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TELEPSYCHOLOGY GUIDELINES Ohio Psychological Association 2010 revised

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A revised version of Ohio Psychological Association's Telepsychology Guidelines originally adopted in April 2008.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009
TELEPSYCHOLOGY GUIDELINES
Ohio Psychological Association
Communications & Technology Committee Members
Marc Dielman, Ph.D.
Kenneth Drude, Ph.D.
Audrey E. Ellenwood, Ph.D.
Kathleen (Ky) T. Heinlen, Ph.D., LPCC-S
Terry Imar, M.A.
Michael Lichstein, Ph.D.
Mary Mills, M.B.A., M.A.O.A
Paule Steichen Asch, Ph.D.
The Committee would like to express appreciation to the
Ohio Psychological Association Staff including:
Michael Ranney, M.P.A.
Bobbie Celeste, Ph.D.
Denise Brenner, B.A.
Katie Crabtree Thomas, B.A.
Revision of April 12, 2008 version
Approved by the Board of Directors, April 17, 2010
Questions or Comments may be directed to:
Audrey Ellenwood, Ph.D., Chair
aellenw@bgsu.edu
These guidelines are available online at:
http://www.ohpsych.org/professionalissues.aspx
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009
Table of Contents
Mission Statement ........................................................................................................................................... 1
Why Telepsychology Guidelines? .................................................................................................................. 1
Introduction......................................................................................................................................................2
Terminology and Nomenclature...................................................................................................................... 4
Guidelines versus Standards............................................................................................................................ 5
Guideline Development Assumptions............................................................................................................. 5
Guideline Development Process ..................................................................................................................... 6
Telepsychology Guidelines ............................................................................................................................. 7
The Appropriateness of Telepsychology........................................................................................... 7
Legal and Ethical Requirements ........................................................................................................ 7
Informed Consent and Disclosures.................................................................................................... 7
Secure Communications/Electronic Transfer of Client Information................................................ 8
Access to and Storage of Communications ....................................................................................... 8
Fees and Financial Arrangements......................................................................................................8
Supervision.........................................................................................................................................8
Assessment ......................................................................................................................................... 9
Expiration and Review Date .............................................................................................................. 9
Appendix A APA Statement on Services by Telephone, Teleconferencing, and Internet........................ 10
Appendix B Ten Interdisciplinary Principles for Professional Practices in Telehealth ............................ 11
Appendix C Examples of Relevant Terminology....................................................................................... 12
Appendix D Standards and Guidelines Relevant to Telepsychology ........................................................ 14
Figure 1 Telehealth and Telepsychology ............................................................................................. 17
Table 1 Telehealth Guideline Comparison .........................................................................................18
References...................................................................................................................................................... 20
Endnotes......................................................................................................................................................... 24
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 1
Mission Statement
The Ohio Psychological Association (OPA) Communications & Technology Committee’s (CTC) goal is
to propose a set of flexible and workable guidelines that can be applied by psychologists when providing
telepsychology services (See Appendix C for a definition of telepsychology). These guidelines are based
upon, and developed to be, extensions of the American Psychological Association (APA) 2002 Code of
Ethics and the 1997 APA Ethics Committee statement on electronic services. Although focused primarily
upon clinical services, they are intended to be applicable to any psychological services provided using
communication technology.
Why Telepsychology Guidelines?
Telepsychology is currently practiced by many psychologists around the world, in the United States and
in Ohio. As a result, psychologists and their clients are at a substantial risk for potential harm due to the
lack of clear and defined guidance. Telepsychology guidelines provide a framework for the type of
recommended conduct or practices psychologists need to be aware of when providing services using
telepsychology. There are at least three areas or categories that justify the development and adoption of
telepsychology guidelines: legal and regulatory issues, public benefit, and professional guidance.1
Legal and Regulatory
Currently, Ohio psychology law and regulations are not clear about how psychologists are expected to use
telepsychology when delivering psychological services. Guidelines adopted by the state psychological
association would represent a proactive effort to establish what psychologists recognize as recommended
practices. When laws and regulations governing practices are silent or unclear, psychologists may partake
in practices that could be harmful for their clients and/or put their licenses to practice at risk.
If a psychologist were reported to the Ohio State Board of Psychology (OSBP) for misconduct related to
telepsychology, the Board would pursue an investigation, according to Ronald Ross, Ph.D., State Board
Executive Director. Dr. Ross indicated during informal communication in 2005 that in such a situation the
State Board would seek whatever guidelines existed for telepsychology in the United States or another
country because none existed at the state level. Therefore, in the interest of its members, OPA needs to
take a leadership role in providing such guidance to its members and to the Ohio State Board of
Psychology.
These guidelines do not carry the force of law and are merely intended as suggestions for best practices in
the field of telepsychology. Further, these guidelines are intended for use only by psychologists
practicing in Ohio, though they may be useful as a point of reference for psychologists practicing in other
states.
Public Benefit
Guidelines can help improve the service delivery in practice areas in which there is no recognized
consensus about expectations. Guidelines clearly define what psychologists consider recommended
practices for themselves and their clients. To not have clearer guidance in a rapidly developing area of
practice puts psychologists and their clients at greater risk for substandard practices and treatment.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 2
Professional Guidance
The increased use of telepsychology necessitates an examination of how these types of communications
may require changes in how psychologists meet professional standards of practice such as confidentiality
and informed consent. The 2002 APA Ethics Code does not provide sufficient guidance in the use of
telepsychology when providing psychological services. There is no current effort by the APA to develop
telepsychology guidelines.
