Policy for Phone, Text or Video-call Sessions
This Informed Consent policy contains important information on phone, text based contact or video calls sessions. Please read this carefully, and let me know if you have any questions. When you agree to this by selecting the tick box it will represent an agreement between us.
Benefits and Risks of phone, text based contact or video calls
One of the benefits of these is that the client and clinician can engage in services without being in the same physical location. This can be helpful in ensuring continuity of care if the client or therapist moves to a different location, takes an long holiday, or is otherwise unable to continue to meet in person, such as during a global pandemic. It can also be more convenient and takes less time in terms of travelling. However it requires technical competence on both our parts to be helpful. Although there are benefits, there are some differences between in-person psychotherapy, as well as some risks. For example:
- Risks to confidentiality. Because phone, text based contact or video calls sessions take place outside of the therapist’s private space, there is potential for other people to overhear sessions if the client is not in a private place during the session. On my end I will take reasonable steps to ensure your privacy. But it is important for you to make sure you find a private place for our session where you will not be interrupted. It is also important for you to protect the privacy of our session on your phone or other device. You should participate in therapy only while in a room or area where other people are not present and cannot overhear the conversation.
- Issues related to technology. There are many ways that problems with technology may impact our session. For example, technology may stop working during a session; both client and therapist must try and access a robust internet connection before the session begins. Other challenges relate to privacy; the use of technology may allow other people to gain access to our private conversation, or stored data could be accessed by unauthorized people or companies; to mitigate these two challenges associated with technology I commit to using the most secure readily available means of communication.
- Crisis management and intervention. Usually, I will not engage in online sessions with clients who are currently in a crisis situation requiring high levels of support and intervention. Please let me know your address we are likely to meet and inform me if you are elsewhere, this way if anything pertaining to your health were to happen I will know where you could be reached by the emergency services.
- Efficacy. Some research shows that online counselling is as effective as in-person psychotherapy. Some therapists believe that something is lost by not being in the same room. For example, there is debate about a therapist’s ability to fully understand non-verbal information when working remotely. However, it will be for us to collaboratively decide if this method of communication feels good enough.
- Differences: Sometimes it may feel different meeting by phone, text based contact or video calling than in-person: it may feel different to share difficult material and feelings (easier or more difficult). Sometimes it may feel the therapy is moving ‘faster’ and as such it may be important for me, as your therapist, to collaboratively manage the session differently. This is something we will discuss as we explore this way of therapy or support together.
For communication between agreed sessions, I only use email communication and all administrative contact should be carried out by email unless we have made another agreement. This includes things like setting and changing appointments, payment matters, and other related issues. You should be aware that I cannot guarantee the confidentiality of any information communicated by email. Also, I do not regularly check my email, nor do I respond immediately, so these methods should not be used if there is an emergency. I can however agree to check my emails at set times should this be important.
I have a legal and ethical responsibility to make my best efforts to protect all communications that are a part of our therapeutic relationship. However, the nature of electronic communications technologies is such that I cannot guarantee that our communications will be kept confidential or that other people may not gain access to our communications. I will try to use updated encryption methods, firewalls, and back-up systems to help keep your information private, but there is a risk that our electronic communications may be compromised, unsecured, or accessed by others. You should also take reasonable steps to ensure the security of our communications (for example, only using secure networks for our sessions and having passwords to protect the device you use). Zoom is my preferred way to video call as I have been advised it is the most secure.
Emergencies and Technology
Assessing and evaluating threats and other emergencies can be more difficult when conducting phone, text based contact or video calls than in traditional in-person therapy. To address some of these difficulties, we will create an emergency plan before engaging in phone, text based contact or video calls sessions. I will ask you to identify an emergency contact person who is near your location and who I will contact in the event of a crisis or emergency to assist in addressing the situation.
If the session is interrupted for any reason, such as the technological connection fails, and you are having an emergency, do not call me back; instead, call 999, or go to your nearest hospital. Contact me after you have called or obtained emergency services.
If the session is interrupted and you are not having an emergency, disconnect from the session and I will wait two (2) minutes and then re-contact you via the platform on which we agreed to conduct therapy. If you do not receive a call back within two (2) minutes, then I will email you to enquire or inform you of the issue and suggest a next step.
If there is a technological failure and we are unable to resume the connection, you will only be charged the prorated amount of actual session time.
The phone, text based contact or video calls sessions will not be recorded in any way unless agreed to in writing by mutual consent. I will maintain a record of our session in the same way I maintain records of in-person sessions in accordance with my policies.