Security Features to Look for in a Therapy App

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Updated on November 25, 2020

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.

therapy app security

Teletherapy has been a developing model for mental health treatment for years; private therapists and psychiatrists have been offering online therapy as an option for patients, and more recently, large platforms have been created that allow for more affordable and convenient ways to engage in remote therapy sessions. Many of these platforms offer their customers the option of attending sessions via dedicated therapy mobile apps that include many, if not all, of the same features they offer in their online platforms.

When choosing a provider, determining how their app handles security and privacy should be a consideration for everyone. 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 sessions, as therapists will have secure office facilities where they see patients that ensure confidentiality. When conducting therapy through an app, however, this inherently makes the relationship somewhat less secure due to the fact that digital communication can be stored and hacked.

Important Security Features

Here are three important security features to look out for when selecting a therapy app:

  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 – You should find out which platforms the therapists will be using to conduct sessions 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. Most of the apps will provide this information in the app store or on their websites.
  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, 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.

While the thought of having your confidential information leaked may be frightening, it’s worth mentioning that most reputable platforms, and many responsible therapy practitioners do take the proper precautions to protect their patients. Ensuring you are protected is just a matter of asking your provider a few simple questions before you can move on and enjoy the many benefits of engaging in therapy via mobile app.

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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