Introduction
Technology of all types, particularly communication technology, is rapidly becoming more prevalent in
the practice of psychology. As this trend continues, a gap widens between the tools that psychologists use
and professionally agreed-upon expectations.2 The Ohio Psychological Association (OPA)
Communications and Technology Committee (CTC), in recognition of what has repeatedly been
identified as an important need, proposes a set of general guidelines for using communication technology
(rather than technology specific guidelines) in delivering psychological services.
Psychologists have been using technological tools to communicate for many years; however, as new
technologies emerge, it is critical that psychologists develop a consensus regarding how those
technologies can best be applied.3 For some psychologists, technology is seen as a great benefit, while for
others, it may be seen as a threat to their traditional practices. Nonetheless, the increased availability and
use of technology will undoubtedly significantly impact the practice of, and training and scientific
endeavors in, psychology.4
In reviewing these complex issues, the CTC conducted literature searches using such terms as ethics,
guidelines, standards, telehealth, and technology to review relevant publications.5 Standards and
guidelines developed by other health professions and health care organizations for providing services
using communication technology that were published in journals or posted on websites also were
reviewed (see Appendix D). The ten interdisciplinary principles described by Reed, McLaughlin, and
Millholland (2000) for professional practice in telehealth were reviewed and adopted as guiding
principles in the committee’s work to develop guidelines for providing psychological services using
technology (see Appendix B).
For all, cautions exist that need to be considered, since there are both obvious and subtle differences in
providing psychological services in non-face-to-face situations.6 For example, in the absence of face-to-
face communication, there may be a tendency to “assume” clients are culturally similar to psychologists.
Given the recent body of research indicating the importance of socio-cultural context, professionals need
to attend to issues of diversity in the online environment.
Psychologists engaged in the delivery of psychological services involving non-face-to-face
communication (e.g., landline telephones, cell phones, video teleconferencing, instant messaging, use of
internet services via e-mail, facsimile, chat, blogging, video blogging, webinars, blackboards, social or
professional networking or web pages) must take responsible steps to ensure compliance with the APA
Code of Ethics. As Jerome et al. (2000) stated in their article about increasing uses of telecommunications
in psychological practice and research, “the development of clinical and technological standards is
becoming increasingly important.” Psychologists need to be aware that clients may initiate contact
through electronic means and need to establish a protocol for such contact. However, telepsychology
practice standards or guidelines do not exist. Nor are there recognized standards or guidelines for
preparatory training for psychologists who provide services via electronic communication.7 The APA
Ethics Committee (1997) developed a statement regarding the use of electronic services based on the
APA standards (see Appendix A), but no guidelines were developed. The APA Ethical Standards, revised
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 3
in 2002, added the phrase “electronic transmission,” but no specific guidelines have since been developed
related to the application of the Code of Ethics when using “electronic transmission.”
Another major issue identified repeatedly in discussions about providing health services, including
psychological services, via telepsychology, has been about the legality (and ethics) of providing services
across legal jurisdictions. The majority of those who have looked at the issues of telepsychology across
state lines have cautioned psychologists to practice in the states for which they have a license (Alexander,
1999; Barnett, 2005: Heinlen, Welfel, Richmond & O’Donnell, 2003; Koocher & Morray, 2000; Kraus,
2004; Maheu & Gordon, 2000; Mallen, Vogel & Rochlen, 2004).
There continues to be little state regulation of telepsychology practices in general and interstate practices
in particular (Alexander, 1999). Since psychologists are licensed separately by each state, providing
services to someone in a state where the psychologist is not licensed may put them at both an ethical and
legal risk. Frueh et al. (2000) identify that “issues related to licensure, malpractice insurance coverage,
and billing may generate confusion if the clinician-provider's practice and the patient's domicile are not in
the same state.”
One specific area of practice in which psychologists may utilize technology is in the provision of
supervision. Based on a recent survey (OPA: CTC, 2008) the most common use of technology is via
phone or E-mail. Currently there is little or no state regulation governing the provision of supervision
using technology by psychologists in the United States. It should be noted that supervision is distinct from
consultation (see definitions in Appendix C).
Psychologists have been administering psychological assessments and tests in their practices for many
years; however, as new technologies emerge, it is imperative that psychologists develop a consensus
regarding how assessments or testing through electronic means can best be applied. Currently,
assessments and testing of clients via telepsychology methods is being practiced by some psychologists
around the world, in the United States, and in Ohio. As a result, psychologists and their clients are at a
substantial risk for potential harm due to lack of clear and defined guidance in this area. Concern with
online assessments and testing arise related to four basic areas: (a) test psychometric properties, (b) test
administration and interpretation, (c) examinee identity and (d) technical problems and evaluation
environment (Barak, 2003; Buchanan & Smith, 1999; Epstein, J. & Klinkenberg, W., 2001; Fischer &
Freid, 2001; Naus, Phillip, & Samsi, 2009).
In order to address these concerns, the CTC proposes a set of guidelines for using telepsychology
assessment and testing procedures in delivering psychological services. These telepsychology assessment
guidelines have been written in order to provide a framework for the type of recommended conduct or
practices psychologists need to be aware of when administering and interpreting assessments or tests
when using electronic communications.
A number of benefits have been identified through employing telepsychology assessment practices.
These include: rapid ease of administration, collection of data, communication of findings to clients, more
cost efficient process, more disclosure than in a face-to-face exchanges, reaching disabled persons and
those that live in the rural areas (Buchanan, 2002; Buchanan & Smith, 1999; EmmelKamp, 2005; Epstein,
J. & Klinkenberg, W. 2001, Fischer & Freid, 2001; Naus, Phillip, & Samsi 2009; Naglieri, Drasgow,
Schmitt, Handler, Prifitera, Mrgolis, & Velasquez, 2004).
