The switch to virtual telehealth visits brought challenges many mental health professionals didn’t anticipate. With in-person visits, clients can see your whole body, see your non-verbal cues more easily, and experience the atmosphere you’ve created in your office to help them feel at ease.
Telehealth software is an amazing tool that enables mental health providers to visit with their clients and clients more easily. Individuals can attend therapy remotely, allowing them to easily fit it into their calendar and prioritize it in their busy schedules. It has made mental health care more accessible across the board.
The challenges it presents involve the changes providers must make with how they perform during a visit. While they may only be able to see your head and shoulders, they still need to know that you are attentive, professional, and eager to make them feel comfortable during their visit. This can be a little more challenging to accommodate virtually than in person.
This article will discuss nine professionalism best practices for mental health providers using telehealth. Following these will make sure you can offer the best care to your clients both in person and online.
9 Tips for Professionalism in Telehealth Therapy
- Don’t Leave Your Client Wondering Where You Are – For an in-office visit; there’s a waiting room where clients know they might be waiting for a minute before you can see them. This doesn’t exist with telehealth. Even if there is a virtual waiting room, clients still sit by themselves at their computers, waiting for you to join. This can make it much more obvious and frustrating when you run late for a visit. It is best and most professional to be punctual to your telehealth appointments.
- Silence or Turn off Your Phone – Nothing is worse than when your phone goes off during an appointment. You wouldn’t have your notifications on during an in-person visit, so don’t have your sound on during a virtual one. Setting your phone somewhere else is best so you’re not tempted to peek at it during the appointment.
- It’s Not a Lunch Break – You may have had zoom calls with colleagues or friends during the pandemic where it was appropriate to eat a snack simultaneously or catch up on lunch, but not in this setting. Your client is free to eat as much as they want during an appointment, but it would be considered unprofessional and disrespectful for you to do the same.
- Stay HIPAA Compliant – Security is everything regarding your client’s care. You need to keep their visits confidential and their information protected. This can be challenging with virtual visits in some situations. Ensure you are behind a closed door, where no one else in your office or home can hear the conversation.
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- Use Quality Technology – Make sure you have a Wi-Fi connection and a computer that can handle the demands of telehealth software. Your client may feel abandoned or frustrated if your connection suddenly drops in the middle of a visit. Not only this, but you also need a top-of-the-line telehealth and scheduling solution to help the visit run smoothly. This will ensure your client has a pleasant experience and technical issues become a thing of the past.
- Set Up Your Space – You may not be able to replicate your in-office atmosphere online, but you should do your best. Set up your background to include the same calming artwork, colors, and design elements you would provide for your clients if they were coming in. This will not only help you come across as professional, but it will help your clients who may be battling stress, anxiety, or trauma feel at ease while talking to you.
- Dress Professionally – Many of us traded our slacks for sweatpants when virtual calls became popular in the 2020s, but that can’t happen here. Your clients deserve to know you care about your job and their well-being, so you must dress the part. Ensure you dress for an in-office visit, even though you’re meeting online.
- When You Have to Look Away, Say Why – While you may need to take notes or peek at a client’s chart during a visit, looking away from them while having a conversation can make someone feel like you aren’t paying attention to them. Quality telehealth software with integrated tools can help minimize the need to click between screens and look away from your client, but you should always let them know why and when you need to go elsewhere so they don’t feel like they’re being dismissed.
- Offer More Clarity – Since non-verbal cues can be hard to notice on a telehealth call, it is important to offer clarity when possible. Communicate what you’re doing and what the next steps will be, schedule their next appointment in the telehealth software solution, and let them know that you heard everything discussed on that call so you can pick back up where you left off on the next one. Taking the extra time to explain things you might not normally do during an in-office appointment can help them feel engaged and connected to you at the same level.
Stay Up to Date with Technology Trends in Therapy with TheraNest
A fully-integrated telehealth solution will help you stay on top of the latest technological trends in therapy as you scale and grow your practice. TheraNest offers the easiest, HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing tool that your clients will ever use. It gives providers full control over the audio and video of their sessions and the ability to conduct group sessions and share their screens while fully integrating with a comprehensive client portal and scheduling solution. Your clients only need a link to join the session, meaning there are no logins to keep track of. They can join from their desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. This makes the tool accessible and easy for those struggling.
TheraNest is also #1 when it comes to helping providers with scheduling. Managing a hybrid or in-office and virtual visits, group and individual sessions, and more can become complicated. Our schedule function integrates directly with the tools you use most so that you can view every aspect of your schedule in one, easy-to-understand place.
To learn more about a top-tier scheduling tool with telehealth capabilities, try TheraNest’s 21-day free trial.