Telepsychology is the term used to refer to any psychological services that have a web-based component.
In the field of psychology, providers are moving more and more towards using web-based resources to make their services streamlined, convenient and accessible for their clients.
What are Web-based Resources?
Telepsychology can include email communication between providers and clients.
Telepsychology can include video/audio chat, assessments, interviews, and observations collected via the web using Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and other applications.
It can include web-based completion of questionnaires or rating scales sent directly from your service provider or sent using a testing company, like WPS or Pearson, who sends the scale, compiles the data and stores it in a secure location for your psychologist to access and share with you.
Telepsychology can include assessment via iPad as data is collected in a device, scored and distributed to a psychologist via a program, Q-Interactive.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Telepsychology?
Telepsychology has advantages and disadvantages in practice.
The obvious advantages for the client are convenience, accessibility and timeline.
A client can seek services from anywhere, while vacationing, traveling for work or from home, without having to physically go to an office!
This access allows for the utmost privacy and makes psychological services available to busy consumers who need to fit sessions and consultations into a full family schedule of sports, engagements, school, appointments, etc.
Telepsychology is relatively new. We are still testing and developing/modifying some services so they can be accessible in this format. The APA Guidelines for Telepsychology suggest that a psychologist use valid and reliable assessment methods even if there is minimal data on the use of such methods remotely.
It is important to note the limitations of remote assessment, like an inability to meet the client in person and an inability to give paper pencil or manipulative tests (e.g., with blocks or puzzles).
The Guidelines suggest that assessments be completed in the most standardized way possible and that information provided to clients includes any data about the limitation of findings because of telepsychology.
If it is possible geographically, a combination of web-based and in-person services is acceptable if the client benefits.
Testing companies are working to provide psychologists with data on the use of measures in a web-based format.
Rating scales are some of the first assessment measures to be offered remotely to clients without changing the format of the information. Clients can elect to receive most scales via email and can complete them at home within their own timeframe.
Telepsychology is relatively new and thus may have its growing pains. However, this exciting new service delivery model can work well for clinicians and clients and can support the delivery of early intervention and services to those who need them.