What are the uses of online psychology ?
Online psychology consists of the provision of psychological services through the use of information technologies. These services can be offered in any specific field of psychology (eg, educational or clinical) to perform:
- Evaluations in psychological research : Online psychology facilitates evaluation at a massive level, allowing the results of questionnaires or surveys on psychological problems to be recorded and analyzed in an agile and fast way.
- Psychological counseling : When there is no psychological problem as such and the patient only seeks guidance or to acquire very specific tools, the psychologist can develop brief interventions through chat, videoconference or email.
- Psychological therapy : It is the format that this post will deal with due to its exponential increase during the coronavirus pandemic. It should be noted that when a patient is receiving psychological treatment, it is usual to have some other means of contact to be able to help him overcome a specific crisis (for example, in the face of autolytic ideas).
- Complement of face-to-face psychological therapy : When there are problems to attend the sessions in person, p. For example, due to the change of city or time incompatibility.
Advantages of online psychology .
- Allows close communication : Non-verbal communication provides information as important as verbal, as it allows to identify and differentiate facial expressions, body posture, etc.
- Efficiency and profitability : Reducing the time and cost of traveling can be especially important for people who live in an area far from psychological consultation, as well as for those who have a long working day and family commitments that do not allow them to attend in person (eg children or dependents).
“Online psychology sessions are very useful for people who live far from psychotherapy offices.”
- Accessibility and ease of maintaining the regularity of the sessions : There are people whose psychological problems make it difficult or even prevent them from going to the start of therapy (eg people with agoraphobia, anxiety or depression). In this sense, online psychology makes it easier to continue treatment regardless of geographical circumstances (eg people who travel frequently or who live in rural areas) or belonging to certain groups (eg young people or people with mobility reduced).
Limitations of online psychology.
- Possible ignorance of new technologies : Not all people have extensive knowledge of the different electronic resources (eg in the case of the elderly) or have the appropriate technology (eg good coverage). For this reason, the most common thing is for the psychologist to provide some means of intuitive use and to explain in advance the most basic operation of the application.
- Confidentiality problems and data protection risk : Carrying out an online session increases the possible loss of privacy if the patient does not take care of their privacy, especially at the IT level (an issue that will be discussed later).
- Clinical risks : The presence of a certain psychopathology makes it difficult for certain people to attend online . Given the special relevance of this point, the next section will be devoted to it.
Is online therapy recommended for all patients?
As mentioned above, online therapy is not recommended for all patients, although there are no absolute contraindications . In this sense, although the psychologist is ultimately responsible for ensuring quality, efficacy and safety during the intervention, it is important for the patient to know if their case meets the requirements of online therapy .
Thus, online therapy is advisable when:
- There is no option to attend a face-to-face session or it is not recommended, p. For example, for issues related to displacement.
- The basic criteria are met (being over 16 years of age or having contact with the legal representatives, having good technological management, having an adequate private space, etc.).
- The treatment is equivalent to or improves face-to-face treatment, that is, it is adapted to the conditions of therapeutic work and does not pose a risk to clinical progress (eg due to interruptions or communication problems).
- The clinical conditions allow it (not presenting a serious psychopathology and that does not require more than one weekly session).
Situations in which online psychology is inadvisable.
What are the clinical conditions that can hinder and, therefore, make the use of online therapy inadvisable ?:
- Have suicidal ideation or risk of self-harm, as well as homicidal ideation .
“Online psychology is not indicated in people with suicidal tendencies or ideation.”
- Being involved in problems of violence, abuse or harassment.
- Have significant family or relationship conflicts .
- Show severe impulse problems (eg, sex offenders), as well as substance abuse or severe eating disorders .
- Accusing a very low mood .
- Suffering from excessive anxiety , frequent seizures, or a lack of self-control strategies.
- Have a severe social disability (eg agoraphobia).
- Show a loss of contact and judgment of reality, that is, having delusions or hallucinations .
What are the patient’s rights in online therapy ?
- Agree in advance the terms of the service such as the contact, the opening hours or the economic remuneration.
- Confidentiality . In this sense, it should be noted that, except in exceptional circumstances (eg posing a serious danger to himself or others), the psychologist should not inform third parties about your case.
