Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Efficacy, Efficiency, and Ethics in the Provision of Telepsychology Services: Emerging Applications for International Workers

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Efficacy, Efficiency, and Ethics in the Provision of Telepsychology Services: Emerging Applications for International Workers

Article excerpt

Computers and the Internet ushered humanity into a new era in the late 1900s--information on a variety of topics became widely available to the general public, and it became suddenly possible for individuals to communicate with one another instantaneously regardless of each person's geographical location. According to some, the evolution of technology has outpaced humanity's ability to learn how to manage technology properly, and this appears particularly true in the field of psychology. Instant messaging, social media sites, and video conferencing have all influenced the ways in which counselors and clients can interact. Questions remain, however, about the use of this technology. This paper addresses some of those questions by considering whether or not telepsychology is effective when it is used to conduct therapy and the circumstances under which a counselor might use a technological medium to provide such services. A review of some ethical considerations related to the use of technology in the service of providing therapeutic services is also included, as well as a discussion regarding the specific applicability of telepsychology services to international workers, specifically missionaries, serving abroad.

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Telemedicine is a rapidly growing method of care delivery (American Academy of Dermatology and AAD Association [AAD], 2004) across a variety of health care professions. Under the umbrella of telemedicine is the area of telepsychology, which can be defined as the provision of psychological services using telecommunication technologies (Drum & Littleton, 2014; California Board of Psychology [CBP], n.d.). The phrase "psychological services" can mean any number of things--provision of therapeutic services, psychoeducation, consultation with organizations or other professionals, case management, and so forth. Likewise, telecommunication technologies can encompass a variety of methods of communication: telephone calls, video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and so forth. As the world becomes ever more connected through the use of these technologies and as counselors face increasing demand from their clients to provide more cost-effective services and more accessibility to these services, it is becoming increasingly important to operationalize these terms and understand how the use of technology affects the provision of psychological services and whether the quality of its provision are for better or worse. For the purposes of this paper, "telepsychology" will refer to the provision of any psychological service distributed over any technological medium, including phone calls and video conferencing (Yellowlees, Shore, & Roberts, 2009).

There are various ways in which the delivery of health care services can be provided using technological means, including live, interactive methods and store-and-forward methods (AAD, 2004), but this paper focuses on the use of the live, interactive delivery of services. When delivering services via live, interactive means, the participants are separated by distance but are interacting with one another in real time (AAD, 2004). Such use of technology can be considered synchronous because both the counselor and client are online and using technology simultaneously in order to communicate with one another. Many missionaries work in locations that make receiving ongoing face-to-face counseling both difficult and expensive, if it is available at all, due to their remote location, mobility, or safety concerns. Telepsychology is opening up new possibilities for providing these services at reasonable cost through a variety of therapeutic platforms. Special considerations are needed to provide quality, legal, and safe telepsychology services to these international workers.

The purpose of this paper is to review the efficacy and efficiency of mental health services delivered via telepsychology mediums. This paper will then review some legal and ethical considerations with regards to how and when delivering mental health services via telepsychology means might be appropriate and make recommendations for counselors wanting to explore how they might be able to include current technology in their practice of psychology. …

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