In spite of recognized benefits, a number of cautions exist that need to be considered, when providing
psychological assessment or testing in non-face-to-face situations. Four identified areas mentioned above
will be reviewed:
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 4
(a) Test Psychometric Properties - Psychometric properties related to validity and reliability has
not been readily established for the administration of tests or assessments online. A few studies
have compared paper-pencil assessments to computer-based administration. Although results are
somewhat comparable, more research is needed. In addition, norms for online computer
populations need to be created. As these properties have not been established, there may be a lack
of generalization between paper/pencil evaluation and computer-based assessments (Butcher,
Perry & Dean, 2006; Emmelkamp, 200l; Herrero & Menses, 2006).
(b) Test Administration and Interpretation - In the absence of face-to-face communication,
concerns arise if psychologists “assume” clients are culturally, physically, and competently able
to understand the requirements and directions for various psychological assessments.
Furthermore, issues around standardization practices may be in jeopardy. (Barak, 1999;
Buchanan, 2002). Specific questions which need further research are; (1) How can psychologists
adequately address the level of competence of clients so the best test assessments can be utilized?
and, (2) How will psychologists interpret results in a language that clients understand?
(c) Examinee Identity - When administering psychological assessments via the internet, the
examinee’s identity remains an unknown. Questions arise as to how psychologists can know who
exactly is taking the assessment, the client or someone else and can psychologists be sure that
someone else is not assisting the examinee with the answers.
(d) Technical Problems and Environment - Often technical problems arise when computers are
being utilized that can disrupt the assessment and testing process resulting in error of completion
time. Storage of data, confidentiality of test protocols and interpretation need to be considered
when using online assessment and testing. Specific questions that require more research are: (1)
How can test protocols be kept secure if posted on the internet? (2) Will psychologists using test
protocols need to obtain test developer permission prior to posting a test protocol on the internet
in order to protect copyrights? (3) How will test security and storage of data be maintained? (4)
Will psychologists be able to assume with a reasonable degree of comfort that a client is
receptively processing test content? and (5) How will the results be transmitted to ensure
confidentiality?
Psychologists engaged in the delivery of psychological services involving non-face-to-face
communication (e.g., landline telephones, cell phones, video teleconferencing, instant messaging, use of
Internet services via e-mail, facsimile, chat or web pages) must take responsible steps to ensure
compliance with the American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics. Currently,
telepsychology assessment practice standards or guidelines do not exist. Nor are there recognized
standards or guidelines for preparatory training for psychologists who provide psychological assessment
and procedures via electronic communication. State Boards and publishers will need to work together in
order to develop guidelines for online assessment and testing.
Terminology and Nomenclature
Numerous terms to describe the provision of health care services using technology have been used, with
no universally agreed-upon nomenclature (see list and definitions in Appendix C). These telepsychology
guidelines are intended to be consistent with the APA criteria for developing and evaluating guidelines,
maintaining distinctions between recommended guidelines, and mandatory standards of conduct (APA,
2002, 2005).
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 5
In order to use a common nomenclature for developing guidelines, the Committee adopted the term telepsychology
(or telepsychology services, with these used interchangeably) to describe the provision of psychological services
using telepsychology. The conceptual relationships among telepsychology, behavioral telehealth and telehealth are
graphically shown in Figure 1.
Guidelines versus Standards
“The term guidelines refer to statements that suggest or recommend specific professional behavior,
endeavors, or conduct for psychologists. Guidelines differ from standards in that standards are mandatory
and may be accompanied by an enforcement mechanism. Thus, guidelines are aspirational in intent. They
are intended to facilitate the continued systematic development of the profession and to help assure a high
level of professional practice by psychologists. Guidelines are not intended to be mandatory or exhaustive
and may not be applicable to every professional and clinical situation. They are not definitive and they are
not intended to take precedence over the judgment of psychologists” (APA, 2002b, p. 1050)
The Committee clarified the following terminology in relation to guideline usage8
Codes of ethics are required standards adopted by a profession.
Standards are mandatory expectations and must be closely adhered to in order to comply
with professional practice expectations.
Best practices are a subset of the guidelines that address behavior and treatment to be
applied in the best interest of a client.
Based upon these assumptions, the telepsychology guidelines are to be voluntary, evolutionary, and based
on best practices. The Committee acknowledges that state and national laws and regulations preempt
other requirements or any voluntary guidelines. The CTC believes that telepsychology guidelines are
needed to establish practice guidelines for psychologists using technological tools to better assure the
quality of services and to define best practices. It is recognized that these general practice guidelines do
not address many practice questions and issues in using specific types of technology (e.g. e-mail,
websites, etc.), and it is recommended that such guidelines be developed over time through a similar
process.
Guideline Development Assumptions
The CTC adopted a set of basic assumptions pertaining to the use and development of telepsychology
guidelines.9 Guidelines are to be:
Voluntary, recommended practices that can be used to assist psychologists in applying the
2002 APA Code of Ethics when using telepsychology.
Based upon what are considered best practices and reflect current professional experience
and knowledge.
Evolutionary in nature and may need to be changed over time. It is expected that these
guidelines will need to be periodically reviewed and updated to assess their validity,
utility, applicability, and relevance.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 6
Guideline Development Process
The CTC adopted the following “Guideline Development Process” for eventual submission to the OPA
Board of Directors for final approval and adoption of the telepsychology guidelines:
1. The CTC will review previously developed relevant guidelines and standards created by
other health care professions and organizations.
