Petition for Association for Counseling and Technology

man using online therapyTechnology is rapidly changing the face of therapy, with more and more mental health professionals offering some variety of phone-based or online counseling. Therapists who embrace these new options can face ethical, legal, and technical challenges, and clear solutions are not readily available.

The TeleMental Health Institute, an organization founded by Marlene Maheu, PhD, aims to help therapists utilize new technologies in ethical and productive ways. The organization offers training on HIPAA-compliant programs and issues such as confidentiality and security. As part of her ongoing push for ethical and technologically-informed virtual therapy, Maheu has petitioned the American Counseling Association to form an affiliate organization tentatively called the Association for Counseling and Technology (ACT).

ACT would provide organizational leadership to establish ethical norms for web-based therapy, and would help spur research into topics related to therapy and technology. The organization will also provide resources for counselors interested in expanding their practices to include new technologies. ACT hopes to increase communication and collaboration between other mental health professions to improve access to technology and the outcomes both clients and their treatment providers experience.

In a statement to GoodTherapy.org, Maheu explained the importance of the organization:

Technology is already changing counseling, from clients showing us messages on their cell phones, to graduate and training classes being taught online, and counselors offering email, text, and video contact to the people they serve. These functions are rapidly proliferating and need to be understood in light of evolving counselor identity. Counseling can set the pace for the behavioral professions by taking the lead with a dedicated group at ACA to focus on legal and ethical best practices in all these arenas and more. The Association for Counseling and Technology (ACT) seeks to create a wide range of new opportunities for counselors.

GoodTherapy.org supports and measure that increases the competence and skill of therapists, and believes the new organization will encourage ethical therapeutic practices. We encourage our members to show their support by signing Dr. Maheu’s petition here.

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  • sonya cp

    sonya cp

    May 19th, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Good grief it’s all about being HIPAA compliant these days isn’t it, when all some people need is someone to reach out to online in a medium that feels comfortable to them.

  • Connie

    Connie

    May 20th, 2014 at 4:03 AM

    Not that we all need guidelines set in stone to understand what is right and what is wrong, but I do think that it would provide a safeguard for therapists and patients alike, just something in writing that will protect all parties. It is hard to believe that this is a new thing given how long the internet and online counseling has been available but I know that sometimes small steps are more the norm than leaps and bounds. We are getting there and this has the best interest of all parties in mind.

  • JESS

    JESS

    May 21st, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Who would monitor this and determine that all of the rules were always being followed? You get into a lot of gray areas when you start doing things like this online. I think that it could be great for a whole lot of people but the trick then becomes who is the one looking out for it all. Very hard to ascertain.

  • evie c

    evie c

    May 27th, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    If we truly have the best interest of any patient at heart then this has to be something that all of us advocate very strongly for. It is important to know that there will be a governing body available to help with guidance and structure for many of these new online issues that we could be facing, as well as to know that there will be some oversight in this area which has previously been uncharted territory.

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