Podcast 83: How to Launch a Counseling Product, HIPAA, Counseling, and Video Chat an interview with Heather Potter from Thera-Link

How can I follow HIPAA and do video counseling? Heather Potter from Thera-Link gives us behind-the-scenes discussion on developing counseling products, how to follow HIPAA, why Skype is a terrible option, and more!

Today’s Private Practice Resource

 

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I’ve been using Bluehost for all of my hosting for my private practice and consulting blogs. You can have multiple domains hosted and their customer support is great!

PoP Culture Meet Heather Potter

HeatherPotter thera-linkHeather serves as Chief Technology Officer and is one of the founding partners of thera-LINK.  She leads all efforts around the video platform and works closely with our development team as well as our support team.  Heather has served as Vice President of Information Technology in a large architecture firm and has over 10 years of experience leading technology teams.

 

She has a Master’s of Business Administration with a concentration in Information Technology as well as a Bachelor’s with a focus on Business Communications from the University of Texas at Dallas.  Heather has an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for technology.

What you will discover:

1:37 Something I learned from SPI TV

5:31 What you need to know in your state about tele-health

9:04 How to launch a counseling product and find new business opportunities

12:31 How to use your personal network to grow a joint venture

17:40 Why WordPress is the best platform for just about everything!

25:10 How logging in helps someone feel secure

33:18 Why knowing your code of ethics is crazy important!

39:04 Why Not to Use Skype and some extras from Thera-Link

PRIVATE PRACTICE CONSULTANT

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.

Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.

To link to Joe’s Google+ .

Here is the Transcription of This Podcast

How To Launch A Counseling Product, HIPAA, Counseling, and Video Chat an Interview With Heather Potter From Thera-Link

This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, Session 83. Welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I am Joe Sanok, your host, and I am in a splendid mood today. I just got back from the YMCA, and as many of you know, I was hospitalized in — how is it that every time I do the podcast, I leave my coffee over here? Sorry. Many of you know I was hospitalized back in January for my back and went through just crazy P.T. aqua therapy three to four days a week, two hours each time. It was such a commitment. But I’m no exercise geek, but it’s been really good to make sure I’m getting to the YMCA a couple times a week. Our YMCA is just awesome. It got built a couple of years ago, and so today, I went on the elliptical for 15 minutes and watched some Pat Flynn SPI TV, and he was talking about raving fans, and it just was a great inspiration to remind myself that — you know those people that are most active in the Practice of the Practice community? Like I should be investing in them the most just to help them grow and learn more about me and also just provide just crazy value.

Something I learned from SPI TV

And so then I went into the pool for a while and looked really silly as I had my like — things are on my ankles and was doing pushups on the side of the pool, but you know what? Like my body feels awesome, and I just realized that if I spend an hour every other day, it’s like 5% of my time, but it makes the other 95% just so much better.

So it’s just exciting to kind of have this new chapter, and I know that by the time this goes live, I’ll be on vacation in Southern California after the Most Awesome Conference, but I’m recording this, I’m batching it ahead of time, so just had my podcast go live the other day about Nepal with my matching grant where I’m going to give $500 for everyone that kind of does that that helps towards Nepal, and you can listen to that whole podcast at practiceofthepractice.com/session81.

And last week, when you were listening to this, it was when I took a couple of listener questions and then this one is going to be all about thera-LINK and kind of video chatting counseling, and hearing their kind of business story. And so it’s really kind of cool to do all the stuff ahead of time so that I, when I’m on vacation with my family and going to Sea World and all these other awesome places in Southern California, I don’t have to think about the business. I can just have kind of things keep going, and I do it ahead of time.

So if you’re not doing that, it’s super easy in WordPress. When you’re doing a blog post or you’re doing a podcast, you could just schedule it out on the right hand side there instead of making it go live that day. You can have it schedule out kind of when you want it to go live, which is great because then, you can do a whole bunch of articles at once and schedule them out for a while.

So let’s see. If you don’t have a website though, or if you have a website that’s just through like TherapySites or GoDaddy or some of those, it’s really hard to do a lot of that stuff and have the same control. So the way that I make sure that I have kind of full control of my website — and that’s kind of the direction I’ve gone, is I have hosting through Bluehost. And the last time I talked about that as a resource, I wanted to just let you know that that’s a great resource to just have control over your website or websites, and that’s the thing that I love about it. I host mentalwellnesscounseling.com and Practice of the Practice and becomeaconsultanttoday.com all through my Bluehost, and that’s like $5 a month. You can have unlimited domains hosted there. Now, the bigger your domains get, the slower it might get, so you don’t want to have like 50 domains like have all you band together and just pay $5 a month. But you know it’s pretty amazing just how much you can have on there without it slowing down.

