HNU Psychology Students Train in the Growing Field of Telemental Health
A new experiential research seminar at Holy Names University is providing psychology students training in telemental health care skills. Like telehealth, telemental health is a growing, innovative, and cutting-edge field in psychology. Students will be offering support services through a global virtual platform in this seminar led by associate professor Kate Isaacson. This professional experience will position HNU students ahead of the curve as the field transitions to make room for telemental health services.
What Is Telemental Health?
Telemental health care is an emerging category that employs information technology and computer science to deliver psychiatric services to patients. In many cases, this means using videoconferencing or text-based conversations to connect with patients rather than in-person meetings. Telemental health, also called telepsychiatry or teletherapy, has existed in some form for decades, but it has only recently taken off.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemental health and online wellness support has grown exponentially over the past year. Most therapists have closed their offices and moved online to offer therapy to their long-term clients. Adoption of virtual therapy and complementary mental health care services has skyrocketed, and the skills needed to work in telemental health and wellness are in high demand.
Requirements to Practice Telemental Health
In California, there are currently no extra certifications licensed mental health professionals need to conduct sessions with patients virtually. They must simply fulfill certain obligations when they initiate a telehealth relationship and at the start of each session and be licensed in California if that’s where they and their client are located. Professionals located in California looking to help clients outside of the state will need to look into different jurisdiction’s requirements and possible required licenses.
There is a national certification that licensed clinicians can pursue to demonstrate their expertise in delivering telemental health services. The Center for Credentialing & Education (CEE) developed the Board Certified-Telemental Health Provider (BC-TMH) certification in 2018, replacing the previous Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) certification.
Regulations and requirements may evolve in the future. Even in the absence of a special certification requirement, employers will be looking for counselors who have telehealth training. That training demonstrates specialized skills needed to connect with patients virtually and deliver high-quality care in this format. There are a variety of telemental health-related certifications students will want employers to see on their resumes when they’re ready to enter the workforce.
How HNU Is Preparing Students to Participate in Telemental Health
Our new venture into telemental health training will equip HNU students with skills and certifications that will offer an employment edge. The practical experience they receive with direct care while pursuing their undergraduate degree is exceedingly difficult to procure, even in non-pandemic conditions.
Regardless of the student’s major or intended profession, skills for creating meaningful relationships in an online environment have never been more vital. With telehealth training, students will:
- Learn to foster the development of online relationships
- Engage in active listening and reflection
- Gain leadership and communication strategies
- Build and develop an empathic connection
- Build the fundamentals of relationship development through a screen
These skills and experiences provide realistic and relatable settings for 21st-century education and training.
Why Telemental Health Services Are so Vital
HNU students are joining a global movement to support diverse populations that may be marginalized and drastically underrepresented in traditional therapy populations. This support is possible through the anonymity of online services, the improved accessibility via any phone or computer, and the ease of understanding for patients from a variety of cultures and language backgrounds.
The program is free to users and is bringing support to youth who may prefer text-based communications, immigrants, and individuals at-risk or in crisis. The services also reach some populations in which cultural attitudes discourage the use of therapy or experience a lack of trust around receiving fair treatment or maintaining the privacy of their personal information.
The HNU students in this program develop strong evidence-based skills they then use to offer quality support and connection. Online and text-based telemental health and wellness programs like this offer these qualities for clients:
- Greater accessibility
- Lower cost
- More personal control
- Enhanced anonymity
Telemental health services reduce factors that contribute to mental health disparities in marginalized populations. The work of the research seminar is to acquire skills, provide services, and generate lab feedback and discussion. Students then develop exploratory surveys on the efficacy, appeal, likelihood of use, and limiting factors of engagement in telemental health services.
Says seminar leader Dr. Isaacson, “This represents an awesome real-world experience for HNU students in an innovative modality. They will gain mentorship, interpersonal skills, and valuable training in a rapidly growing field. What I also like is that they have the unique opportunity to acquire more than 10 certifications in telemental health and complementary wellness services so they can build their resumes to demonstrate the specific skills, knowledge, and experiences they will gain along the way.”
This experiential research seminar is just one way the Psychology program is changing to evolve its curriculum for the mid-21st century. Some of the offerings coming to the program in the near future include advances in:
- Evidence-based practice
- Positive psychology and wellness
- Culturally sensitive mental health theories and therapies
- Immigration psychology
- The psychology of online experience and AI
- Telemental health care and wellness support programs
Dr. Kate Isaacson, Associate Professor of Counseling and Forensic Psychology
Dr. Kate Isaacson has a history of working with harm reduction, community outreach, and efforts to understand and reduce disparities in health and mental health, including access to and delivery of services. She has worked for decades with Bay Area programs seeking to expand services to at-risk and marginalized populations.
From needle exchange with the Harm Reduction Coalition to HIV education for indigent clients at the Berkeley Free Clinic, she draws from a committed past to research, learn from, and improve aid to individuals with mental health disorders and struggles.
This experience includes a significant interest in substance misuse and dependence that she pursued at UCSF, The Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, and UC Davis Medical. She was also a curriculum director and trainer for a Harm Reduction training that offered students, administrators, and teachers curriculum on the effects and costs of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use (ATOD), as well as violence and drug dealing.
Her research and commitment to these issues are long-standing. HNU students will have the opportunity again in the fall of 2021 to work with her in the design of experiential research based on certification and engagement in telemental health care support services.
Learn More About Our Psychology Programs at Holy Names University
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health services or advancing your psychology education to prepare you to become a licensed clinician or counselor, consider the educational programs we offer at Holy Names University. Explore the links below to learn more about our psychology programs:
- Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
- Bachelor’s Degree-Completion B.A. in Psychology
- Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
- Dual Master of Arts in Counseling and Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology
- Sport and Performance Psychology Certificate