This post is a friendly collaboration between Brighter Vision, thera-LINK, and Hushmail. We put our collective heads and industry-leading brains together and built the ultimate guide on essential tools for a powerhouse 21st-century practice!
Therapy Today: Balancing Tech & Tradition
The integration of technology in our everyday lives is old news. Living in 2018, we’re well aware of the new norms and expectations that now influence our interactions. As therapists, the tricky part is finding how to best adapt your practices to embrace the unique opportunities technology has to offer while still preserving the essential elements of the tried and true, traditional therapeutic experience. To achieve this balance, you need an effective toolbox with the right tools to build a well-rounded, successful practice. And in 2018 and beyond, being well-rounded includes having an online presence and the integration of technology.
We understand that the relationship between therapist and client is paramount and no communication service, no matter how advanced, will be any use to the therapist if it compromises that relationship.
Technology must be, first and foremost, secure and reliable. Then, it must be easy to use and convenient. Finally, it must be useful. When a service meets all three criteria, it can be very helpful in attracting new clients and maintaining lasting relationships so they can receive the care they need. In person and online, the goal is to create a safe space for your client in a professional environment that fosters trust and enables growth.
It’s not the number of tools you have in your tool box but the quality of the essential tools and their role in building trust in the client therapist relationship that matters.
5 Essential Tools for Your Therapist Toolbox
1. A Website
Every good therapist knows that a website is as essential for your practice as an office address. After all, your marketing efforts only pay off if you provide a place for your potential clients to reach out or learn more, right? (When you Google someone you met at a conference and nothing comes up, do you double-down and look harder? Chances are you simply move on, just like your potential clients would.)
Your website acts as a brochure, offering information about who you are as a therapist and how your practice functions. By picking a service or platform that can customize your site and avoiding a “cookie cutter” look, you help reduce the number of mismatched consultations and help increase your chances of being seen by your perfect clients.
Pro Tip: Find a service, such as Brighter Vision, that specializes in website development for mental health professionals and integrates professional search engine optimization (SEO) techniques into your site. These techniques are key and will help your website steadily move upward in Google’s search results.
Having a well designed, search engine optimized site will make an enormous difference to your practice’s level of success online, both immediately and in the long run.
2. An Encrypted & HIPAA-Compliant Email Service
When a therapist engages in an email conversation with a patient, highly sensitive information is exchanged that could be damaging to both parties if intercepted or lost. Yet, email is so convenient and provides so many benefits to both therapist and client, it has become a necessity in many practices. Today, an encrypted and HIPAA-compliant email service is critical to conduct business professionally and keep your practice liability free.
Pro Tip: Find a service, such as Hushmail, that gives therapists the ability to send encrypted, HIPAA-compliant email to their clients. Look for one that allows encryption even if the client doesn’t also have an encrypted email account.
3. Secure Forms/Document Sharing
Encryption should also extend to document sharing and webforms, such as Hush Secure Forms from Hushmail. This may include documents such as client intake forms (either in the office or online), client homework, or even notes released from a previous phase of care. Crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s with this level of security from the beginning allows therapist and client to engage naturally without the fear of a breach in confidentiality.
4. Video Conferencing/Telehealth
Meet your clients where they’re at, regardless of circumstance. We all know unpredictability is a fact of life but it doesn’t have to be a part of your private practice. We can’t predict when an illness will hit, when our flight will be delayed, or if traffic will double our commute time, but we can have plans in place so we aren’t derailed when the unexpected occurs. By adding an online video therapy platform (telehealth) to your toolbox, you provide yourself and your clients with an alternative to the in-office session without sacrificing the non-verbal cues gained through a face-to-face interaction. Beyond salvaging otherwise missed appointments and last-minute cancellations, telehealth will also increase your marketability. In the age of technology and convenience, consumers have come to demand mobility and multi-channel engagement options — especially the growing “screen” generations like Generation Z (1995-2012). With telehealth in your wheelhouse, this newfound flexibility allows you to explore more career opportunities like conducting supervision hours online, indulging your love of travel while maintaining that stream of income, or even cushioning your transition into retirement with gradual client load reduction.
In choosing a telehealth provider, be sure to steer clear of personal consumer-based video platforms used in daily interactions with friends or family and find a platform that’s HIPAA-compliant — this is important for liability and professional standards. The last thing a client wants to think about is whether or not their therapy sessions are truly private. When a client knows the tools a therapist uses ensures their privacy, they can focus on more important matters, such as getting the help they need.
Pro Tip: Find a platform such as thera-LINK that was built specifically for therapists. This will impact the success of your sessions as all aspects of the session will be made to mirror a traditional therapy session. Started by a therapist herself, thera-LINK provides the classic essential practice management features such as scheduling, payment, and notes, but goes further still with details like customizable waiting rooms to truly emphasize the authentic experience.
5. Exceptional Technical Support
It is also important that technology not create barriers to care. Such barriers might include an overly complicated interface that intimidates clients or a service that doesn’t offer immediate customer care to fix problems should they arise. Just as a therapist might decorate an office and keep it free of clutter so the client is comfortable, technology must also foster a sense of comfort and confidence in the user.
The authentic therapeutic experience is all about a safe space in which the therapist client relationship can grow. To foster that environment, make sure the services you use include dedicated support (ideally 24/7 for video conferencing) and take advantage of demos, trials, and trainings to make sure the services match the values of your practice. Choose companies with specialists in the areas of SEO and HIPAA-compliance and benefit from their invaluable expertise that will elevate your practice and put your mind at ease.
At the end of the day, it’s the tools that will keep your practice relevant in the digital age, but it’s the team behind them that will empower you to keep your focus on the therapy so you can deliver the best care to your clients.
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