Screening for Fit
The focus of this screening for fit is on the technology aspect of therapy, not on the therapeutic approach or me as a counselor. For information about my focus and approach, see my counseling services page. Since my service is 100% online, it is important for you to know if teletherapy will work for you. I provide this screening to help you decide if teletherapy is the right fit for you, or if you would be better served by in-person therapy.
The information and questions in this overview will guide you in reaching an informed decision about starting therapy online. At the end of this overview, I’ll ask you a bunch of questions to explore your comfort level with the technology I use in my practice - call it a check for fit. But don't skip ahead to the end! (I am so the kind of person who does that, too.) Before you check for fit, read about the programs I use and how these choices protect you. The screening is a self-assessment. Your answers are not scored or submitted anywhere.
Please note that my teletherapy practice serves clients who are located in the state of Florida at the time of service.
In my Florida-based teletherapy practice, I use several HIPAA-secure telecommunications applications for video conferencing, phone calls, text messaging, email messaging, and secure websites where I house interactive online content to support you in your therapy. If you want to know more about HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), my HIPAA notice of privacy policies explains it in depth.
I use two video applications for telemental health video sessions: Zoom for Healthcare and Google Meet. These apps are HIPAA-secure to protect your privacy.
If you'd like to know why I chose Zoom and Meet, I explain the reasons in my technology and security policies and procedures.
Just in case you're not familiar with how to install and use these applications, I've provided tutorials for you on the tech trainings page of my website.
Calls, Texts, and Faxes
I know how important it is for you to reach your therapist quickly and easily. It's tempting to favor convenience and expediency over security. But what if I told you we can have all three?
Did you know that calls placed between personal phone numbers are neither private nor secure? Unfortunately, this lack of security also applies to calls placed from HIPAA-secure business accounts to your personal phone. Calls to your personal number are vulnerable to data collection and hacking.
The same goes for text-messaging. In some cases, the apps on your phone require permission to view your text messages so they can collect information about you. SMS text messages are stored and read by your phone carrier's employees. This helps your service provider improve functionality, but it also subjects you to data mining for marketing purposes.
Bottom line: Without a HIPAA-secure app, calls and texts are not private.
To protect your privacy, I use an app called iPlum for HIPAA-secure phone calls, secure text messaging, and secure faxing. Your contact information is stored in the app - not on my phone, which keeps your personal health information away from third party apps and services. Our conversations and texts are encrypted in transit, and calls are securely routed through voice network or internet data - whichever has the clearer connection. There is no cost to you to install the iPlum app. It's included with all my service packages.
You can read about iPlum here if you'd like more information.
Who has access to your email? Do you stay signed into your email on your computer, tablet, or phone? If so, there may be several people who could read your email if they wanted to: a nosy roommate, an abusive spouse, a curious coworker, a meddlesome parent, and even your email service provider. With most email service providers, access to your emails is a condition of your terms of service. Did you know that? Let's say you use Gmail. Google's terms of service for personal accounts gives them liberal access and rights to any email content in personal accounts. Your emails can be read by any Google employee whose job is to monitor emails for functionality or content, or any AI data mining program used by Google or other email service providers. The same is true for other email service providers as well.
So what happens if you need to speak to your therapist and you can't get to them in real time? Is it safe to send an email? It is if the email is encrypted. I use ProtonMail for HIPAA-secure, encrypted email so your messages can only be viewed by you. The service I use gives me the option to send an encrypted link in the body of the email so no one can see the message but you. All anyone can see in the email is that link. The message can only be read when you click on the link. The message opens in a secure, encrypted web page. you enter your passcode, and you can read and respond to the message. When you reply from that encrypted web page, your responses are also secure. You will set up your passcode during your intake process on your initial contact form. This method prevents anyone else from reading emails between you and your therapist. I've got some tips for you on how to set up a secure passcode in my technology and security policies and procedures. You do not need to install an app to receive emails this way, and this level of security is included in all my service packages.
Can you choose to receive unsecured emails if this all sounds like more trouble than it's worth? Sure you can, but I wouldn't advise it. Communications about your therapy are personal. Once your information is out there, it's out there. But you have the right to that option if that's your preference. If you decide to go the unsecured route, I'll send you an authorization agreement that allows you to select unsecured communications.
