online therapy for rural schools and confidentiality

Online Therapy for Rural Schools, but is it Confidential?

Advantages of Online Therapy for Rural Schools

The benefits of online therapy for rural schools are many and on the rise.  Take for example the convenience and flexibility that the Internet affords. Without compromising quality, online therapy is often less expensive. And expanded access to language preferences and specialties increases the likelihood of that perfect fit!

But is it confidential?

Risk of Compromising Confidentiality Online

Many assert that privacy, or protecting client information, puts into question the value of online therapy in general, and online therapy for rural schools in particular. Their claim is that the reliance on technology and electronic communications threatens patient confidentiality unless great care is exercised.

It is reasonable to be concerned about hacks and privacy leaks due to the online transmission of information. Cyber security isn’t a booming business and adding layers of sophistication for nothing.   These breaches could be either intentional or accidental. Think about email for example. We all know that there is no way to ensure 100% security.

Problem of Confidentiality in Any Therapy

But let’s face it. Being that we are all human, there is rarely, if ever, guaranteed privacy. So why should we impose a standard on the “online world” that is unattainable in the “offline world.”  Perhaps you were unaware as to how easy confidentiality is at risk of being compromised in traditional face to face therapy.

Did you ever consider who is to prevent office personnel and others who handle patients charts from peeking at them? This “inadvertent” compromise of privacy happens more often than you think.  As a matter of fact, gaining access to a client’s chart may be as simple as going into an unlocked filing cabinet or accessing a record in the database file.

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Or what about when therapists converse with other staff members or a supervisor in an organization about a client, cavalier about protecting the client's anonymity.  Since ethical standards regarding confidentiality vary by profession, such accidental information may then further disseminated amongst the less professional staff.

It could be as simple as observing someone entering a mental health clinic or therapist’s office.  Surely there is a compromise of privacy and confidentiality any time the public can witness those individuals who come and go in search of improving their mental health.

Precautions to Reduce Risk Online

This all being true, there are things that you can do to protect yourself when receiving therapy online.  Select an online clinician whose website is secure and can keep all communications private and confidential. Assure all communications are addressed to your therapist. Do not share your computer or email passwords. If you don’t have a separate computer for therapy, be sure to close the browser when you complete the session.

Online isn’t as Risky as You May Think

The bottom line is, receiving therapy online is really no less safe than face to face. Both are very confidential; neither is 100% perfect.  It is well known that therapists regard protecting your confidentiality as sacred. You need not suspect a credentialed therapist would ever reveal to violate your trust and confidence intentionally.

But as most of us find out, confidences are sometimes at risk even in the best circumstances.  So, if you consider the many benefits of online therapy for rural schools and weigh them against your confidentiality concerns, rest assured that you are probably safer than you think.

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