Reviewed by Kenneth P. Drude, Ph.D.
Providing mental health services using technology is rapidly being recognized as a legitimate way to provide mental health services. The authors of this book successfully provide readers with a clear, concise, and informative “…how to guide for conducting competent, ethical, and evidence-based TMH [Telemental Health]” that is useful for both new or experienced telepractitioners. They repeatedly emphasize the importance of knowing the applicable state and federal laws, professional standards and guidelines as well as obtaining the necessary knowledge and skills when preparing for and doing telepractice. The book is inclusive of all forms of technology but focuses primarily upon the use of video-based technologies since it is the predominant form used in telepractice. For new practitioners, it provides a planning process and guide for developing a telepractice. For both new and experienced telepractitioners, it provides a comprehensive checklist to self-monitor compliance with the continuing to evolve laws, standards and guidelines for telepractice.
Although the authors are psychologists, the book is written for use by all mental health professions. They identify and reference a number of current telemental health standards and guidelines adopted by different mental health professional organizations. Two major examples are the American Psychological Association (2013), Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology
and the American Telemedicine Association (2009), Practice Guidelines for Videoconferencing-Based Telemental Health.
The book is relatively short (154 pages) and organized in 10 easy-to- read chapters, starting with a review of the types, advantages and benefits of different technologies. Readers are walked through the basics about what practitioners need to know and consider before offering telemental health services. The authors give an overview of the major ethical and legal issues to consider. They point out that it is critical to be well-informed about state licensing laws and regulations that vary from state to state as well other relevant state and federal laws (e.g. HIPAA). Each of the mental health professions has standards and guidelines relevant to telemental health practice although some are more comprehensive than others. Some are interdisciplinary (ATA, 2009) and provide important guidance that ought to be considered.
Some of the major issues included in telemental health standards and guidelines are elaborated upon and illustrated in the book. Issues about informed consent, planning for emergencies, confidentiality, online assessment and telesupervision are examples. A separate chapter about working with diverse populations and the need for cultural competency is also included.
This book is especially useful in providing a framework for learning what one needs to know and do (e.g. what training to obtain) and how to prepare for telemental health practice. Even if a practitioner infrequently uses telecommunications for providing services or communicating with clients, this book is an excellent resource since many of the requirements and issues it covers apply.
*Excerpted from a review to be published in a future issue of The National Psychologist.