I use Google Workspace Enterprise for Healthcare as my overall management system because of the adaptability of their tools in creating a robust online experience. I believe Google's Workspace products are ideal for customizing online therapy. The online experience must be designed and approached differently from the in-person experience in order to deliver equivalent quality.
The Workspace suite of business applications offers these HIPAA-compliant features:
Secure Google Drive storage folders and files to protect your privacy.
Secure Google Forms for your assessments and evaluations and for secure communications.
Secure and reliable video conferencing.
The ability to limit website permissions to a single client so you get your own secure, private therapy and training website. That's where you’ll find reading material, worksheets, videos, and interactive learning content designed and curated specifically for you.
If you need assistance with any of these technologies, I am happy to provide the necessary introduction and orientation to these technologies in session. In the meantime, have a look at the quick tutorials on my tech trainings page.
My technology and security policies and procedures go into more detail about why I chose the programs I chose to give you a more comprehensive picture of how I safeguard your security.
Please note that if you are not willing to install these video, calling, and text messaging apps, our communications about your therapy will not be secure, and your privacy may be breached. The same risk applies to email messages if you prefer unsecured email. You have the right to decline secure communications, but I would advise against it.
Should you choose to proceed with therapy and elect to not to use these tools, you will need to sign an agreement waiving the option for secure communications. On this waiver, you would acknowledge that you were given a more secure option for each method of communication and declined it, and you would accept all liability for any breach resulting from this choice.
My practice is 100% online. To receive telemental health therapy, you will need to complete several activities online.
Set up an account
To maintain your privacy and store your chart securely, I use a group of HIPAA-compliant apps through a business suite called Google Workspace Enterprise. An individualized, private therapy and training website is included with each of my service packages. To access your private site, you will need a Gmail login. You will also need a Gmail login to access the Google Drive folder where your documents will be stored - things like your treatment plan, informed consent agreement, reading materials, worksheets, etc. Setting up a Gmail account is free, fast, and easy. To set up an account, follow these instructions or watch this video. Check out these tips on keeping your Gmail account secure. I strongly suggest you set up two-factor verification, also known as two-factor authentication (2FA). This article walks you through how to set up 2FA for your Google account and a variety of other platforms. Even if you already have a Gmail account, I strongly encourage you to set up a Gmail account specifically for this purpose. Keeping a separate Gmail account that you use only for therapy reduces the risk of a security breach.
Fill out forms
I use Google Forms and Jotform for initial contact, questions, assessments, and evaluations. When you fill out these forms, you will identify yourself with your name, an identity verification passcode, and your electronic signature. Electronic signatures are legally binding, whether they are typed or drawn with a mouse/stylus/finger. Some of these forms will automatically collect your IP address and email address. For the purpose of teletherapy, a valid electronic signature is required by law. Your signature on each form applies only to that form unless otherwise clearly stated. Once you sign and submit a form, the information you entered is stored in a HIPAA-secure Google Drive folder. I have access to that folder. There are no employees, staff, or other contractors who have access. For an explanation of who can access your protected health information, when, how, and under what conditions, please read my HIPAA notice of privacy practices and my confidentiality policy, which you will receive via email after I receive your completed initial contact form. Those conditions are strictly observed. In almost all situations, your records will not be shared or accessed without your signed authorization for a release of information.
If you have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible for you to fill out online forms, teletherapy may be challenging and stressful for you. However, we may be able to accommodate your disability by arranging for your representative to assist you during the intake process. Once you are in therapy with me, I can assist you with forms during your sessions if your disability prevents you from completing them yourself. Examples of disabilities that might hinder your ability to fill out online forms include impairment of manual dexterity, visual impairment, and reading comprehension impairment.
Install applications so we can communicate securely
To protect your privacy and ensure your safety, I use the following HIPAA-compliant communications applications:
For video conferencing: Zoom for Healthcare and Google Meet for Workspace Enterprise
For phone calls, texts, and faxing: iPlum for Healthcare
For encrypted email: Hushmail
For forms: Google Forms
For individualized private therapy and training websites: Google Sites
You will need to install these apps: Zoom, Google Meet, and iPlum. There is no cost for you to install and use these apps through my services.
When you first click on a Zoom meeting link, you will be prompted to install the Zoom app. To install it in advance, download Zoom to your computer, install the Zoom app on your Android mobile device, or install Zoom on your iOS mobile device. Zoom gets glitchy if it’s not updated regularly, so check it once a week to make sure you have the current version. Read my technology and security policies and procedures and tech trainings for how to update Zoom.
