Predicting Which Psychotherapists Will Adopt Telepsychology
Pierce, B. S., Perrin, P. B., & McDonald, S. D. (2020). Demographic, organizational, and clinical practice predictors of U.S. psychologists’ use of telepsychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 51(2), 184–193.
Even prior to COVID-19, psychologists and psychotherapists were examining the use of telepsychology (telephone delivered psychotherapy and assessment). The interest arose from efforts to increase accessibility to psychological services for clients in rural and remote areas, and also for those for whom travelling to an urban centre was a significant barrier due to disability. However, there are barriers to psychotherapists’ use of telepsychology caused by: differing state and provincial laws and requirements, limits to working across state and provincial jurisdictions, issues related to insurance reimbursement, and concern that telepsychology and video conferencing platforms may not meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Personal Health Information Privacy and Access (PHIPA) requirements for confidentiality and privacy. In a previous study, close to 80% of psychologists felt that telepsychology could be effective, but 42% viewed telepsychology as less effective than face-to-face therapy, and 75% indicated that they would not likely refer to someone for telepsychology services. In this large survey of almost 1800 psychologists who practiced psychotherapy, Pierce and colleagues were interested in demographic, organizational, and clinical factors that predicted telepsychology-use by clinicians. The participants were 8.74 times more likely to use telepsychology if they worked in organizations that had policies supporting telepsychology-use compared to those who worked in organizations without such policies (p < .001). Nevertheless, psychologists in private practices were 2.86 times more likely to use telepsychology than those who worked in institutions. Also, psychologists who received training in telepsychology were 2.25 times more likely to use telepsychology than those who did not receive any training (p = .002). In terms of clinical practice areas, those who worked in sports performance, coaching, addictions, and parenting were more likely to use telepsychology. On the other hand, those who provided testing and evaluations were less likely to use telepsychology, likely because of practical limitations to psychometric testing online. Age and gender were not related to telepsychology use.
Psychologists and psychotherapists who want to increase their comfort and satisfaction in working with telepsychology should consider getting professional development training and continuing education. In one study, over two thirds or psychologists perceived that they did not have sufficient training to use telepsychology. Organizations who want to encourage telepsychology should invest in training and provide clear policy guidelines to support professionals. The notion that older clinicians would be less likely to use telepsychology was not born out by these findings.