A Telepsychology Casebook is a book published in 2018 by the American Psychological Association (APA) “…to help psychologists understand how standards of practice apply to telepsychology and to offer ways in which psychologists may think about ethical decision-making regarding their movement into telepsychology.” It is edited and written primarily by former members of the APA Telepsychology Task Force represented by the APA, the APA Insurance Trust (now The Trust), and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards who jointly developed the APA telepsychology guidelines adopted by the APA in 2013. Telepsychology is broadly defined as the provision of psychological services using telecommunications.
The eight telepsychology guidelines discussed in the book include: competence of the psychologists, standards of care in delivery of telepsychology services, informed consent, confidentiality of data and information, disposal of data, information and technologies, testing and assessment, and interjurisdictional practice.
Each of the guidelines are given a separate chapter that follows a similar format: a guideline, a rationale for the guideline, a brief discussion of the guideline, and multiple case examples or scenarios showing how to interpret and use the guideline in different settings and circumstances. Key points are listed at the end of each chapter that highlight important takeaways to consider. A helpful copy of the telepsychology guidelines is also included as an appendix.
Although earlier telepsychology guidelines had been developed by psychologists in Australia, United Kingdom and Ohio prior to those of the APA, this publication takes the APA guidelines an important step further by demonstrating how they are applied in practice. This book is useful in identifying that to practice telepsychology ethically (i.e. compliant with the APA code of ethics), psychologists need to be prepared by not only knowing how to do in-person services but also how to apply the same ethical standards when providing services using telecommunications. A key guideline relevant to this issue is the first guideline, competence of the psychologist. Since many practicing psychologists have not had education, training or
supervision in telepsychology practice, it is critical that to develop competency in telepsychology, they should obtain sufficient training before delivering telepsychology services. Hopefully, in the future such education and training will be incorporated in graduate psychology curriculums and newly licensed psychologists will have the knowledge and skills to practice telepsychology. Until then, most psychologists and psychologists in training will need to develop their own personal telepsychology educational and training plans.
This is not a “how to” book. Psychologists are provided a good framework and numerous examples to consider when developing or practicing telepsychology. Questions about the uses of specific technologies (e.g. teleconferencing, social media, email, texting) in specific circumstances (e.g. type of service, type of presenting problems) will at times require further education, consultation and maintaining awareness of what are evolving best practices.
This book is not only for psychologists who are already practicing or plan to practice telepsychology but can also be helpful for psychologists who may not believe that they are practicing telepsychology. Many psychologists whether they know it or not have been practicing telepsychology for years. Communicating with clients via landline or cell phones is a form of telepsychology and commonly is used by psychologists who may be primarily doing in-person services.
Reading this book is a good first step in sensitizing psychologists to the numerous issues that need to be considered when practicing telepsychology. It presents a clear framework outlining what psychologists need to know and do to ethically practice telepsychology and can be used to plan and obtain the needed education, training and experience.
*Reprinted with permission from the March/April 2019 issue of The National Psychologist