2. The CTC will review the 2002 APA Ethical Standards and identify areas where guidelines
are needed and which areas the Committee will address. Areas needing further work or
consultation with others will be identified.
3. The CTC will develop an initial set of draft guidelines that will be disseminated to
members of the OPA Board and committees for review and comment.
4. After incorporating suggested revisions, a revised draft will be circulated to OPA members
for comment via OPA publications and the OPALINK listserv. Input will be solicited
from other interested parties and organizations (e.g., other state and regional
psychological associations, American Psychological Association).
5. The CTC will review comments and suggestions received from Step 3 and 4 and
incorporate any changes into another draft that will be redistributed to the same
constituents in Step 3 and 4 for further input. If needed this step may be repeated.
6. A final version will be submitted to the OPA Board for its review and approval.
7. After OPA Board approval, the final guidelines will be distributed to OPA members, other
psychological associations in Ohio and other states, the APA, and the Ohio Board of
Psychology.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 7
Telepsychology Guidelines
The APA and other professional organizations have previously identified many of the issues addressed in
these guidelines. These issues are identified in endnotes and documents listed in the References section. It
is suggested that these telepsychology guidelines be read in conjunction with the APA Code of Ethics.
There is some intentional redundancy between the guidelines and the APA Code of Ethics standards to
emphasize the application of those standards when practicing telepsychology.
1. The Appropriate Use of Telepsychology
Psychologists recognize that telepsychology is not appropriate for all problems and that the specific
process of providing professional services varies across situation, setting, and time, and decisions
regarding the appropriate delivery of telepsychology services are made on a case-by-case basis.
Psychologists have the necessary training, experience, and skills to provide the type of telepsychology
that they provide.10 They also can adequately assess whether involved participants have the necessary
knowledge and skills to benefit from those services. If the psychologist determines that telepsychology is
not appropriate, they inform those involved of appropriate alternatives.11
2. Legal and Ethical Requirements
Psychologists assure that the provision of telepsychology is not legally prohibited by local or state laws
and regulations (supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code Sec. 1.02). Psychologists are aware of and in
compliance with the Ohio psychology licensure law (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4732) and the Ohio
State Board of Psychology “Rules Governing Psychologists and School Psychologists” promulgated in
the Ohio Administrative Code.
Psychologists are aware of and in compliance with the laws and standards of the particular state or
country in which the client resides, including requirements for reporting individuals at risk to themselves
or others (supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code Sec. 2.01). This step includes compliance with Section
508 of the Rehabilitation Act to make technology accessible to people with disabilities,12 as well as
assuring that any advertising related to telepsychology services is non-deceptive (supplements 2002 APA
Ethics Code Sec. 5.01).
When providing telepsychology procedures psychologists employ reasonable efforts to assess a client’s
level of functioning in order to select appropriate online assessment measures. (supplements 2002 APA
Ethics Code Sec. 9.02)
3. Informed Consent and Disclosure
Psychologists using telepsychology provide information about their use of electronic communication
technology and obtain the informed consent of the involved individual using language that is likely to be
understood and consistent with accepted professional and legal requirements. In the event that a
psychologist is providing services for someone who is unable to provide consent for him or herself
(including minors), additional measures are taken to ensure that appropriate consent (and assent where
applicable) are obtained as needed. Levels of experience and training in telepsychology, if any, are
explained (though few opportunities for such training exist at this time) and the client’s informed consent
is secured (supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code Sec.3.10). 13
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 8
As part of an informed consent process, clients are provided sufficient information about the limitations
of using technology, including potential risks to confidentiality of information due to technology, as well
as any legally-required reporting, such as reporting clinical clients who may be suicidal or homicidal.14
This disclosure includes information identifying telepsychology as innovative treatment (supplements
2002 APA Ethical Principles 10.01b). Clients are expected to provide written acknowledgement of their
awareness of these limitations. Psychologists do not provide telepsychology services without written
client consent. Psychologists make reasonable attempts to verify the identity of clients15 and to help
assure that the clients are capable of providing informed consent (supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code
Sec. 3.10). 16
When providing clinical services, psychologists make reasonable attempts to obtain information about
alternative means of contacting clients and provide clients with an alternative means of contacting them in
emergency situations or when telepsychology is not available.17
Psychologists inform clients about potential risks of disruption in the use telepsychology, clearly state
their policies as to when they will respond to routine electronic messages, and in what circumstances they
will use alternative communications for emergency situations.18 Given the twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-
week availability of an online environment, as well as the inclination of increased disclosure online,
clinical clients may be more likely to disclose suicidal intentions and assume that the psychologist will
respond quickly (supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code Sec. 4.05).
4. Secure Communications/Electronic Transfer of Client Information
Psychologists, whenever feasible, use secure communications with clinical clients, such as encrypted text
messages via e-mail or secure websites and obtain consent for use of non-secured communications.19
Non-secure communications avoid using personal identifying information.20 Considering the available
technology, psychologists make reasonable efforts to ensure the confidentiality of information
electronically transmitted to other parties.
