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As a therapist, transitioning to a telehealth practice can be successful and rewarding, but it can also be challenging and overwhelming if you’re unprepared or don’t know what to expect in this new age of therapy services. However, If you’re armed with the right tips and understand best practices, using Talkspace can allow you to run your online therapy sessions smoothly and provide effective mental healthcare to all clients. 

Read on to learn our top 12 teletherapy tips for therapists so you can elevate your practice and offer the most help possible. These best practices for telehealth counseling will ensure you’re providing optimized care and taking care of your own needs in the process. 

1. Set Up a Professional & Private Space

Perhaps one of the most important tips for telehealth therapy is establishing an appropriate environment for conducting virtual sessions. Use the following tips to help:

Create a space that’s comfortable and peaceful

Keep your workspace well-lit and free from distractions

Have a reliable internet connection to help maintain confidentiality during sessions 

Creating a productive environment will ensure you and your clients are as comfortable as possible. More importantly, it’ll help your clients feel safe and more likely to open up during sessions. 

2. Be Mindful of Legal & Ethical Considerations of Telehealth

As an online therapist, it is important to familiarize yourself with the legal and ethical guidelines surrounding teletherapy to deliver care responsibly. This includes things like making sure you:

Obtain informed consent from clients

Understand privacy regulations such as HIPAA compliance

Stay up to date on state licensure requirements

3. Establish Boundaries and Guidelines

To maintain professionalism during virtual therapy sessions, establish clear boundaries at the beginning of the relationship. This ensures you and your clients understand how the therapeutic relationship will function within a digital context. Remembering to set healthy boundaries might be one of the best telehealth tips for therapists out there. Clearly communicate boundaries and expectations covering:

Session times

Preferred communication methods outside of appointments (e.g., email, text, or phone)

Payment policies

Cancellation requirements

Emergency procedures

“With the expansion of telehealth for mental health services, the ability to reach clients in need has greatly expanded. At the same time, it is crucial to establish safe boundaries and guidelines for your clients and yourself when practicing remotely. Planning ahead of time how to handle disruptions in technology and any clinical emergencies is key to a successful telehealth practice.”

Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH

4. Adapt to Your Client’s Preferred Modality

Different clients may prefer different modalities for their therapy sessions. Some might feel more comfortable with video calls. Others might choose phone calls or text-based communication platforms within your messaging system. 

Ever wonder how to get more therapy clients? Offering multiple options for connecting with clients through video conferencing platforms and other forms makes it easy for everyone to use what works best for them. After all, that’s one of the main benefits of teletherapy. You might use: 

Zoom

Skype

Phone calls 

Texts

A secure online therapy platform like Talkspace

Whatever forms of communication you decide on, ensure the tools you use to facilitate an online session are secure according to HIPAA regulations.

5. Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is key in telehealth sessions. Virtual sessions can feel awkward initially, but there are ways to make them feel more personable and to ensure the connection is there with little to no distraction. 

Speak clearly during a virtual session

Use simple language without jargon or technical terms 

Maintain eye contact whenever possible

Look at the camera rather than the screen

Use open-ended questions to encourage clients to share their thoughts and feelings

6. Have a Backup Plan for Technical Difficulties

When exploring telehealth therapy tips, it’s critical to remember that technology isn’t fail-proof. Prepare in advance for potential technical issues by:

Having alternative communication methods ready to go

Sharing with clients what the plan is if there’s a disruption during a therapy session

Being ready to use phone calls or messaging platforms on the fly 

Planning in case you have any technical issues will minimize disruptions and help maintain continuity of care.

7. Be Flexible When You Can

While keeping professional boundaries is necessary, it’s also important to be flexible and understand the client’s needs whenever possible. This might include being willing to:

Adjust appointment times

Accommodate occasional last-minute changes

Waive cancellation fees for emergencies

8. Use Technology to Enhance Therapy

If you’re running a telehealth practice, it goes without saying that you’ll need to invest in technology. Learn how to incorporate digital tools into your sessions to keep clients engaged. For example, you might use:

Screen sharing

Digital whiteboards

Interactive activities 

The right tools can facilitate the therapeutic process — many telehealth platforms offer these to help you deliver in-person-style care.