So if you want to check out Bluehost, practiceofthepractice.com/host will just redirect you to them. I get a small affiliate commission for that, but I’ve loved that. They have bailed me out so many times where I’ve just called their tech support, and they’ve just helped me out.

So today, let me tell you a little about this Heather Potter. It was kind of funny when Heather was walking me through thera-LINK. She has like a fake client name that she uses, and her name is Heather Potter, and she, on there, goes by Harry Potter, and it was kind of fun to be setting up a counseling session with thera-LINK with Harry Potter. So I’m not breaking HIPAA because Harry Potter’s not an actual client. It’s a fictitious character from a movie and book series, if you do not know that.

 

What you need to know in your state about tele-health

Anyway, so thera-LINK is a really cool resource that the way it works is it’s a HIPAA-compliant, secure platform for doing video chats and video counseling sessions with people. And there’s a lot of laws and regulations for each State, and also, depending on your licensure and your code of ethics, you definitely want to know that because lots of times, wherever the client is, you have to follow that kind of State-specific rules, or you have to be licensed in that State. So make sure you understand the limits of video chat counseling. I definitely don’t recommend using Skype or FaceTime for that. You can use those for coaching or consulting, but for counseling, you want to have some sort of platform if you’re going to get into this.

And I honestly didn’t think I was going to get into it, but I met Heather at the ACA Conference, and I thought, “Okay, that’s good for maybe people that are my audience,” but wouldn’t you know one of my clients was going to be away, and like the week after ACA, I tried out thera-LINK and it’s awesome. It is really easy to use. You just kind of set up like the profile of the person, and then you can have them even pay before the session, and it’s just beautiful.

So in the show notes, practiceofthepractice.com/session83, I’m going to actually have a video walkthrough of me signing up for thera-LINK and you’ll find that there. And Heather really kind of takes us behind the scenes, and what I love about this interview is it’s not just about thera-LINK; it’s about like how they started a business, how they started a product. thera-LINK was started with Heather and then — I’m sorry. Their cofounder is a therapist as well, and we’ll hear that story about when you have an idea for a product, how do you make that happen if you’re just a counselor in private practice? So I think it’s so much more than just some pitch about thera-LINK. It’s like their story behind the scenes of developing a product as a counselor when you see a need. So you’re going to discover all sorts of really cool ideas on how to get a new product out there if you have this great idea of how to go beyond just your private practice.

So without any further ado, my friend, Heather Potter, from thera-LINK.

Heather Potter, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. How are you doing today?

HP: I’m good! Thanks, Joe. How are you?

Joe Sanok: I’m doing great. It’s been a really beautiful day here in Northern Michigan, and they say that tomorrow’s supposed to be 40 degrees again. So I’m like, “What the heck?”

HP: Wow, well, I guess I should be happy that I’m in Texas and it’s 80 degrees, and we’ve had a bit of rain, but it’s sunny today, so I’m thankful for that.

Joe Sanok: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. So we met at the ACA Conference. So why don’t we start with why were you guys at ACA?

HP: Sure, sure. That’s probably a really good starting point. So thera-LINK was created probably back about two years ago. My coworker, I guess I should say now, and she’s the CEO of thera-LINK, Carol Park, and she actually has been working in the therapy industry. She’s been a counselor in private practice here Dallas for 20 plus years, and I’ve always done her technology, like her website, all those little things, how do I do my therapy notes, that sort of stuff, and she came to me with a challenge and said, “Hey, I’ve got some clients that want to use Skype with me, and Skype isn’t HIPAA-compliant, so what do I do?” And I just quickly started searching and there really wasn’t anything out there in the industry at that time.

 

How to launch a counseling product and find new business opportunities

So basically, from there, we started investigating, “Hey, maybe this is a business opportunity, something that we should create and do,” because there are probably several other counselors in the same boat. So we created thera-LINK, and it is a HIPAA-compliant online platform for providers in the mental health space. So that’s essentially how we were formed, and that was our foundation. It took us, I would say, a little while to get the technology in place and feel comfortable and confident to feel like, “Okay, we’re ready for prime time.”

