The ranks of school districts benefiting from online therapy (teletherapy) continue to swell. And why not? You can’t beat the flexibility and convenience that the Internet provides. Or what about cutting costs without sacrificing the quality of the therapy? Or perhaps your school needs greater access to specialties or language preferences which the online venue can better accommodate. Whatever it is, teletherapy provides it!
But bottom line, what’s it all worth if teletherapy isn’t confidential?
Online Privacy Risks
There are voices out there complaining that that risk of compromising client confidentiality and their private information undermines the many benefits mentioned above. Their objection goes something like this. “Being that technology in general, and electronic communications in particular, are more vulnerable to be exploited, the privacy of clients will more likely be exposed.”
And the truth is that they are correct. Being worried about privacy leaks and hacks in the online transmission of information is a legitimate concern. Just look at how the field of cyber security continues to expand and grow in sophistication. Take something as simple as email. There is no way to ensure its complete safety and confidentiality.
Is Any Therapy Confidential?
But to focus on the online venue is to miss the point. To be human means that privacy isn’t guaranteed. People are people, and there are plenty of security breaches out there in the “offline world” as well. It’s always been that way, and it will always be that way. So Is it reasonable to institute a standard for the “online world” that is unattainable in the “offline world?
Maybe you don’t understand how simple it is to violate a client’s privacy in face to face therapy.
Is anyone to prevent office personnel other than the clinician from taking a quick peek at the client’s chart? This silent and perhaps unintentional breach of confidentiality is more common than most of us would like to believe. In reality accessing a client’s file is often no more complicated than unlocking the filing cabinet or doing a search in the computer database.
Did you ever stop to think how many therapists disclose private information about a client when discussing the case with other staff members or a clinical director? To further complicate the situation, ethical standards of protecting client privacy vary by profession further putting client confidentiality at risk.
How To Play it Safe
So the privacy concern isn’t really about “online”, but is actually much broader than most people think. It often boils down to adherence to regulations that have been established to protect client privacy. So what is a responsible caring school administrator to do?
The only answer is to work with a high-quality, reputable agency that can assure you that all of the industry regulations of privacy are being followed and that everything is being done to satisfy all HIPAA, FERPA and COPPA standards ensuring the privacy of all sessions and data.
Bottom line, receiving therapy online is no riskier than face to face. Both are very confidential; neither is 100% perfect. So when you consider the many benefits of teletherapy and weigh them against your confidentiality concerns, rest assured that you are probably safer than you think.