Security Features to Look for in a Therapy App

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security features in therapy apps

Even before the global pandemic of COVID-19, it seemed like you could find an app for almost anything. Now, as a result of most of the world finding themselves in quarantine, most businesses are trying to find a way to make their companies virtual, and therapy services are no exception.

Teletherapy has been a developing model for mental health treatment for years; private therapists and psychiatrists have been offering teletherapy options to their patients and more recently companies have been created to create more affordable ways to find and secure online therapy. These services definitely make seeking therapy more convenient, but just like face-to-face therapy, there are several decisions you will need to make when deciding which app is right for you.

One of these considerations, in particular, involves determining how the app or site manages security issues. In therapy, the relationship between a therapist and patient is confidential, meaning that anything that is said in the therapy room is supposed to stay within the therapy room unless the patient specifically consents for their information to be shared elsewhere.

This is relatively easy to manage with face-to-face therapy, as therapists will have secure office facilities where they see patients that ensure confidentiality. When conducting therapy on the Internet or through an app, however, this inherently makes the relationship somewhat less secure due to the fact that the sessions are being conducted via the Internet.

As we all know, the internet can be extremely beneficial, but can leave you vulnerable to having your personal information manipulated through hacking, viruses, and scams. Anytime you are online, these risks exist, even in therapy apps. It’s important for therapists and patients alike to understand the risks that come with an online therapy relationship.

Important Security Features

Here are three important security features to look out for when selecting your online therapy:

  1. HIPAA Compliance – Therapists, and other health professionals, are required to follow the rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which protects the privacy and security of certain health information. The HIPAA privacy rule requires health professionals to let their patients know how their personal information will be used and how it is protected. Prior to beginning therapy, a therapist should present you with a HIPAA notice of policies and procedures for their company that you will have the opportunity to sign. This document will discuss the ways they will protect your public health record personal data and the ways in which it will be used during and after your treatment.
  2. Encryption Security Services – Whether you’re using an app to find a therapist, or seeking out a therapist directly who is offering online therapy services, you should be able to ask them about what platforms they will be using for therapy and other exchanges of personal information and confirm that they are using up-to-date encryption security services to protect both your personal information and your privacy during teletherapy sessions. Most of the teletherapy apps will provide information on their homepage about their secure and safe encryption services, but you can also look at their FAQ pages to find out more about their privacy procedures.
  3. Ethical Considerations – Therapists are bound by an ethics code that requires them to make your privacy and confidentiality a top priority. When seeing a therapist, whether online, via an app, or private, you can always ask questions about how they will actively protect your personal information both in sessions and when documenting and charging for sessions when they are through. Therapists should be happy to discuss any concerns you have and should make you feel comfortable about the commitment you’re making to a virtual treatment plan before beginning treatment.
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Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events
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