And so we officially launched in November, and we were at ACA to — this is a really long answer, by the way.

Joe Sanok: That’s okay.

HP: But we were at ACA to market to counselors.

Joe Sanok: That’s awesome. And like right away, I think about is, “Okay, so she’s got this idea. She has a private practice.” For most of us, it would end with the idea, but she calls up her technology guru, yourself, and says, “Hey, what do you think about this?” So at that point, was it a joint venture? Was it that she just paid you kind of by the project? And you don’t have to go into the details of payment, but I think lots of times, people don’t understand even how a joint venture would work versus a project-based venture, and can you talk a little bit about how you guys figured that out?

HP: Sure, sure. Well, actually, it’s kind of an interesting story. I happened to be in MBA, finishing up MBA at that time, and I also happened to be in a class called “Entrepreneur”, and so —

Joe Sanok: Just happened to be.

HP: Yeah, it happened to be. So it kind of, I guess, it was this perfect storm, if you will, and I wrote up a one-page document that I was going to present to the class, and it was about this project or what we had kind of talked about, and I sent it over to her and I said, “Hey. How does this business case sound?” and it was a very simple kind of overview that I was going to present to the class, and she said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I don’t think you need to present this because somebody might steal our idea,” and then I said, “Well, is this like something we should pursue?” And so we sort of began a partnership at that point and we worked – I would say, endlessly, for several weekends in a row really building out a business case and like not just the one-page. And it was more of a, “Is this even going to work?” Like, “Is this something that we feel is needed in the industry and in the space which we definitely felt that?” and “Is it something that we feel we want to pursue?” because running a business and starting a business is a huge ordeal.

And so I think at the end of those several weekends, we ultimately decided, “You know what? This is something that we do want to look at,” and we just sort of launched an LLC. So we went through all of the — we’ve got to form a business, we’ve got to do the partnership and figure out the splitting of hairs, if you will, and so we went through all of that whole process. So we never treated it like a project. Like she was never paying me to help her do the technology. It was more of a joint effort, and we actually got a third person, who’s a social worker, and she also some marketing experience, and so we brought her on as our marketing person, and so the three of us formed the foundation, and we are the cofounders of thera-LINK.

 

How to use your personal network to grow a joint venture

Joe Sanok: That’s awesome. Well, and I think it just shows that your personal network often is kind of your best asset. And when you have an idea, sometimes, talking to other people about doing a joint venture together can help fast forward things when maybe you don’t have the start-up capital to do it when everyone has invested interests in seeing success.

HP: Absolutely, absolutely. So it was very interesting to start a business from the ground up, because that was something I personally had never done. Carol, as I said, she’s been in private practice for 20 plus years, so she had built a very successful private practice on her own, really focused on her specialty, which is eating disorders, so she was able to do that herself, so she had a lot of experience that she was able to bring from that private practice building.

Joe Sanok: So what kind of like infrastructure did you need before you even kind of get the product done?

HP: Yeah. Well — I mean, honestly, you need a website, right? That’s how you’re going to market to your potential customers. So we started working on a website and we immediately knew that we were going to need development, we were going to need HIPAA compliance, and so we needed to investigate that. We went and we researched, we found some HIPAA training courses, we all got HIPAA certified, so there were some foundational steps that we felt were necessary for starting our business to just understand the industry. And then at that point, we were able to say, “Okay, now, we need the technology in place.” And so from an infrastructure standpoint, based on what we had learned from our HIPAA training, we really needed things like redundant servers and make sure data is secure, and there are all kinds of things that go into that like firewalls, and that sort of stuff. And so we had to look into all of those. That’s very technical. Sorry, I’m the technical person.

Joe Sanok: No, that’s good. This is stuff that we don’t hear in grad school, and I think it’s really important for us counselors to learn about everything that’s out there.

HP: Okay, good. Well, I don’t want to be too off-based here, but yeah. I mean, essentially, we went to — what we ended up doing was going to a development firm, and we partnered with them to say we want these features, and we really built out a requirements document. I mean, it’s a long process is what I would say, and we had to find the right partner for us. So it took a lot of interviews. You don’t want to just hire the first team you meet or anything of that sort. So we did our due diligence, and we found the right partnership, and ultimately, we ended up choosing a partner that we feel long-term is going to take us to new heights, and that’s really what we ultimately wanted.

