strongly recommended. Virtual counseling sessions are for you only, and managing privacy on your end of the web based connection is your responsibility.
When is Web Based Counseling Not a Good Fit?
All therapists are trained to screen for disorders which may not be appropriate for this method of treatment. If you, as a client of Family Innovations, have any history of major psychiatric episodes, hospitalizations or drug/alcohol dependence or have been diagnosed as any of the following – Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder Type 1, Mentally Ill/Chemically Addicted, and/or Schizophrenia – you must disclose this information to your therapist at the initial meeting. In these circumstances, web based therapy will not be provided; in-office therapy will be offered instead. Additionally, web based therapy is ruled out if a client states any desire to do harm to him/herself or others. Family Innovations therapists reserve the right to terminate a web based therapy service with a client if service expectations are incompatible. Family Innovations reserves the right to terminate client use of web based therapy, and may refuse all current or future use at any time. In these situations, office based therapy will be offered, or a referral to another agency may be made.
Additionally, since certain licensing boards do not allow for out-of-state practice of licensed services, web based counseling may not be used for a client physically located outside of the state of both his/her own residence and the therapist’s license. For example, a person residing in Minnesota cannot utilize web based counseling while on a business trip to another state, or with a therapist who does not hold a current license to practice mental health therapy in Minnesota.
Many insurances now cover web based therapy – if you have questions please contact your insurance; Family Innovations staff may also be able to confirm whether this service is covered by your specific health insurance. If you have a co-pay, we will ask for a copy of your credit card and authorization in writing from you to collect payment after each virtual appointment.
If you have any further questions about the web based counseling process, please let us know. We hope you will find this to be a helpful and convenient way to meet your therapy needs.