Certified online mental health professionals are as qualified as therapists who meet their clients in offices. Potential clients for such services can verify those qualifications in several ways, assuring themselves that they may safely proceed with therapeutic conversations or realizing that they must look elsewhere for the services they require.
Websites offering mental health services tend to post their credentials on their home pages. BetterHelp.com is one such example; its home page indicates membership in the America’s legally required Health Information Privacy Act and in the International Society for Mental Health Online. Breakthrough.com’s FAQ page responds to Frequently Asked Questions with an indication that therapists must have a National Provider Identifier (NPI) that is issued to health care providers in the United States by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and a behavioral health license in a state where Breakthrough operates. Direct communication with those and similar organizations can let callers or E-mailers learn of academic credentials, too. The convenience of online communication makes that readily possible.
America’s confidentiality laws regarding patient records are applicable to all forms of care. Someone receiving therapy online is just as protected by those laws as a client in someone’s office. Privacy issues are protected online as they are in offices.
When it comes to choosing an online therapist, potential clients would be wise to make a thorough reading of the American Psychological Association’s What you need to know before choosing online therapy site. There’s more helpful information on the What is Online Therapy page at the Talkspace site.
A caveat is necessary for people new to the world of online therapy. Some websites such as 7 Cups of Tea provide “listeners” rather than trained and licensed therapists.
The lack of sufficient education and certification or licensing can limit the abilities of such listeners. Their capabilities for helping distraught people might not be as plentiful or as competent as those of actual therapists. But if all the client wants is the opportunity to vent or to share ideas with someone, to talk out the thoughts weighing on their mind, then a “listener” might be the perfect person to speak with.
It is always up to the client to verify the background and reputation of a therapist whether online or in-office. Once the potential client is satisfied that a therapist’s qualifications are in order, the cyber door is open to healing possibilities.