Fri, Apr 3, 2020

Provision of online consultation

FAQ on online consultation

These frequently asked questions were put together by Nele De Witte, Sylvie Bernaerts, Eva Van Assche,  Sam Willems & Tom Van Daele of Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, in close collaboration with the EFPA Project Group on eHealth and several collaborators from around the world.

Different sources already provide relevant information about (online) mental healthcare in times of Corona. We do not aim to be another (competing) channel, but we want to bring together information from other reliable sources. We will do this specifically in relation to the concerns that were reported in the survey on online consultations by European psychologists. We will not be able to be exhaustive, but we will add new information when we can. Local guidelines and information that relates to the context of your country can be found on the websites of your psychological association

EFPA Survey on current use of online consultation technology by psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals

The EFPA Project Group on eHealth has launced a survey which takes about 5 minutes to complete. It focuses on the current use of online consultation technology by psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals in the context of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.The aim is to obtain an overview of your current usage and your main questions and concerns for adequately using online consultation. Questions and concerns will be grouped per country and - whenever possible, together with suggestions on our behalf - sent to your respective member associations, to support you in the adequate and timely informing of your members.

You can participate in the study through

The questionnaire is available in 11 languages, but will soon be available in much more languages, translated by colleagues from within the project group. 

Guidance for provision of online consultations as an added value during a period of social distancing of quarantine 

Online consultations, particularly via video chat, provide a feasible, online alternative to deliver psychological care and therapy. 

Most psychologists still prefer face-to-face contact with their clients or patients who seek help or support. 

However, to safeguard not only your own health, but also that of those seeking your assistance and the society as a whole, alternatives should be explored as much as possible. 

Research shows that effectiveness of such teleconsultations is slightly less optimal, yet often manages to obtain similar effects to conventional care.

Some essential points we wish to highlight for short-term implementation are:

1. Discuss the option with your client (preferable over the phone), explaining the rationale and emphasising the importance of relying on online consultations for now. Ideally, only do this with clients or patients with whom you have already met face-to-face, so you know how to optimally intervene in the real world as well, in case of any emergencies, e.g. risks for self-harm or suicide.

2. Make sure both you and your client are in a private space and cannot be disturbed.

3. Assure sufficient time for technical troubleshooting.

4. Rely on professional videoconferencing tools tailored for teleconsultation. Do not rely on programs like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype or Telegram. In case of any doubt, contact your member association or national authority for suitable tools (e.g., Skype for Business is allowed in Norway, Zoom in Sweden), or consult relevant regulations.

5. Do not make use of a public computer, log off after a session and keep your operating system and/or apps up to date.

6. In case you notice a security breach on your computer, inform your patients, inform the police and seek help from an IT security professional.

Guidelines for ethical and effective practice have already been in place for quite some time  from

EFPA - European Federation of Psychologists' Associations and the

APA - American Psychological Association