Telebehavioral Health Services - Spring 2020

What is Telebehavioral Health Services?

Telebehavioral Health Services is the delivery of mental health therapy services through the use of interactive audio and video technology, permitting real-time communication in a non in-person situation. During this stressful time marked with concerns about Coronavirus, as well as the transition to virtual instruction for the time being, telebehavioral health therapy is a convenient way to provide therapy services to students at a distance. 

Ethical guidelines and licensing regulations in California permit Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) to offer telebehavioral health therapy only to individuals  residing in California. Thus, CAPS can only provide therapy to students currently located in California. Further, we cannot offer therapy to students at serious risk of harm to themselves or others or experiencing psychotic symptoms. These conditions and/or symptoms are outside the ethical scope of practice of telebehavioral health therapy and outside of CAPS' regular scope of practice. If you are an out-of-state student, please click the following link to download a PDF guide on Searching for Therapy. If you are experiencing severe mental health symptoms or you are at risk of suicide or harming others, please call 911, or University Police (415) 338-2222 if you are on campus.

What are the benefits and risks of telebehavioral health therapy?

There are potential benefits and risks of telebehavioral health therapy. The primary benefit of telebehavioral health therapy is the convenience of mental health therapy sessions that can be conducted anywhere in California as long as you have access to audio and video technology, such as a smartphone/tablet or computer with a webcam and a microphone. Like in-person therapy, you may also experience emotional relief and receive professional support for mental health concerns.

While telebehavioral health therapy services are a convenient way to have your therapy needs met, it does not provide crisis services, since this is out of the scope of practice, as mentioned above. Further, telebehavioral health therapy services are done virtually and a therapist has no physical control of an emergency situation, if this occurs. Therefore, it is important that you are aware of this limitation, and please contact 911 or the nearest hospital emergency room for help in case of emergency. If you are on campus at the time of an emergency, you may contact University Police at (415) 338-2222.  If you are having suicidal thoughts or making plans to harm yourself, you may also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1- 800-273-TALK (8255) for free 24-hour hotline support.

Other potential risks of telebehavioral health therapy include, but are not limited to: 1) the transmission of your therapy information could be disrupted or distorted by technical failures; 2) the transmission of your information could be intercepted by unauthorized persons; and/or 3) the electronic storage of your therapy and confidential information could be accessed by unauthorized persons.

Is Telebehavioral Health Therapy confidential?

Confidentiality still applies for telebehavioral health therapy services, and nobody will record the session without permission from you, our student clients. The latter part is also expected from you in that we ask you to agree not to record telebehavioral health therapy sessions. Limitations to this confidentiality also still apply, and they include the following:  1) your confidential information will not be released unless you/we are required to do so by law; 2) we are required to notify authorities if we become convinced that you are about to physically harm someone and/or harm yourself; 3) or if you are abusing or about to abuse children, the elderly, or the disabled, or if we learn about any abuse of children, the elderly, or the disabled from you, we are required to contact authorities to protect the safety of others.

Although telebehavioral health therapy services do not include crisis services, we acknowledge that a crisis situation may occur during telebehavioral health therapy sessions. In order for us to help you in the event of a crisis situation, we will prepare a safety plan at the beginning of each telebehavioral health therapy session that includes at least one emergency contact and the closest Emergency Department to your location. If a telebehavioral health therapy session gets disconnected and we are concerned about you, we will attempt to contact you to check on your well-being. If you are showing signs of being in real trouble, we have your permission to contact your emergency contact to ensure your safety.

What do I need to prepare for Telebehavioral Health therapy appointments?

There are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for a telebehavioral health therapy appointment.

It is important:

1)    To be in a quiet, private space that is free of distractions (including cell phone or other devices) during the session.

2)    To use a secure internet connection rather than public/free Wi-Fi.

3)    To be on time. If you need to cancel or change your appointment, please contact CAPS to do so in advance.

For your telebehavioral health therapy appointment, you need to use a webcam or smartphone during the session. In the event of technical problems, your counselor will call you to restart the session or to reschedule it.

As mentioned above, telebehavioral health therapy sessions can be conducted only when you are in California.