Joe Sanok: So did you guys like pre-sell? Did you have start-up capital? Like how did that part of it work? My mind goes to — oh my gosh, like a development firm. That’s not cheap, I would guess. Like how did that part of it work?

HP: Actually, I talked about building out that business case. And so we spent a long time on that. We built out a slide deck, is what they call it, and you know when you’re entrepreneurs. You’ve got to be able to portray what you want in a short amount of time because often, you don’t have investors in front of you for hours on in to hear about your product.

So we were able to make our PowerPoint deck very concise, and we were actually very fortunate, I will say, and that our investor, we knew of an investor, and so we simply sent it over when we felt ready. We sent over our slide deck, we said we’d love to set up a dinner meeting, or something along those lines and talk to you, and this is where I would say we’re very blessed because he essentially wrote back and said, “I’m on board. This sounds like a fantastic idea. I’ve done some research. It looks like there’s really nothing in this space, and I would like to invest in you guys.”

And so we really didn’t have to go through a lot of the hoops that I would say most entrepreneurs do experience of having to pitch and do things like that. We’re very fortunate, and he has been by our side from the beginning, and he consistently checks in. He wants to know how we’re doing, how we’re growing, how we’re scaling, all of those things that new businesses need to know and understand.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. So take your average counselor in private practice. They have some idea of a product, maybe we’ll take a digital product of some sort. Like what are some takeaways that you guys learned that maybe you’re like, “Oh, we should have done this different,” or “I’m really glad we did this. We didn’t realize how good of a choice that was.” So like things that you could have done different and things that you’re really glad that you did that might apply to new projects.

HP: New projects. Well, okay, for one, our first website, our first marketing website, we actually built on a very high-end, enterprise-grade CMS, which is a content management system backend, and we should have gone with WordPress initially. So let me just put it that way. I know that that’s what most people do, and so I think for us, we thought, “Oh, well, we need to think outside the box here. We don’t want to be like everyone else,” but there are some times when you should go with what everyone else is doing.

 

Why WordPress is the best platform for just about everything!

Joe Sanok: There’s a reason everyone is doing it, yeah.

HP: That’s right, that’s right. And so we had to essentially rebuild our website at one point because it just wasn’t fitting with our needs, and it was very difficult for people to update. And so now, we’ve got – everything’s on WordPress and all that. That I would say, is a big mistake that we made initially, and we had to go back in and change some of that.

There were also some technologies that we chose that I think we ended up switching to later, and then there were some things that we – here’s what I would say. We have learned over the past several months of being out since November, so now, we’re in what — months seven or eight, and in the first five to six months, we realized, “Hey, we were getting some people to sign up for services, but maybe we weren’t doing such a great job on the customer service end,” of like really integrating them and making sure that they firmly understood and knew how to use the product.

And so that’s something we’ve really focused on in the last, I would say, two to three months. We’re doing one-on-one training. So a little bit of hand-holding at the very beginning, and I think that that’s really, really important when you’re talking about a technology product, is making sure that people aren’t just signing up and then never using it, because we don’t want that. We don’t want to be a gym membership, right? A gym?

Joe Sanok: Right.

HP: People sign up and then – I mean, I know I do. You sign up and then you drive past it every day and you never go. So I think for us, we didn’t want that to be someone’s experience. We wanted it to be an experience that they have where it’s, “I want to use their link,” like “I love their link.” And so we’ve really, really engaged our customers, started sending marketing e-mails, those kind of things just to make sure we keep people in touch with the experience, and that we’re hands-on throughout the whole thing.

Joe Sanok: Well, I know that for me, the signing up experience was really fluid and then you walked me through how to use the product, and after that, everything was so much easier. And so that’s awesome that you guys are doing that. Like now that I kind of am oriented to it, it’s so easy. It’s like, “Oh yeah, you click here, click here and start the session,” and like my clients have said, “It’s so cool to be in the waiting room.” And so with the music and you know this and that and so – and then you just you know add them into the session. So it’s really – it’s cool you guys have taken the time to make it feel very therapeutic even though it’s still not face-to-face, but about as close as you can get to it without being face-to-face.

