Telepsychology, Part 1: Being an Informed Consumer

TELEPSYCHOLOGY vs. ONLINE THERAPY – REMOTE THERAPY – DISTANCE ONLINE PSYCHOTHERAPY – TELETHERAPY – TELEMENTAL HEALTH

A. First, what’s Telepsychology?

Telepsychology, as I provide it, refers to psychotherapy sessions with me — a psychologist — with video on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

(More generically, telepsychology can be any kind of mental health service provided by a psychologist, and might include phone, email, webcams, mobile apps, webpages or adaptive and assistive equipment, and it might take place in real time using webcams or a phone, or it may be time delayed, like via email.)

B. What should I know about choosing telepsychology or other “distance” mental health services?

When you’re getting or providing psychological services across state lines, that’s more like “long-distance” telepsychology, and from an ethical and legal perspective, it requires some awareness and a bit of caution:

  1. Psychologists (and most other types of psychotherapists) can only practice in the state(s) in which they’re licensed, and until quite recently, being able to practice “across state lines” (through license reciprocity or interstate approval) was extremely limited.
  2. “Where” the psychologist is doing therapy is based on the patient’s location at the time of the session, as well as the psychologist’s. So even if I’m sitting in Washington DC where I’m licensed as a psychologist, and you live in DC but are sitting in Georgia at the time of our session, that’s a no-go.
  3. Getting licensed as a psychologist is different in different states, and there are quite a few hurdles (thank goodness!) like fingerprinting and criminal background checks, academic transcripts, affidavits from training supervisors, and more, as well as taking that state’s psychology jurisprudence exam (on ethical and legal regulations that are specific to each state). Then there’s the time involved for the state board to review and process all of that.
  4. (Sidebar about licensing: Licensing and the regulation of who can practice psychology–or even call themselves a psychologist–is in order to protect the public good. Psychologists must meet state and national requirements — academic requirements, training requirements, continuing education requirements, and more. It’s a bright line that demonstrates we’ll be aligned with and accountable for practicing ethically and competently.)
  5. Keep in mind that some online therapists might not actually be licensed at all, anywhere. Unfortunately, anyone – and I do mean anyone – can call themselves a “therapist” or a “psychotherapist”. Always verify that you are working with a licensed professional.

C. Is there anyone “minding the store”?

Psychology, specifically, has finally made significant headway about this state-by-state licensing patchwork – and how to enable legal and regulated telepsychology across state lines. This is leading to increased access to services, better cooperation and communication between states for psychology licensure and regulation, and ensuring psychologists’ compliance. All of this is in service to the stated goal of every state’s psychology licensing laws: to protect the public good.

That move forward was made through PSYPACT (short for the “Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact”). Simply put, PSYPACT grants psychologists the authority to practice across state lines. It’s run by a regulatory body called the ASPPB (Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards).

When a psychologist applies and meets the ASPPB’s requirements, they can then be authorized to practice in any state or province that has enacted PSYPACT legislation.

D. Bottom line for potential telepsychology with me:

• I’m licensed as a psychologist in Washington DC (the District of Columbia), Maryland, and Virginia.

• I’m also authorized to practice telepsychology in any state that is part of PSYPACT. Currently, that includes:

Alabama
Arizona
Colorado
Delaware
District of Columbia
Georgia
Illinois
Kentucky
Maine
Maryland
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia

ENACTED, NOT YET EFFECTIVE:
New Jersey – Effective Nov 23, 2021
Kansas – Effective Jan 1, 2022

ENACTED, UNDER FURTHER REVIEW:
Arkansas – Effective March 1, 2022
West Virginia – Pending

PENDING LEGISLATION:
Massachusetts
Wisconsin

For an up-to-date map of PSYPACT states, or to see if your state has been added to PSYPACT, you can check on the PSYPACT website.