You will not need to install Google Meet on a computer; the application will open in a web page. You will need to install the Meet app to access a Google Meet video conference from a mobile device. You will be prompted to install it when you click on a Meet link. Install the Meet app in advance on your Android devices or Apple devices.
Do not install the iPlum app until you receive an invitation from me. This will ensure that you are accessing the secure connection that is hosted by my HIPAA-compliant account. I pay for the app; you do not. If you install it before receiving the invitation, you might inadvertently access the unsecured version. Once you receive the invitation by text, you will click on the link and it will prompt you to install the app. You will create a password to sign in. For added security, I suggest you enable two-factor authentication as well. Texts will come to you within the app. Calls will come to your regular phone number but will be secure because they transmit through my HIPAA-secure iPlum account.
You will not need to install applications to access Google Forms or Google Sites, but you will need a Gmail account to access your private therapy and training site. You can access Gmail from a computer or a mobile device. Set up Gmail on your Android device or your iPhone. You will not need an app to access ProtonMail. Encrypted emails will arrive in your regular email inbox.
Create passwords, passphrases, and passcodes
To use teletherapy securely, you will need the willingness to set up passwords, passphrases, and passcodes. You will need to either remember them or store them somewhere no one else can find them, and be able to retrieve them when needed. A password is a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, generally 6-20 characters. The more characters and the more variety, the safer the password. A passphrase is typically a short sentence, such as “I like blue bikes”. A passcode can be either a password or a passphrase. Passwords, passphrases, and passcodes are case sensitive. For helpful tips on how to create safe passwords, passcodes, and passphrases, read my HIPAA notice of privacy practices.
For my teletherapy practice, you will need four sign-in credentials:
A password for your Gmail account.
An identity verification passcode (IVP) that you will set up during the intake process and provide to me at every session so I can confirm you are you. The IVP can be one word, a combination of words, or a short phrase. It should be easy for you to remember but not easy for someone who knows you to guess.
A passphrase for signing in to view encrypted emails. You will not share this passphrase with me and should not share it with anyone else.
A password for signing into the iPlum app which we use for secure texts, phone calls, and faxes.
Watch videos, listen to audio, read materials online
Your private therapy and training site is designed to be a smart learning space. This means:
The fresh, provocative content and inquiry-based exercises will make you smarter by increasing your knowledge, improving your skills, and helping you develop your ability to make healthy decisions for yourself.
The content is presented using evidenced-based design practices that promote learning and retention and manage cognitive overload, helping you ask pointed questions and construct self-directed answers.
The material is curated to help you work smarter, not harder.
The content draws from sources all over the digital world, subtly building your skills at navigating the internet for information and opportunities that increase your confidence, your self-efficacy, and your sense of self-worth.
Your therapeutic learning experience is supported with feedback throughout the week.
Worksheets are provided in digital format so you don't have to print them out to work on them. Of course, you could if that's your preference.
Appear on video
Hey, don't panic! It'll be just you and me. No recordings, nobody else watching. For the first session (and I recommend the first month at least), we’ll be meeting on video. After that, we might meet via phone, text messaging, or email messaging as well. See my therapy services and fees page for more details.
The law requires me to confirm your identity in order to provide teletherapy. I will ask you to verify your identity on forms and in sessions to prevent any third parties from pretending to be you. This will require photo identification and an identity verification passcode. You will create your identity verification passcode on your initial contact form, and you will provide it every time we make contact after that - on forms, in video sessions, and on the phone. Please see my identity verification policies and procedures for more details.
During the intake process, I will send you a HIPAA-secure online form where you can upload your driver's license or government-issued photo identification. This is the same process as when you meet with an in-person counselor or treatment facility and they take your picture or photocopy your ID. The only difference is that instead of someone else uploading it to your electronic chart, you are the person uploading it. Your ID is part of your protected health information and will be treated with the same security precautions as a medical record.
Some clients have asked if they can just show their ID during the first session. This will not suffice. I must have your confirmed ID on record in order to treat you so I can compare it to the person I am seeing on the screen.
I will ask you to show your government-issued photo identification at the start of your first video session so I can confirm your identity and match you to the ID on file. I must confirm your identity so none of your personal information is shared with someone impersonating you.
If your appearance has changed significantly since you last obtained a photo ID, or if you do not have a photo ID, please use my questions about counseling services form to reach out and we can talk about other ways to confirm your identity.
