Before you jump in and book an appointment here are some important things you should consider when looking for an online therapist.
What are you needing help with? Are you looking for someone to provide online relationship counselling? Have you just had a baby and need to see someone with perinatal experience? Psychologists for example are trained to treat a wide range of mental health conditions but you might want to look for someone who has experience in your area of need. For example if you are looking for online relationship counselling make sure you look for a professional who has undertaken specific relationship training (e.g., Gottman Method Couples Therapy or Emotion Focussed Therapy). If you are looking for an online perinatal psychologist ensure that they have e working with women during pregnancy and post birth and have competed additional training in this area.
It's also important to consider whether your psychologist has experience in providing online therapy. Online therapy requires different skills and resources. To ensure that you get the most out of online therapy look for an online psychologist with experience in this area.
In Australia the term psychologist is what we call a protected term meaning that only people who are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) are allowed to call themselves a psychologist. “Counsellor” and “psychotherapist” are not protected terms in Australia and anyone can call themselves a counsellor whether they have completed extensive training or a three-day course. To be a registered psychologist you must have completed a minimum of six years of training including a minimum of one to two years of supervised clinical practice.
It is important to check that the online professional holds appropriate registration or is accredited with an appropriate professional body e.g., for dietitians that they are accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia. You can check on the relevant regulatory or professional associations website to make sure they are registered/ accredited. For example you can check AHPRA’s register of practitioners to check your online psychologist is registered.
Make sure you check out your online therapist’s qualifications. Have they completed undergraduate and/or postgraduate studies in nutrition/ psychology or their area of speciality e.g., psychology, dietetics? Was their training conducted through a reputable university? If you haven’t heard of the university, a quick google never goes astray.
Of course we all want to know that our information will remain confidential. Online psychologists and other registered and accredited health professionals are bound by particular codes that address aspects of your treatment such as confidentiality. In Australia health professionals are also bound by the Privacy Act.
Check that that the online psychology or health practice uses HIPAA compliant video conferencing software to ensure data integrity. Online psychologists should use secure video conferencing software. For example programs that you might use to communicate with friends such as facetime, skype, and whats app would not meet the level of security required for the provision of health services.
If you are looking for a therapist online make sure you do a little research on the practice's website. Check out the address listed (again this is why we love google), read information about the organisation, do they have a director with clinical experience. Do the values of the organisation align with your own? Do they use evidence - based approaches.
Once you’ve done your research you’ll feel more confident that your online health professional has the skills, experience, and resources needed to provide the best possible care for you. Then you can settle in and make the most of the accessibility of online therapy