Technology 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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