APA adopts new telepsychology guidelines

The full guidelines are available in the APA Guidelines for Practitioners section of the Practice Central website.

By Legal & Regulatory Affairs staff

At its July 31, 2013, meeting during the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Annual Convention, the APA Council of Representatives approved the Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology. The guidelines were developed by the Joint Task Force on the Development of Telepsychology Guidelines for Psychologists comprised of representatives from APA, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and the APA Insurance Trust (APAIT).

Underscoring the importance of the topic and this work, this is the first time APA has jointly developed professional practice guidelines with other organizations. 

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 new guidelines are not intended to change or define the scope of practice of psychologists. Rather, they are intended to provide guidance on issues to consider prior to engaging in telepsychology.

The task force focused on identifying aspects of the use of telecommunication technologies that differ from the in-person provision of services. Two components taken into consideration throughout the guidelines are: 

  1. the psychologist’s knowledge of and competence in the use of the telecommunication technologies being utilized, and 
  2. the need to ensure the client/patient has a full understanding of the increased risks to loss of security and confidentiality when using telecommunication technologies.

The guidelines address eight key issues related to the provision of telepsychology services: competence of the psychologist; standards of care in the delivery of telepsychology services; informed consent; confidentiality of data and information; security and transmission of data and information; disposal of data and information and technologies; testing and assessment; and interjurisdictional practice.

History of the Joint Task Force Process 

The joint task force comprises 10 members representing the APA (four members), the ASPPB (four members) and the APAIT (two members).

The joint task force established four guideline writing teams to draft guidelines which were reviewed by the entire task force during the spring of 2012. Finalized draft guidelines were disseminated widely during a public comment period in the summer of 2012. The guidelines were submitted to APA’s Board of Professional Affairs in early 2013 and were then forwarded to the Board of Directors for approval in June.

APA guidelines typically take three to five years to establish, but the Telepsychology Task Force completed the Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology in two years, with adoption by the APA Council of Representatives coming on July 31, 2013, during the 2013 APA Annual Convention in Honolulu. 

For more information about the Guidelines for the Practice of Telepsychology, contact the APA Office of Legal & Regulatory Affairs by email or by phone at (202) 336-5886. 

These guidelines are pending publication in the American Psychologist, but are available on the APA Practice Organization’s Practice Central (PDF, 113KB) website.