“Therapists have the opportunity to utilize technology in a variety of ways to enhance therapy with their clients. In addition to using video sessions, some therapists have used secure platforms to provide therapy in writing which allows them to have an ongoing dialogue with their clients that for some clients can provide much needed support during challenging times.”

Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH

9. Engage Clients with Interactive Activities

Create opportunities for active participation during telehealth sessions. Use engaging exercises and techniques to help clients get the most out of their therapy. You might try to incorporate things like:

Guided imagery

Mindfulness practices

Journaling prompts

These techniques can help keep sessions interesting while reinforcing healing therapeutic concepts.

10. Monitor Non-Verbal Cues

It’s crucial to pay attention to non-verbal cues during virtual sessions. They’ll help you gauge how well clients engage in therapy and provide insight into their emotional state during appointments. During video calls, make it a point to assess regularly: 

Facial expressions

Body language

Tone of voice

Other non-verbal cues

“While it can be more challenging to not see the whole person as we usually would in an office setting, we can be more direct in our questions with our clients when assessing and looking for the non-verbal cues that we would naturally see in an office setting. Being transparent with our clients about the limitations of telehealth and open to these discussions sets it up for success.”

Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH

11. Stay Up to Date with Regulations

As telehealth continues to evolve, so will the rules governing its practice. Keep up with any changes in regulations surrounding teletherapy services by:

Regularly reviewing platform guidelines

Checking guidance from professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA)

12. Practice Self Care

The most important part of growing your telehealth practice is putting yourself first. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this — and you know better than anyone that you can’t help anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself first. 

You can make sure you’re being kind to yourself by:

Doing yoga

Meditating

Working out

Eating healthy

Getting enough sleep

Balancing your work-life schedule

Telehealth can be demanding, so you must prioritize self care and maintain a healthy balance in your professional and personal life.

Set Your Telehealth Practice Up for Success

As a therapist, setting up your telehealth practice for success will allow you to deliver the same quality of care as you would in an in-person session. Following these tips will help ensure you and your clients have a positive experience during every telehealth session.

Create an organized workflow: Develop a system that works best for you in managing appointments, documentation, billing, and communication with clients. This might include using electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Incorporate evidence-based practices into sessions: To provide effective treatment remotely, stay abreast of evidence-based therapies most suitable for teletherapy — for example, CBT, DBT, and ACT. Use the latest research to inform your practice and utilize technology to facilitate engagement. Stay up to date on the most current studies concerning telehealth efficiency.

Invest in reliable technology: Ensure that your hardware (computer/laptop/tablet) and software (video conferencing apps like Zoom or Google Meet) are compatible and running the latest versions. High-speed internet is crucial to avoid connectivity issues during sessions.

Promote your telehealth services effectively: Utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook to showcase your expertise or write and post blogs or articles related to mental health topics. Join online communities, like Psychology Today or Good Therapy, where potential clients may seek help from professionals like yourself.

Maintain continuous education: Stay informed about the latest developments in telehealth regulations by attending webinars and conferences and reading newsletters from reputable organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA Services) or the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC). Not only does this keep you up to date with the latest industry best practices, but it also ensures compliance.

Seek feedback and refine your approach: Regularly ask clients for their input on improving the telehealth experience. This could be done through anonymous surveys or open-ended questions during sessions. Use the feedback to make necessary adjustments in your practice, ensuring a more personalized and effective therapeutic process.

Ensure continuity of care: To maintain consistency in your telehealth practice, schedule regular check-ins with your clients to monitor their progress and address any concerns they may have about online therapy or their plan of care.

By incorporating these telehealth counseling tips into your telehealth practice, you’ll be well-equipped to provide high-quality mental health care while enjoying the flexibility and convenience of online therapy. 

Remember, success is not achieved overnight — it requires dedication, adaptability, and ongoing learning as technology and client needs evolve. Establishing a flourishing telehealth practice necessitates diligent effort and commitment, yet it can be profoundly gratifying. Let Talkspace help you as you embark on this new chapter as a mental healthcare provider and figure out how to start an online therapy practice.

Sources:

“Health Information Technology and Telepsychology.” https://www.apaservices.org. Accessed April 5, 2023. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/legal/technology

Staff, NCTRC, National Policy Center – Center for Connected Health Policy, and California Telehealth Resource Center. “Home.” National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, May 13, 2022. https://telehealthresourcecenter.org/. Accessed April 5, 2023.

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