When we hold ourselves out to the public as licensed professionals, there is a “standard of care” that we legally are obligated to follow. That standard of care may differ in minor ways from legal jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but for the most part, it involves face-to-face assessment and treatment, as well as a full discussion and signing of an informed consent agreement.
Our legal standard of care has not yet been expanded to include email, chat room or exclusive Skype-based counseling or psychotherapy. Until it is, practitioners using these telecommunication tools could find it difficult to defend themselves if something goes wrong.
I fully trust that day will come when the technology will be developed to the point where exclusive online contact with all people worldwide is the standard of care — without prior face-to-face meetings. I’ve been working harder than most people to make that happen since 1994, and I’m confident it will happen in our lifetimes. It just isn’t here yet.
A good risk management strategy would be to simply meet with potential patients in a traditional setting, and conducting traditional intake and assessment before beginning treatment online. Those patients deemed inappropriate for such treatment can thereby be seen face-to-face or referred to other practitioners.
Those are my views about risk management, what are yours? Can you provide additional information that might change my perspective? Please comment below.