5. Access to and Storage of Communications
Psychologists inform clients about who else may have access to communications with the psychologist,
how communications can be directed to a specific psychologist, and if and how psychologists store
information.21 Psychologists take steps to ensure that confidential information obtained and or stored
electronically cannot be recovered and accessed by unauthorized persons when they dispose of computers
and other information storage devices.22 Clinical clients are informed of the types of information that will
be maintained as part of the client’s record.23
6. Fees and Financial Arrangements
As with other professional services, psychologists and clients reach an agreement specifying
compensation, billing, and payment arrangements prior to providing telepsychology services (supplments
2002 APA Ethics Code Sec. 6.04).
7. Supervision
The type(s) of communications used for distance supervision is appropriate for the types of services being
supervised, clients and supervisee needs. Distance supervision is provided in compliance with the
supervision requirements of the psychology licensing board. Psychologists should review state board
requirements specifically regarding face-to-face contact with supervisee as well as the need for having
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 9
direct knowledge of all clients served by his or her supervisee. Distance supervision is usually intended
to supplement rather than replace face-to-face supervision.
8. Assessment
When employing psychological assessment procedures on the internet, psychologists familiarize
themselves with the tests’ psychometric properties, construction, and norms in accordance with current
research. Potential limitations of conclusions and recommendations that can be made from online
assessment procedures are clarified with the client prior to administering online assessments
(Supplements 2002 APA Ethics Code 9.06).
9. Expiration and Review Date
These guidelines will expire in five years after their formal adoption unless reauthorized or replaced prior
to that date.
Expiration Date:
April 16, 2015
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 10
Appendix A
APA Ethics Committee 1997 Statement on Services by
Telephone, Teleconferencing, and Internet
The American Psychological Association's Ethics Committee issued the following statement on
November 5, 1997, based on its 1995 statement on the same topic.
The Ethics Committee can only address the relevance of and enforce the Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct and cannot say whether there
may be other APA Guidelines that might provide guidance. The Ethics Code is
not specific with regard to telephone therapy or teleconferencing or any
electronically provided services as such and has no rules prohibiting such
services. Complaints regarding such matters would be addressed on a case-by-
case basis.
Delivery of services by such media as telephone, teleconferencing and internet is
a rapidly evolving area. This will be the subject of APA task forces and will be
considered in future revision of the Ethics Code. Until such time as a more
definitive judgment is available, the Ethics Committee recommends that
psychologists follow Standard 1.04c, Boundaries of Competence, which indicates
that “In those emerging areas in which generally recognized standards for
preparatory training do not yet exist, psychologists nevertheless take reasonable
steps to ensure the competence of their work and to protect patients, clients,
students, research participants, and others from harm.” Other relevant standards
include Assessment (Standards 2.01 -2.10), Therapy (4.01 - 4.09, especially 4.01
Structuring the Relationship and 4.02 Informed Consent to Therapy), and
Confidentiality (5.01 - 5.11). Within the General Standards section, standards
with particular relevance are 1.03, Professional and Scientific Relationship; 1.04
(a, b, and c), Boundaries of Competence; 1.06, Basis for Scientific and
Professional Judgments; 1.07a, Describing the Nature and Results of
Psychological Services; 1.14, Avoiding Harm; and 1.25, Fees and Financial
Arrangements. Standards under Advertising, particularly 3.01 - 3.03 are also
relevant.
Psychologists considering such services must review the characteristics of the
services, the service delivery method, and the provisions for confidentiality.
Psychologists must then consider the relevant ethical standards and other
requirements, such as licensure board rules.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 11
Appendix B
Ten Interdisciplinary Principles for Professional Practice in Telehealth
Reed, G., McLaughlin, C., & Milholland, K. (2000)
Principle 1 The basic standards of professional conduct governing each health care profession are not
altered by the use of telehealth technologies to deliver health care, conduct research, or
provide education. Developed by each profession, these standards focus in part on the
practitioner’s responsibility to provide ethical and high-quality care.
Principle 2 Confidentiality of client visits, client health records, and the integrity of information in the
health care information system is essential.
Principle 3 All clients directly involved in a telehealth encounter must be informed about the process,
its attendant risks and benefits, and their own rights and responsibilities, and must provide
adequate informed consent.
Principle 4 Services provided via telehealth must adhere to the basic assurance of quality and
professional health care in accordance with each health care discipline's clinical standards.
Principle 5 Each health care discipline must examine how its patterns of care delivery are affected by
telehealth and is responsible for developing its own processes for assuring competence in
the delivery of health care via telehealth technologies.
Principle 6 Documentation requirements for telehealth services must be developed that assure
documentation of each client encounter with recommendations and treatment,
communication with other health care providers as appropriate, and adequate protections
for client confidentiality.
Principle 7 Clinical guidelines in the area of telehealth should be based on empirical evidence, when
available, and professional consensus among involved health care disciplines.
Principle 8 The integrity and therapeutic value of the relationship between client and health care
practitioner should be maintained and not diminished by the use of telehealth technology.
Principle 9 Health care professionals do not need additional licensing to provide services via telehealth
technologies. At the same time, telehealth technologies cannot be used as a vehicle for
providing services that otherwise are not legally or professionally authorized.
Principle 10 The safety of clients and practitioners must be ensured. Safe hardware and software,
combined with demonstrated user competence, are essential components of safe telehealth
practice.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 12
Appendix C
Examples of Relevant Terminology
Behavioral telehealth “refers to the use of psychotechnologies to provide behavioral health care
services” (Maheu et al. 2005, p. 7).
Consultation: A collegial relationship between two individuals for the purpose of reviewing clinical
cases in which the consultee is responsible for the treatment of the client and the consultant may
have limited information. The consultant has no legal or ethical responsibility to the consultee or his
or her clients. (CTC definition)
E-therapy is a professional counselor or psychotherapist communicating with a client over the
internet for the purpose of mental health assistance or emotional help (Pomerantz, 2002 as cited by
Mallen & Vogel, 2005, p. 764) and is
e-therapy is 'the process of interacting with a therapist online in ongoing conversations over time
when the client and counselor are in separate or remote locations and utilize electronic means to
communicate with each other' (Manhal-Baugus, 2001, p. 551 as cited by Mallen & Vogel, 2005, p.