HP: Absolutely, and I think that was one of our really, really big points initially. Coming from Carol was we needed to feel like the person’s walking into your office. And so that waiting room was really, really important initially, and we’ll give that, like you said, that experience that you’re walking into – just like I’m walking into Joe’s office. I want to sit in the chair that’s in his office kind of thing, and I want to feel like I’m there and part of the experience versus virtual and online, because I think technology can be daunting sometimes. And so the more human we can make it, the better.

Joe Sanok: And I know for myself, it was you’re so used to face-to-face and to make the jump into online. I was thinking, “Well, is this going to be the same?” But boy, once you get talking to someone, it’s just to me, almost exactly the same, because you’re still having that conversation and you’re still working on those therapeutic issues.

HP: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed your experience so far.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, yeah. It’s been great.

HP: Good, good.

Joe Sanok: So for people that haven’t done online therapy before, what should they know? Like what are some of the traps that people fall into like you mentioned Skype, and I’m interested in like the technology differences between a Skype, FaceTime, thera-LINK, like what should people know?

HP: Absolutely. So what I will say that we do have a whitepaper on our website. It’s called, “Ten Reasons not to Use Skype for Therapy,” and the main reason we created that is because at conferences like ACA, people would come up and they would say, “Well, why shouldn’t I use Skype?” And so we decided, “You know what? I think we should create a paper that’s in plain English.” It doesn’t need to be something that’s really technical and hard to read. And so on that paper, we were able to say things like – well, of course, HIPAA compliance, right? Skype will not give you a BAA.

So while they may satisfy the security requirements of HIPAA, if they don’t give you, as a therapist, a BAA, well, they’re not actually satisfying your HIPAA requirements, right? So if you were to get sued or someone came to you and said, “Hey, you’re not following HIPAA,” you have that BAA that says, “Yes, I am. I use thera-LINK. Here’s the BAA that they provided to me,” and so you’re covered, essentially. Skype won’t do that. So FaceTime, same thing. The other big thing that –

Joe Sanok: Let me pause you real quick.

HP: Sure.

Joe Sanok: So we may have some grad students listening that haven’t graduated. So what’s a BAA? Why should people care about it?

HP: Sure.

Joe Sanok: Just the quick two-sentence version.

HP: Sure, sure. So BAA is the Business Associate Agreement, and it’s one of the HIPAA requirements that essentially says this company or establishment that I’m doing business with, that I’m putting in my patient health information, so your patient’s data, even if that’s just their first name and their last name and their e-mail address, which is what thera-LINK requires, those three pieces. But there could be a ton of other patient health information like phone number and a picture or their therapy chart, right? I mean those are all pieces of health information, and they have to be protected.

So if you’re putting data into a system, any system, whether it’s SimplePractice or thera-LINK, you’ve got to have that BAA to protect – your patient’s data is also being backed up and checked and it’s secure, and it’s not going to be hacked into. So it’s little things like that that have to be done by the company that you’re paying to provide that service for you that that BAA basically says, “Yes, we do that. We check all of those boxes. We satisfy those requirements for you.”

Joe Sanok: Great. Thanks for that overview.

HP: No problem, no problem.

Joe Sanok: So you were going to say more?

HP: No. I was just going to add the thing for Skype that I think for me, and probably, particularly Carol, that happened was she was staying on her couch and she had Skyped – it’s a no-no, but she had Skyped before thera-LINK with a couple of clients, and it pops up down in the lower corner. It says, “So and so is online,” so and so is online, and I think she realized at that point, “Okay, wait. If I’m seeing that they’re online, they’re also seeing that I’m online, and they could chime in at any time.” It’s more about that boundary and making sure that you keep that therapeutic boundary so that your clients aren’t chiming in on you whenever they want. And so I think that that’s a big reason not to use Skype even just in and of itself, let alone the BAA.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, yeah. Well, and I think that a lot of people just don’t think about it. They’re like, “Well, someone is on vacation,” they want to do a Skype session, “Sure, let’s just do a Skype session,” and it’s just become part of like the vernacular of people, but it’s just not okay.

 

How logging in helps someone feel secure

HP: Yeah, and I guess I would say too, it’s the professionalism of it, right? I mean, so – and Joe, you know, because you’ve used thera-LINK, but it’s sends an automated e-mail, “Hey, your appointment’s been scheduled with Joe and it’s at this time.” Those kind of things. And the patient logs in. I think that even just logging in, they immediately feel secure. “Oh, I’m on my therapy site. I’m about to have my appointment.” Those type of things really gives that vibe and I think prepares them for the session versus “I’m sitting here waiting for you to chime in on Skype at any time,” or FaceTime, whatever it is.