If you are a person with disabilities, please contact me and we will discuss ways to accommodate you. If you are unable to complete the form, you may have a representative complete it for you as discussed on my disabilities accommodations page.
With teletherapy, there is the potential for technology breakdowns and interruptions. These disruptions are rare, but they do happen. In the event of an internet malfunction or other technical issue, we will have other methods of communicating via distance. For example, we might switch from video to phone, or from phone to text messaging or email messaging. We will create a plan for those contingencies during our initial session.
My practice is fully online, including the informed consent process, all communications, any collateral interviews, and any consultations with other professionals involved in your care. This includes medical and legal professionals.
I am currently licensed as a mental health counselor in the state of Florida only. Legally, I cannot work with you unless you are physically located in the state of Florida at the time of service. Please see my travel policy for more information.
Because we are meeting online, I cannot perform emergency services that would require my physical presence. However, we will set up an emergency management plan to make sure help can get to you if help is needed.
During your first session, you will provide me with the ten digit phone number and location of the emergency service closest to where you will typically be located during therapy. If you plan to have therapy at multiple locations (i.e. home and work, in a parked car), it is important to provide emergency services contact information for each location.
Note that it is not practical for me to call 911 for you. Calling 911 automatically routes the caller to the caller's location. If you are in a different city, it will not help you if I call 911. This is why I need to obtain the phone number for your local emergency services.
This is a private pay practice, also known as direct pay or self pay. Please see my counseling policies for payment, appointments, cancellations, and records requests. You will receive my policies via email after I receive your completed initial contact form. Payment is required 48 hours prior to a scheduled session or the appointment is automatically cancelled. Because this is a teletherapy practice, payment must be submitted online, either via PayPal or Square. The pros and cons of each are discussed in my technology and security policies and procedures. Both platforms allow you to link your choice of bank account or credit card.
Reasons to Exclude Teletherapy
The following conditions may be a strong indication that telemental health therapy is not a good fit for you at this time.
There are risks to receiving telemental health services in domestic abuse situations. Some of these risks include compromises to your privacy and security. For example, your abuser may install spyware on your devices, or may insist that you share your passwords and passphrases with them so they can access your therapy records and other protected health information. Your abuser may insist on being present during your sessions or monitor your sessions with electronic listening devices. Because of these risks, teletherapy may not be the safest option for you. If you are living in an abusive situation, please contact one of the crisis resources on my find immediate help page.
Making Your Decision
Now's the time to look at whether teletherapy is the right fit for you. The self-assessment screening below will help you decide. These questions specifically address the technical aspects of teletherapy with my practice. This is not a test. Answer the questions honestly. You're the only one who's going to see the answers.
A quick reminder: My teletherapy practice serves clients who are located in the state of Florida at the time of service only.
Click anywhere on the image below to start the assessment.
So how do you know what to make of this screening? If you saw positive feedback for the majority of your responses, teletherapy is probably the right fit for you at this time. If you could identify with any of the risk factors for excluding teletherapy, it is probably best that you find an in-person therapist or treatment facility for now.
Thank you for considering these factors in making a decision to try telemental health counseling. If you're still not sure, click on each of the headings below to learn more about me and my services.
Benefits of counseling, advantages of concierge counseling, limitations of telemental health services, get to know your counselor, my qualifications and clinical approach, my eight tenets of recovery, and paths to improvement.
Everything you could possibly want to know about how my practice operates. You will receive my policies via email after I receive your completed initial contact form.
My company's mission, vision, core values, branding, and a short blurb about me as a person.
Everything not covered in the policies and procedures.
Teletherapy via video, phone, text messaging, email messaging. and your private therapy and training website.
A step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
Explains the tech I use, why I chose it, and how it works to keep your personal health information secure.
Explains what HIPAA is, outlines your rights, my responsibilities, how your information can and cannot be used, and all the safeguards I have in place to protect you.
Explains the accommodations that are possible for clients with visual, auditory, manual, and reading impairments.
Get in Touch
If you have any questions about my counseling services not answered on my website, feel free to reach out via this form. If you are a person with disabilities and you would like to contact me about the feasibility of adapting teletherapy to your needs, please read disability accommodations page; either you or your representative can reach out to me via the form for Questions about Counseling Services Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities. There are contact forms on additional topics on my contact page.