How To Start A Teletherapy Practice

A therapist sitting before her computer doing teletherapy.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many therapists were forced to review how they connected with their clients. This led to a boom in teletherapy, a form of standard psychotherapy that takes place online.

For many clients and therapists, teletherapy presents a viable way forward. Teletherapy allows therapists to potentially expand their practice, reaching clients who might not be interested in, or capable of, traditional therapy (see also ‘Thinking of Starting a Teletherapy Online Practice? How Will You Find Clients?‘).

Learn how to start a teletherapy practice that’s secure, supportive, and effective with this guide.

How To Start A Teletherapy Practice

There are some unique needs that you have to consider before starting your own teletherapy practice. Teletherapy can create a comfortable and supportive environment for both the client and the therapist, but it isn’t quite as simple as transferring your skills online (see also ‘How Many Clients Does A Therapist Have?‘).

Choose The Right HIPAA Compliant Teletherapy Platform

One of the most important decisions you will have to make when starting your teletherapy practice is which video call service to use.

Many EHR software platforms now offer teletherapy with the standard package, but there are also dedicated teletherapy platforms for you to explore.

It’s vital that any platform you choose is HIPAA compliant. That means the connection is secure and encrypted, to prevent private information from becoming shared.

Explore your options before choosing a teletherapy platform, as there are many services available. Some platforms offer a simple 1:1 video service, others have the capacity for group therapy, and some offer screen sharing options to allow for worksheets and games.

As well as a HIPAA compliant video service, you’ll need a HIPAA compliant email server. This will allow you to share documents that you might normally share in person, online, without affecting your confidentiality agreement.

Research Your Jurisdictional Rights

With teletherapy, you might feel that you’re opening your potential client list up to everyone with an internet connection.

However, your psychologist license only allows you to practice therapy within the state that issued the license. So, how does teletherapy fit in?

Some states use the PSYPACT agreement, allowing therapists to work with clients from outside state lines. Other states have similar agreements in place, allowing therapists more freedom in their practice. But other states will only allow teletherapy within the state itself.

It’s important to establish where your client is located, and to ensure they keep you updated should they change address, or even join a session from a different location.

Research Resources In The State

When you conduct sessions in-person, the majority of your client’s will live reasonably close by. You’ll know the resources within the local area, and can provide advice and assistance as needed.

But with teletherapy, you can engage with clients from across the state. And that means you might not know the resources that they have access to.

When you take on clients, make sure to research resources from across the state, allowing you to respond in an emergency.

Set Up An Online Payment System

Teletherapy necessitates moving all your systems online, and that includes payment. Secure payments are often offered through an EHR platform, and this is a great way to combine all your resources in one place.

Market Virtually

When you move to teletherapy, you will need to adjust your marketing tactics. While before you were targeting only those in the same geographic area, you now have access to clients from around the state.

Most of your marketing will now need to move online. This will allow you to effectively target your expanded audience. You’ll also connect with people who are comfortable online, and are less likely to struggle with teletherapy.

Set Up A Comforting Background

We all understand the importance of creating a relaxing presence in the office, but it’s easy to overlook the value of your background when conducting teletherapy.

However, you have to consider your office space when starting video calls. It helps set an atmosphere, and will present you as a professional.

Keep the space simple, with neutral tones and good lighting. Position your computer camera so that the head, shoulders, and chest are all visible.

It helps to conduct calls with trusted friends/family before your first session, so you can see how your set-up looks (and check the sound, connection etc.).

Familiarize Yourself With Technology

Technological problems are a part of life, and for the most part, even a technophobe can conduct a video call. However, technical issues in the middle of a session can erode trust with a client, and make you look unprofessional.

If you only have an old laptop and basic speakers, it’s worth investing in new equipment. Clients will expect a high quality sound and video link, and poor technology will reflect badly on your professionalism.

Establish Video Conferencing Consultations

Teletherapy isn’t right for everyone. Clients who are comfortable opening up in person might dislike the distance of teletherapy, those with auditory processing issues can often struggle to engage with a session on video call: there are many reasons why teletherapy might not be right for a person.

Of course, there are also many who can benefit from teletherapy. And there are also those who might be wary of teletherapy, only to discover that the system works perfectly for them.

The best way to determine if teletherapy is right for a client is by conducting initial consultations over video chat.

Discuss HIPAA And Online Safety

When you take on new clients, be sure to discuss the importance of HIPAA with them. Your clients should feel reassured that you’re using a secure connection with encryption to keep your conversations private.

In turn, your clients should understand that they’re also responsible for their own privacy. As much as possible, they should join sessions from a quiet, private place.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning to teletherapy can expand the reach of your practice, helping you engage with a new set of clients. However, it shouldn’t be seen as a cheap or easy solution.

Starting a successful teletherapy practice requires plenty of time and research, and creating a safe and secure environment must be a top priority.

With the correct systems in place, a teletherapy practice can be a modern solution for therapists.

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