Joe Sanok: So what other things do you think therapists should consider in regards to video chat, in regards to even knowing if doing video chat or video sessions is for them? I mean, there may be people that say, “I don’t even know if I want to get into this.”

HP: There are, actually. There are quite a few. And I think the thing that we’re finding is at first – in the first year or so of going to APA, ACA, any of those events, what we were hearing a lot of was, “Hmm… I don’t know that I’m ready for that,” or “Oh, I know that’s coming. I need to think about that.” So we were hearing a lot of that, and I do see a transition at this point of people really understanding in the industry, “This is the direction it’s going so I need to start making inroads there. I need to start learning technology. I need to provide that service to my clients.” So we are seeing more of an uptick in the willingness, is what I would say, on the therapist’s part to really make an effort to understand the technology and to – I guess I would say to jump in right now.

Joe Sanok: Well, you’ve been thinking about like – my wife’s a stay-at-home mom. So if she was seeing a therapist and they were local, there may be days when our daughter sleeps longer than we would want her to, but she needs the sleep and it’s like – or if someone’s sick and it’s like for that therapist to be able to say, “You know what? Like this week, we can just use thera-LINK to be able to do our session,” would be such a convenient thing for whether it’s a stay-at-home mom or someone else that might be homebound or sick or has a sick kid. It seems like then, that counselor is not missing out on that income, also.

HP: Absolutely, and it’s hard for me to say it that way, but you pretty much nailed it in terms of – yeah, I mean, from the therapist’s standpoint. When someone doesn’t come into the office, whether they’re a no-show or they call because of last minutes that kid, this, that, and the other, then absolutely. I mean, that is lost income for the therapist. And I think that that is our biggest selling feature, is we really – having been founded by people that are in the therapy world, so Carol and Lori, both of them come from a therapist background and understanding of that whole world, I guess I should say, and we believe in connection.

So that’s the ultimate thing for us, and so we think that you would have your relationship with the therapist in office, of course, but we believe that thera-LINK offers that extension of your practice. So we’re not saying, “Hey, we’re going to replace your in-office altogether, and you’re never going to see clients in-office,” or – and we’re also not telling clients, “Hey, go out here and find a random therapist that you don’t know.” That’s not our business model. So our business model is really focused on that connection. So in those exact instances that you mentioned, sick kid, a new baby even, is a really good example.

Joe Sanok: Tell me about it. We have an eight-month old.

HP: Oh, you do?

Joe Sanok: Yeah.

HP: Yeah. See? Exactly. That’s a great use case, and it’s one that we see a lot of our customers using today, is I’m just going to offer this as an extension. And so when you get that call, “Hey, you know what? Don’t worry about it. Let’s just have an online session right now,” or in five hours or whatever the timeframe is that they call in advance. So it’s a great opportunity to continue your income stream as a therapist, and also maintain that connection with that client.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, yeah. So what do people need to consider like when they’re doing online therapy across States or countries? Is that an area that you can speak to?

HP: I can speak a little bit to it. I will say I’m not expert, however, telehealth laws are changing constantly. I mean, I can’t even tell you. I’m pretty sure there was something earlier this year that I read that there were a 100 laws around telehealth amongst the 50 States put on the docket for 2015. And that was in like the first three months of this year. So that was January through March.

So it’s definitely an evolving marketplace. It’s something that state legislatures and boards are certainly looking at, and they’re trying to figure out the best way to navigate it, that’s in the best interest of the clients, first and foremost, because that’s got to be the main focus, and then also make sure that the therapists are able to understand the laws so that they know what’s best.

I’m going to throw out a couple of sites, the ATA, which is the American Telemedicine Association. They have some great resources on their website that talk about state laws, and they are probably more physician-focused, but there are some mental health articles in there as well, and they definitely talk about – broken down by State. They also grade each State, which is kind of fun to look at. So Texas gets a C, which is not very good, but I think we’re making some progress, hopefully. And so I would definitely say check out ATA, which is American Telemedicine Association, and then also, TeleMental Health Institute, which is known as telehealth.org.

Joe Sanok: Okay.