764).
Online clinical practice refers to the “…use of psychotechnologies to deliver therapeutic dialogue at
a distance” (Maheu et al. 2005, p. 8).
Online counseling is “…any delivery of mental and behavioral health services, including but not
limited to therapy, consultation and psychoeducation, by a licensed practitioner to a client in a non-
FtF [face to face] setting through distance communication technology such as the telephone,
asynchronous e-mail, synchronous chat and videoconferencing” (Mallen & Vogel, 2005, p. 764).
Online therapy is “…any type of professional therapeutic interaction that makes use of the internet
to connect qualified mental health professionals and their clients” (Rochlen, Zack & Speyer, 2004,
p. 270).
Supervision: The relationship between a supervisee and supervisor for the purpose of evaluating
work or training performance in which the clinical cases or work of the supervisee are discussed in-
depth with the supervisor: becomes knowledgeable of critical information about a client, instructs or
models how to deal with issues, assists in developing interventions and monitors the progress of both
the supervisee as well as his or her clients. (CTC definition)
Telehealth is “…the transmission of images, voice and data between two or more health units via
telecommunication channels, to provide clinical advice, consultation, education and training
services” (Maheu et al, 2005, p. 7).
Telehealth is “…the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to
health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision, education, and information
across distance” (Nickelson, 1998, p. 527).
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 13
Telemedicine is “…the use of electronic signals to transfer medical data from one location to
another” (Maheu et al. 2005 p.6).
Telepsychology is the provision of non-face-to-face psychological services by distance
communication technology such as telephone, e-mail, chat and videoconferencing. (CTC definition)
Other terms used to describe similar services include: telepsychiatry, behavioral e-care, behavioral
e-health, cybertherapy, e-mail counseling, cyber-psychology, web counseling, e-health and,
internet psychotherapy.
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 14
Appendix D
Standards and Guidelines Relevant to Telepsychology
Agence d’Evaluation des Technologies et des Modes d’Intervention en Sante. (2006) Telehealth:
Clinical Guidelines and Technical Standards for Telepsychiatry. Downloaded September
1, 2009 at
http://www.aetmis.gouv.qc.ca/site/download.php?f=28524c07c26296443fd94a32b2f40df
1
American Medical Association. (2000). Guidelines for Patient-Physician Electronic Mail.
Retrieved January 24, 2005 from
http://www.ama-assn.org/meetings/public/annual00/reports/bot/bot2a00.rtf
American Counseling Association. (1999). ACA Code of Ethics. Approved by the ACA
governing council October 1999. Retrieved November 1, 2004 from
http://www.counseling.org/Resources/CodeOfEthics/TP/Home/CT2.aspx
American Mental Health Counselors Association. (2000). Code of Ethics of the American
Mental Health Counselors Association, Principle 14, Internet On-Line Counseling.
Retrieved January 15, 2005 from http://www.amhca.org/code/#14
American Psychological Association. (1997). APA Statement on Services by Telephone,
Teleconferencing, and Internet, A statement by the Ethics Committee of the American
Psychological Association. Retrieved December 30, 2004 from
http://www.apa.org/ethics/stmnt01.html
American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of
conduct. American Psychologist, 57(12), 1060-1073. Retrieved December 30, 2004 from
http://www.apa.org/ethics/code2002.pdf
American Telemedicine Association. (2009). Evidence-Based Practice for Telemental Health.
Downloaded October 15, 2009 at
http://www.americantelemed.org/files/public/standards/EvidenceBasedTelementalHealth_
WithCover.pdf
American Telemedicine Association. (2009). Practice Guidelines for Videoconferencing-Based
Telemental Health. .Downloaded October 23, 2009 at:
http://www.americantelemed.org/files/public/standards/PracticeGuidelinesforVideoconfer
encing-Based%20TelementalHealth.pdf
Australian Psychological Society. (2004). Guidelines for Providing Psychological Services and
Products on the Internet.
Canadian Psychological Association. (2006). Ethical Guidelines for Psychologists Providing
Psychological Services via Electronic Media. Retrieved November 21, 2007 from
http://www.cpa.ca/aboutcpa/boardofdirectors/committees/ethics/ethicalguidelines/
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 15
Clinical Social Work Federation. (2001). CSWF Position Paper on Internet Text-Based
Therapy. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from http://www.cswf.org/www/therapy.html (Link no
longer active) Retrieved October 3, 2009 from
http://www.cswf.org/page.php?pageid=3670
eRisk Working Group for Healthcare. (2002). Guidelines for Online Communication. Retrieved
April 3, 2005 from http://www.medem.com/phy/phy_eriskguidelines.cfm This link is no
longer available as of October 3, 2009.
Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, Inc., Report of the Special Committee
on Professional Conduct and Ethics. (2002) Model guidelines for the appropriate use of
the Internet in medical practice. Retrieved October 21, 2005 from
http://www.fsmb.org/pdf/2002_grpol_Use_of_Internet.pdf
Health on the Net Foundation. (1996). Principles. Retrieved May 20, 2005 from
http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html
Hi-Ethics. (2000). Health Internet Ethics: Ethical Principles for Offering Internet Health Services
to Consumers. Retrieved January 15, 2005 from
http://www.hiethics.com/Principles/index.asp (not an active link as of October 23, 2006)
International Society for Mental Health Online & Psychiatric Society for Informatics. (2000).
