Promoting the practice of telepsychology
As part of ongoing efforts to promote telepsychology – the provision of psychological services using telecommunication technologies – the APA Board of Directors during the APA convention in August 2015 endorsed the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), an interstate compact developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). If enacted by seven states, PSYPACT will facilitate the provision of telepsychological services across those state lines.
Telehealth and telepsychological services have the potential to bring mental health services to even greater numbers of individuals, including underserved populations. At the same time, states’ licensing boards have an obligation to protect the public by overseeing those who practice within their state.
APA efforts to promote the lawful, ethical practice of telepsychology began with the creation of a joint task force in 2011 to evaluate the need for guidelines on telepsychological practice and to develop guidance with representatives from APA, ASPPB and The Trust. This is the first time APA has jointly developed professional practice guidelines with other organizations.
The Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology (PDF, 113KB) were approved by the APA Council of Representatives during the 2013 APA Annual Convention. The guidelines are intended to both educate and inform psychologists in their practice in applying current standards of professional practice when using telecommunication technologies in providing psychological services. The guidelines are not intended to change or define the scope of practice of psychologists.
PSYPACT is part of the second phase of the process. ASPPB developed standards and principles (PDF, 78KB) consistent with the Telepsychology Guidelines to assist licensing boards in the regulation of telepsychology, and at the same time began working on a regulatory mechanism to facilitate interjurisdictional telepractice. PSYPACT would allow for telepsychological practice and temporary in-person practice across state lines up to 30 days in participating states.
During an Oct. 16 webinar sponsored by the APA Practice Organization, ASPPB Director of Professional Affairs Alex M. Siegel, JD, PhD, addressed the need for and benefits of PSYPACT. Benefits include:
- Increased client/patient access to care.
- Facilitation of continuity of care when client/patient relocates or travels.
- Certification that psychologists meet acceptable standards of practice.
- Cooperation between PSYPACT states in the areas of licensure and regulation.
- A higher degree of consumer protection across state lines.
Several states have expressed interest in becoming part of PSYPACT. Collaboration between licensing boards and state psychological associations will be crucial for achieving legislative action.
Along with the APA Board of Directors, the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), the governing body of the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) which reports to the APAPO Board of Directors, has supported PSYPACT. APA and the APAPO are supporting efforts at the state level to operationalize PSYPACT.
More information about PSYPACT is available online. Members who are interested in learning more about PSYPACT or in joining the effort in their state can sign up for the PSYPACT Listserv and follow developments on Twitter.