HP: That’s their website, and Marlene Maheu, she runs that website. She does a great job of keeping up with the latest and greatest, and she has a good blog that if you subscribe to it, you’ll get her newsletter each week, and she really does a good job of updating laws, and “Hey, don’t forget, Texas, you need to make sure you’re aware of this.”

Joe Sanok: And what was her name again?

HP: Marlene Maheu.

Joe Sanok: Marlene Maheu, all right. And we’ll have all of those names and links in the show notes, but I just wanted to make sure I got it down.

HP: Absolutely, absolutely. And we have TeleMental Health or our partner page as well. So if you go to thera-link.com/partners, it’s there.

Joe Sanok: All right, cool. Are there any kind of rules of thumb in regards to only do telehealth in your own State, or don’t go across country lines, or are there not even rules of thumb at this point?

HP: Well – so it’s very interesting because every – so of the four, I guess, major mental health areas, so you’ve got counselors, you’ve got psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers – hopefully, I’m not leaving anybody out, but I think I covered most of them but I think I covered most of them by saying those, and then, of course, you have dieticians who are somewhat in the mix there too, especially when you’re talking about eating disorders.

So those areas, each have their own board rules. So I can’t say across the board, if you’re in Texas, you do this. If you’re in Texas and you’re an LPC, you do this. If you’re in Texas and you’re a psychologist, you do this. So it’s very, very unique to each State at this point. There are some upcoming legislatures that they’re going to be voting on that actually, I think, are going to regionalize certain states so you may get license laws that can cross States, especially, I think, in the Northeast is where they’re kind of focusing. So if you’re in New Jersey or New York, you may be able to see people across state lines because obviously, there’s a close connection. A lot of people work in New York and live in New Jersey and vice versa, so there are some things that are happening that are very exciting for the industry, and I think hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to have a concrete answer for you on, “Yeah. If you’re in this State, you can see people in this State,” and so on, but today, there’s really not “one size fits all” kind of answer.

 

Why knowing your code of ethics is crazy important!

Joe Sanok: So it sounds like knowing your own code of ethics, whether you’re a psychologist, counselor, social worker, and psychiatrist, and then also looking at your own State and keeping up on that, probably your state organization too, would best be able to guide you depending on which of those kind of career paths and licensures you have.

HP: Absolutely, absolutely. And I know that like at the American Counseling Association Conference back in March, Joe, they had a group that they put together. I think it’s called “Counseling in Technology” or something like that. It’s called CTIN, C-T-I-N, and I know they’re looking for members. So if anyone out there wants to join, they’re looking at ways to bring technology into the counseling practices and how to do that and how to organize the content, how to keep it up-to-date. Those are a lot of challenges that I think these larger organizations are facing, because they are getting calls to the state board level saying, “Hey, what do we do about this?” or “What do we do about that?” and I think that – okay.

Joe Sanok: Hey there.

HP: (indiscernible 00:34:22) right there.

Joe Sanok: I am. I had a popup that said, “You lost your internet connection,” and I don’t know why because I’m plugged in to my Ethernet, but we’re back.

HP: Hey, it is technology, right?

Joe Sanok: I know. You had to just mention technology and then the technology god said, “Take that!”

HP: That’s right. They said, “Figure this out.”

Joe Sanok: Yeah. So I just went in and refreshed and it was live.

HP: All right, perfect.

Joe Sanok: Sorry about that.

HP: No problem at all.

Joe Sanok: All right, so you were just in the midst of talking about kind of different states and the ACA technology group.

HP: Yeah. So this group, the CTIN group, I think that several of the larger organizations are actually creating segments or subgroups that are focused on technology because there are so many challenges around it and how it can be incorporated into your private practice or larger group practices or whatever that might be. I think that’s a huge challenge today. And so they want to make some really big statements and put out there all that information so that you’re not constantly searching and calling your state boards and so on and so forth.

So I think those are great groups to be involved in, especially if you’re interested in technology and where things might be going, or if you yourself struggled trying to find, “What is my state information?” and if it was challenge for you, it’s most certainly a challenge for other people that are out there. So join and make a difference.

Joe Sanok: That’s awesome. So Heather, I always ask people towards the end of the interview, what’s one thing that you would want counselors to know if every counselor in America were listening right now, what would you want them to know?

