As the world adapts to the ever changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental and behavioral healthcare providers are a step ahead of the curve with telehealth counseling sessions (also known as teletherapy or online therapy).
Formerly, in order to provide HIPAA-compliant telehealth services, practitioners had to connect to a secure, hard-wired line. In fact, many telehealth operations still function this way today. However, as companies like BlueJeans and Zoom developed HIPAA-compliant software that safely and legally protects Personal Health Information (PHI), the mental health field began to embrace telehealth on a larger scale, well before the emergence of COVID-19.
Is telehealth secure?
Privacy is a major concern for people seeking mental health services. They want to know their information will be kept confidential and the conversations they have with their therapist will remain private.
The idea of teletherapy may be especially concerning, since internet communication does not always promise the security as face-to-face interaction offers. However, the field of cyber security has advanced a lot in recent years. Online counseling is relatively safe and secure when it uses HIPAA-compliant platforms.
Cyber security and HIPAA compliance
Online platforms like BlueJeans use highly secure, encrypted video connectivity to meet HIPAA privacy rules. Through encryption, data being transferred between you and the therapist (and to other group members, if applicable) is translated into a coding language and is only converted back into video data by a user who has the “key.”
In this case, only the people invited to the BlueJeans meeting have the “key.” This kind of encryption ensures that no third party could access the video or audio, even if they hacked into the system, because they don’t have the key to decode it. In other words, a counseling session, be it individual or group, is very protected against potential hackers, so you can rest assured your information is safe.
Additional security measures for online therapy
While Rehab After Work takes all necessary precautions to protect our clients’ privacy, we cannot control their home environments. Therefore, we try to educate our clients about how to protect their own privacy at home. Certain ways we try to encourage this added level of privacy include:
- Using a private room like a bedroom or home office in which to video stream the session if you share a residence with others;
- Using headphones to minimize distractions and the likelihood of being overheard;
- Avoiding using a Wifi connection that is public, especially one that is not protected with a password.
The American Psychological Association (APA) states that therapists providing telehealth services need to “make [a] reasonable effort to protect and maintain the confidentiality of the data and information relating to their clients/patients and inform them of the potentially increased risks to loss of confidentiality inherent in the use of the telecommunication technologies.”
As mental health care providers, it is our responsibility to stay up to date and informed about all aspects of our practice. Telehealth confidentiality is no different.
The benefits of confidential online therapy
In addition to providing a secure, confidential service, telehealth also offers a number of additional benefits, including:
- Supportive group therapy sessions to help build a sense of community even from your own home;
- Individual counseling sessions with a therapist that offers the same level of care and commitment to your health as it would in person;
- The ability to receive treatment even when you aren’t in commuting distance to a treatment facility;
- Appointments scheduled during days and times that fit with your busy schedule.
With the emergence of confidential online therapy, more people than ever now have access to all the benefits of therapy and mental health and addiction counseling.
Should you try teletherapy?
If you are in need of mental health care during this time, you might like to consider the options of teletherapy and the benefit of receiving mental health services from the safety of your home.
Ultimately, you must decide if this service is right for you based on your own preferences and communication styles, but know that telehealth providers are taking every precaution to make sure your information stays safe and that you receive the care you need.
If you’re interested in counseling for substance abuse or addiction, Rehab After Work is accepting new patients and providing services via telehealth. Get in touch with our admissions team by calling 610-644-6464 to make an appointment today.