The Suggested Principles for the Online Provision of Mental Health Services. Retrieved
June 6, 2004 from http://www.ismho.org/suggestions.html
Kane, B., & Sands, D. (1998). Guidelines for the clinical use of electronic mail with patients.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 5 (1), p. 104-111.
Nagal, D. & Anthony, K. (2009). Ethical Framework for the Use of Technology in Mental
Health. Downloaded on August 16, 2009 at http://onlinetherapyinstitute.com/id43.html
National Association of Social Workers. (1999). Code of Ethics. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from
http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
National Board for Certified Counselors and Center for Credentialing and Education, (2001).
The Practice of Internet Counseling. (2001). Retrieved June 6, 2004 from
http://www.nbcc.org/webethics2 (Link no longer active, new link as of October 3, 2009)
http://www.nbcc.org/ethics/Default.aspx
Online Clinical Case Study Group of the International Society for Mental Health Online.
(undated). Assessing a person’s suitability for online therapy. Retrieved June 6, 2004
from http://www.ismho.org/casestudy/ccsgas.htm
Rippen, H., & Risk, A. (2000). e-Health code of ethics. Journal of Medical Internet Research,
2(2):e9. Retrieved January 15, 2005 from http://www.jmir.org/2000/2/e9/
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 16
Winkler, M., Flanagin, A., Chi-Lum, B., White, J., Andrews, K., Kennett, R., DeAngelis, C. &
Musacchio, R. (2000). Guidelines for medical and health information sites on the
Internet. Journal of the American Medical Association, March 22/29, 283(12), pp. 1600-
1606. Retrieved on September 24, 2005 from http://jama.ama-
assn.org/cgi/reprint/283/12/1600?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT
=&fulltext=Principles+governing&searchid=1127610674685_2488&stored_search=&FI
RSTINDEX=0
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2010 Page 17
Figure 1
Telehealth and Telepsychology
Telehealth
Telemedicine Behavioral
Telehealth
Telepsychology Telepsychiatry
Online Counseling Consultation Psychoeducation
Assessment/Testing
E-mail
Chat
Videoconferencing
Telephone
Other
Instant Messaging
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009 Page 18
Table 1 - Telehealth Guideline Comparison
ACA NBCC ISMHO AMHCA e-Risk OPA
1. Clients are informed about technology limitations and
implications for confidentiality x x x
2. Services are provided on a secure web site or using
encrypted e-mail x x x
3. Encrypted communications are used whenever possible
& client informed of hazards of unsecured
communications x x
4. Authentication of communications are from identified
client such as using code words or numbers x x
5. Only “general” information is transmitted in non-secure
communications x x
6. Web sites should include links to licensing or certifying
boards x x
7. Web site links should be continually updated in content,
accuracy and appropriateness x
8. Web site is barrier free to clients with disabilities x x
9. Information about the potential benefits of the services
are identified x x
10. Information about the potential risks of the services are
identified x x
11. Professionals are aware of client differences in culture,
language, and time x
12. Notice given that information transmitted via the internet
may not be secure x x
13. Web site identifies whether the website is secure x
14. Web site identifies if communications during counseling
will be encrypted x
15. Web site identifies if client will need encryption software
and if it will be provided x
16. Identification of what other professionals and their
credentials will have access to client communications x x x
17. Notice given if counselor is supervised and if and how
supervisor preserves session transcripts x
18. The identity of the client is obtained and verified x x x
19. The professional verifies the age of the client and is able
to give consent for treatment x x
20. If a client is unable to give consent, consent is obtained
from a legal consenting party x x x x
21. A determination of the appropriateness of telehealth
services is made x x x x x
22. Alternative methods of contacting the client in emergency
situations are identified x x
23. Clients are provided alternative ways to contact the
professional at other times, including emergencies x x x x x
24. The professional is aware of what local resources exist
for the client in emergencies (e.g. suicidal, homicidal) x x x
25. The professional is aware of how to report suicidal or
homicidal clients where the client is located x
26. Client is made aware of confidentiality limitations of
Internet communications x x x
Deleted: I
Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009 Page 19
Table 1 - Telehealth Guideline Comparison – continued
ACA NBCC ISMHO AMHCA e-Risk OPA
27. Client is made aware of confidentiality limitations of
internet communications x x x
28. Client is informed about the possible misunderstandings
when visual cues are absent in communications x x x
29. Clients are made aware of free internet access when
available x
30. Clients referred to other services if clients do not agree
to client wavier about internet confidentiality limitations x
31. Clients are informed about possible technological
problems and communication delays x x
32. The confidentiality of electronic communications and
client information are maintained x x x x x
33. Clients are informed about the way communications are
recorded and for how long they are kept x x x
34. Whenever possible records of electronic
communications are kept and integrated into the client's
chart x x
35. Information transmitted to third parties is done securely x x x
36. If telehealth services are not appropriate the client is
informed of alternative services x x x
37. Service plans are consistent with client circumstances
and limitations of electronic communications x x
38. The professional and client agree on frequency, mode of
communication, fee, and methods of payment x
39. Professional informs client of times available for service
and anticipated response times to communications x x x x
40. There is a back-up professional for clients if the
professional will be unavailable for an extended period of
time x
41. The professional practices only in areas he or she is
competent x x x x
42. The professional should follow the laws and other
established guidelines that apply to him or her x x
43. Services are not provided to clients located in states in
which the professional is not licensed. x x
44. Professional may need to meet legal requirements to
practice in the state where the client is located x x
45. The professional confirms that his or her liability
insurance covers their telehealth services x
46. Legal jurisdiction - state(s) where the professional and
client is located licensing, regulations are reviewed and
complied with x x x x x x
47. Professional obtains legal and ethical assistance in
developing and implementing telehealth services x
48. The name and qualifications (and how to verify them) of
the professional are available to the client x x
49. If the client is receiving mental health services from
multiple providers the potential effects of this are
considered x
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009 Page 20
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Endnotes
1 These reasons for practice guidelines are adapted from American Psychological Association (2005), Determination and
Documentation of the Need for Practice Guidelines, American Psychologist, 60, 976-978.