HP: That’s a great question. So I guess what I would want them to know is that technology is not going away. So it’s getting more – it’s proliferating more and more industries, and I think that this industry, the mental health space, behavioral health space, whatever you want to call it, it’s coming in whether you like it or not. And so I think that my words would be, don’t get left behind and really start incorporating it into your practice now so that you aren’t one of those strugglers at the end, and everyone else has moved ahead and you’re still back here. I think stay ahead of the curve. Start asking your clients now – and here’s the other thing. It’s not for everyone, right? You mentioned earlier, it’s not for every client in every situation, but I think if you have clients and you’re like, “You know what? I think that this would be a good client to work with online,” extend the offer, put it out there and see what happens.

So I think that my biggest thing is, don’t get left behind from the technology front because it is going that direction. And I’m just going to throw this out there. I know someone and his kid is one year old – you have an eight-month old, so this may be a similar experience for you, but he was telling me the other day that his son doesn’t understand what talking on the phone means. Like it’s video chat. It’s FaceTime, right? And so when he says, “I want to see grandma,” he means on the phone. He doesn’t mean, “I want to talk to grandma.” That vocabulary doesn’t really even exist for his one-year old at this point. It’s “I want to see grandma.” And so he clicks a few buttons and grandma’s on the screen.

And so it’s one of those things that I think that the future generations, as they become your future clients, they’re already there. They don’t’ even know the phone, so don’t get left there, and I guess bring technology into your practice as much as you can, because I think it will only benefit you in the future.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. I think that’s such a great point. I think about we were at a hotel and my four-year old looked at the phone and asked, “What’s that?” Like she didn’t even know. She’s like – she knows what like our cellphone looks like, but a typical old school phone, she was like, “I have no idea.”

So I think that’s a great point, and it makes me think about whenever I have students that go on to college, lots of times, they need that support and they don’t reach out to the new counselors there. They don’t find the college counselor. They just kind of try to make it, and telecounseling would definitely be a great way to keep that connection with that person, as well.

HP: Absolutely. It’s a great use case of our product, actually.

Joe Sanok: Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Heather, for being on the show, and it’s just been awesome talking with you.

 

Why Not to Use Skype and some extras from Thera-LINK

HP: Yeah, it’s great talking with you, Joe, and just one more thing, I’m going to throw out there. If people listening to this want to go to thera-link.com/joe, I will create a webpage up there that has some special discounts and a special offer you. I’ll also throw up that Skype whitepaper – why not to use Skype, I should say, whitepaper, and maybe a few other little things that I’ve mentioned in here, TeleMental Health Institute and the ATA. So I’ll put all of those on one site so it’s easy to get to.

Joe Sanok: Oh, that’s great. That’ll save me a whole bunch of time, too.

HP: Good! Good deal.

Joe Sanok: And folks, I also did sort of a virtual unboxing of me signing up for thera-LINK. And so I’ve videoed that whole thing. So I’ll have that in the show notes as well, and I’ll have that link for you at the end of this podcast.

So thanks a lot, Heather. That’s awesome. Thanks for giving us some discounts and all of that stuff in one place. I really appreciate that.

HP: Yup, no problem. Thanks, Joe. I really appreciate it.

Joe Sanok: Yeah. Have a great day.

HP: You, too. Bye.

Joe Sanok: So Heather and her team are the real deal. Oh my gosh! It’s just been great to get to know them, and they are part of the most awesome conference. They’re sponsors to that. And really, I’ve just got to know her and how their team works.

And so again, let me give you that link that she gave you. It’s just thera, and that’s T-H-E-R-A dash link dot com/joe, thera-link.com/joe, and you’ll see a personal welcome message to all of you podcast listeners. Just check it out. Don’t feel like you have to buy anything. Like if anything, just download that whitepaper there. And I’ll also have links to that in the show notes. So that’s practiceofthepractice.com/session83, and also, today’s resource, don’t forget that’s bluehost.com, and you can get to them through practiceofthepractice.com/host.

You guys are awesome. I’m so glad that you guys are just around. I get e-mails all the time from people. It’s so inspiring to see what you’re doing with your private practice. I’d love to hear from you. I love getting tweets or Facebook messages. It’s just kind of the best part of my week.

So thanks for letting me into your ears and into your brain. I know your time is valuable and the fact that you took some time to spend it with me and Heather today is just phenomenal. Have an awesome week, and I’ll talk to you soon.

This music is by Silence is Sexy and the Black Parrot. Thanks a lot for your music. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that the host, the publisher, the guest, and me, are not rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one, and have a sweet afternoon.

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