- Be informed about the characteristics of your problem , as well as the goals and plans for your psychological treatment.
- Receive scientifically endorsed therapeutic intervention techniques . It should be noted that, in the case of online therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be more effective than other psychological orientations.
- Be informed about the contraindications that online therapy may have in your case, as well as the reasons for the recommendation of its referral.
“The patient has the right to be informed of the possible contraindications of online psychology, in his specific case.”
- Postpone the online session . As a general rule, in psychological clinics (including Our Psychologist ) a session must be canceled at least twenty-four hours in advance so as not to lose the money for the session.
- Have an alternative means of communication with the psychologist : To solve possible technical failures, it is convenient to have an alternative means of communication (an email, a telephone number, etc.). In this way, the professional can try to solve the technical problem together with the patient and, in the case of not being able to solve the technical failure, complete the session through a phone call.
What are the obligations of the online psychologist ?
- Comply with the Code of Ethics and be committed to the good practice of psychology.
- Request personal information of the patient of a strictly professional nature (for example, the personal address to apply a protection plan against a possible suicide attempt), as well as additional information about someone close to whom to request assistance when a medium risk has been detected -high crisis or when circumstances require their direct or indirect participation to increase the therapeutic benefit.
- Recommend face-to-face sessions intermittently, especially in couples therapy or in view of the risk of violation of privacy due to the patient’s personal circumstances.
- Refer the patient to another specialist upon detection of a psychological disorder that he is not able to handle correctly.
- Terminate the psychological treatment when it has improved or when, after a reasonable time, it has not been able to achieve the objectives that had been proposed.
How to protect yourself to avoid security problems in online consultations ?
Here are some recommendations to avoid possible security problems that may arise when conducting online psychology consultations .
Choosing an appropriate physical environment.
Both the patient and the therapist have the duty to take care of the physical space in which the sessions will take place in order to guarantee their privacy and the conditions for the correct development of the sessions (eg adequate visibility).
“It is important to have a suitable environment, both for the psychologist and the patient, that guarantees privacy.”
Verifying the identity of the professional.
The name of the professional must be known and, in case of wanting to receive more detailed information, the professional can be asked to display their degree, the collegiate number, etc. on the screen.
Establishing contact guidelines.
At the beginning of the treatment, the patient and the professional have to agree on the frequency (at the beginning it is usually weekly) and duration of the sessions (the usual is between 45 minutes and an hour), as well as the means of contact with the professional and their availability to establish contact between sessions. Regarding the latter, the most frequent is to provide an email address in order to be able to modify the sessions or send additional information to the patient when the therapy requires it, as well as a way to contact the psychologist in case of emergency.
Knowing your own rights and the details related to confidentiality.
The psychologist must inform you of your rights as a patient through a document called informed consent , in which detailed aspects such as the financial remuneration of the professional, the schedule and the periodicity of the services appear.
“The patient must be informed by the psychologist of all the details that affect the therapeutic relationship.”
It should be noted that in the event that the professional has agreed with the patient to keep a copy of his audiovisual session, it cannot be provided in any case, unless the patient so specifies.
Taking care of the chosen device.
In addition to using a good resolution camera and a suitable audio system, it is recommended that the personal computer has updated antivirus software and a firewall installed, as well as a sufficiently fast bandwidth and use a cable connection to increase security in the communication (using a wifi or a public device is not advisable). Avoiding opening links from unsafe web pages or attachments from unknown senders is another way to keep your device safe.
Paying attention to privacy.
Use the same computer, preferably for personal use, to more easily restrict access to information. Likewise, ensuring that the password is only known by those involved is highly recommended in order to safeguard the stored information, as well as not leaving the device from which the sessions are carried out unattended for more than fifteen minutes. Regarding psychological therapy with minors, it is preferable that they do not share their email with the holders of their parental authority or guardianship.
Only in this way is online psychology a beneficial therapy for the patient, who is ultimately the one who has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages that this new modality entails, currently on the rise due to the pandemic and that requires some adaptation both on the part of the therapist as of the patient.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.