2 Koocher & Morray. (2000) Nickelson (1998) warns psychology that if it does not develop standards for telehealth, “…it
risks having the government or even another provider group intervene.”
3 Vandebos & Williams (2000), Maheu et. al. (2005), Barnett (2005), Barak (1999). Additional information can be found at
the website: http://construct.haifa.ac.il/~azy/refindx.htm
4 DeLeon, Crimmins, & Wolf (2003), Nickelson (1998), Heinlen, Welfel, Richmond & O’Donnell (2003).
5 See Mallen et al. (2005) p. 811 regarding the importance of psychologists becoming “involved in shaping and developing
guidelines for the training, supervision and practice of on line counseling.”
6 Maheu & Gordon (2001) in regards to using e-mail with clients point out that practitioners may overlook “nuances” of
electronic communications that are different from face-to-face services. Finichel et al. (2002) discuss some of these
differences in their article on “myths and realities” of online clinical work. Competency for telepsychology requires
mastering new skills and understandings, need for consultation and or supervision prior to providing those services (Kraus
et al. 2004).
7 A comprehensive review of past efforts to develop relevant online standards or guidelines and subsequent recommendations
for future efforts are described by Ragusea & VandeCreek (2003) and Raguesa (2005).
8 See APA (2002b, 2005).
9 The APA documents about developing practice guidelines (APA, 2002b, 2005) are helpful in explaining these issues and
concepts.
10 For discussions of computer-mediated competency see Mallen, Vogel, & Rochlen (2005) issue of cultural competency in
Mallen et al, (2005) p. 792
11 References for assessing when telepsychology is not appropriate. Kraus et al. (2004); Maheu et al. (2005).
12 See Section 508 law at http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Content&ID=3
13 See Maheu et al. (2005) and Kraus et al. (2004). Few formal training opportunities or supervised experiences for using
technology in telepsychology are currently available. The following are examples of training opportunities provided:
http://www.onlinecounsellors.co.uk/ ; The American Counseling Association also offers an online course on the topic of
cybercounseling.
14 Maheu et al. (2005); Koocher & Morray (2000); Mallen, Vogel & Rochlen (2005).
15 For discussions about identification of clients, see Kraus et al. (2004) and Maheu et al. (2005).
16 Guidelines for assessing the appropriateness of clients for online therapy are posted on the website for the International
Society for Mental Health Online at http://www.ismho.org/casestudy/ccsgas.htm. Fenichel et al. (2002) describe ways to
verify client identification. Kraus et al. (2004) identify reasons that this is so important.
17 Koocher & Morray (2000); Kraus et al. (2004); Maheu et.al (2005)
© Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technology Committee 2009 Page 25
18 This expectation is a common component of telehealth guidelines and standards listed in Appendix D. Koocher, G. & E.
Morray (2000) identify it as being important.
19 Psychologists providing services regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996
are expected to be in compliance with that law and its regulations. Maheu & Gordon (2000) advise psychologists using e-
mail with clients to “ensure patients’ confidentiality by maintaining high levels of security,” including encryption. The
American Counseling Association (1999) standards explicitly require online counseling or e-mail communications to be
encrypted and to limit non-secure communications to “only general information” or non-client-specific information.
20 Types of information considered non-client-specific might include information about office hours, directions to office
locations, address and telephone numbers, referral sources, community resources, etc.
21 An example of this is included in AMA (2002) standards.
22 Because electronic information stored on storage media (e.g. hard drives, flash drives, etc.) is not permanently erased when
files are deleted using ordinary methods, it is highly important that steps are taken to assure the destruction of confidential
and identifying information when electronic hardware is discarded or disposed. This might include the physical
destruction of storage media or using special software to delete files so that they cannot be recovered.
23 For examples of this, see ISMHO (2000) principles regarding records under “standard operating procedure” and ACA
(1999) standards regarding “records of electronic communications.”
... Several researchers attempted to consolidate differing definitions to create a universal nomenclature for the psychological community (e.g., Barak, Klein, & Proudfoot, 2009;Nickelson, 1998;Rochlen, Zack, & Speyer, 2004); however, no nomenclature has been universally accepted. Two of the most comprehensive attempts to develop a common nomenclature are works by Barak et al. (2009), and the Ohio Psychological Association Communications and Technologies Committee (Dielman et al., 2010). Terms such as "computerbased program" or "computer-based intervention" are broad terms that encompass all computer-based methods, reviewed below. ...
... However, difficulty and confusion arose with the introduction of terms such as "online," "Internet," and "tele-health" due to their continuing ambiguity. A complete review of these terms can be found within Dielman et al. (2010), Nickelson's (1998) paper, and Barak et al.'s (2009) review. ...
... Tele-health assumes "… the transmission of images, voice and data between two or more health units via telecommunication channels, to provide clinical advice, consultation, education and training services" (Dielman et al., 2010, p. 12). Under the umbrella of this term is the use of telecommunications to provide assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision, education, and information across distance (Dielman et al., 2010;Nickelson, 1998). ...
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