Adapting to a Virtual Care World

New Guidelines and the Benefits of Telemental Health

Joni Gilbertson, MA, NCC, LCPC, LMHC, BC-TMH, CTMH

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound changes in the way we provide mental health services, giving rise to an explosion of virtual care practices and resulting in the formation of new practice guidelines. In response to the pandemic, certain federal privacy regulations were temporarily changed to accommodate the use of technology since in-person sessions were no longer permitted. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded their payment policies to include telehealth as an option, and many insurance companies followed by allowing video sessions and even phone sessions under certain conditions. State governors relaxed licensure requirements and altered policies on the provision of services using telehealth. During this time, even HIPAA enforcement was relaxed, and the HHS Office for Civil Rights exercised its “enforcement discretion,” meaning that it would not impose penalties for noncompliance with regulatory requirements while clinicians provided services “in good faith.”

In light of the changes that were forced upon clinicians, many saw the benefits of using technology that were not evident before. This initiated many mental health professional boards to take a new look at practice guidelines and to quickly make some changes to accommodate this new way of life. At the time of this writing, most changes have been documented as temporary during this global health crisis. However, I believe that within the next year, federal, state, and local guidelines will be reviewed and changed as we move forward with more clinicians deciding to continue providing services to clients via technology.

I have learned that when uncomfortable and seemingly “bad” things happen in my life, it always causes me to look in a direction I may have never looked if that “bad” thing had not occurred. When I am forced to look in this new direction, better things usually present. For example, my job over the last six years has been to travel and present all over the nation, and when the pandemic began, my job ended. After realizing my world was going to be extremely different, I found out about webinars and began presenting my seminars using technology. In addition, because I was at home for two months, I had the time to sit and write this guidebook. Because of all the questions I received every day in my email, I knew this guidebook was needed, so I committed to using my free time to compile the information.

My hope is that those reading this book receive guidance and find resources that will assist you in continuing to help clients with treatment using technology. I also hope that someday I can safely see you all in a live seminar in your hometown. Technology offers us so many options, and many of them are still in our minds. We are only limited by our imaginations when proposing new options. I am excited to see what the next ten years will bring to our field.

Additionally, to help you get a start on preparing yourself to provide Telemental Health treatment, I have provided a FREE download of my succinct checklist to Setting Up a Telemental Health Practice.

*This is an excerpt from Telemental Health by Joni Gilbertson. Copyright © 2020, Joni Gilbertson. PESI Publishing & Media

Virtual care is the new normal. Are you prepared?
In this comprehensive guide, therapist and certified telemental health trainer Joni Gilbertson discusses the entire virtual treatment process, from intake to termination (and beyond).

Drawing from her own successful online practice, in addition to training thousands of professionals on telemental health, Gilbertson’s straightforward, conversation style allows clinicians to see themselves in her case examples and clinical decision making.

Designed with both the seasoned and newly minted therapist in mind, this guidebook provides a map to the essentials of a successful online practice,
Meet the Expert:
Joni Gilbertson, MA, NCC, LCPC, LMHC, BC-TMH, CTMH, is a Certified Clinical Telemental Health Provider, a Board-certified Telemental Health Provider, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida, and the owner/founder of Gilbertson Counseling Services. She has over a decade of experience seeing clients using distance counseling with specializations in domestic violence, anger management, and relationship counseling. Joni uses distance therapy to assist individuals, couples and families with everyday coping in areas such as relationship, depression, suicide, and general coping skills. She is also experienced as a clinical counselor supervising a mental health staff within a hospital setting and within her clinical practice.

Joni completed many trainings in distance counseling and completed and edited numerous online courses for telemental health. She is a certified trainer in mental health first aid and motivational interviewing, and she carries certifications in domestic violence facilitation and selective other methods that enhance client awareness. For many years she trained mental health agencies, children and family services, first responders, jails, prisons, and detention centers on mental health topics along with legal and ethical matters of relative concern to each population. As a former Chief of Probation and Probation Officer, she was responsible for training staff on mental health issues that included motivational interviewing, suicide awareness, personality disorders, substance use disorders and safety strategies.

Joni is also a recently retired college instructor with the Sociology Department where she created and instructed sixteen mental health and legal issues classes. During her employment, she was nominated and presented with the award for “Teachers Who Make a Difference” due to her engaging and dynamic style of teaching. She makes learning an enjoyable experience with her passion for the topic of using technology for mental health.

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Tags: Telehealth

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