5 Myth Busters: GA Telemental Health Training Requirements

myth-busters-Telemental-health training requirements

The 5 Worst Myths About Georgia Telemental Health Requirements

Here they are. In no particular order…

Myth #1: Telemental health training is required every 5 years.

  • **Updated 2/22/22**
  • For the delivery of  telemental health: “Prior to the delivery of clinical TeleMental Health, the licensee shall have obtained a minimum of six (6) continuing education hours. The continuing education hours may include but are not limited to the following…”
  • Training for supervising licensees qualified to deliver telemental health : “Training of the TeleMental Health Supervisor: Prior to the delivery of supervision via telemental health, the supervisor shall have obtained a minimum of nine (9) hours of continuing education. The continuing education hours may include the same eight (8) categories identified under “Training for Licensee”, rule section (b)(1)(i)(I-VIII) above, plus, must also include three (3) hours in the category of telemental health….”
  • The honus is on licensees to understand this rule. Here is a direct link to GA Rule Chapter 135-11 Telemental Health. There are only specific types of courses the board will accept.
  • The rule states if you completed the required telemental health training within the past 5 years, you do not need to complete the training under Chapter 135-11. 
  • When you renew your license, you must attest that you have completed the 35 hours of continuing education. 
  • When you renew your license, You are not required to attest you have completed the telemental health training within the past five years.
  • The board may request that you provide documentation that you completed the required training.
  • Don’t read into this rule what is not there. 
  • This is how the board is currently enforcing telemental health training. It may change at anytime in the future and without notice.
  • For this reason, strictly speaking they are training requirements- not continuing education. Chap 135-11 is a new rule chapter and separate from 135-9, “Continuing Education”. It was created to accommodate telemental health definitions and requirements.
  • One thing for sure, you can complete a telemental health training that will teach you 101 risks of telemental health, ethics, and resolving those risks. That means there are over 100 reasons you should complete telemental health training.
  • You may have other credentials (for example the NBCC BC-TMH) that have different requirements. But if you have completed Georgia Board requirements you are permitted to practice telemental health in Georgia. Read Chapter 135-11 thoroughly to ensure you are in complete compliance.

Myth #2: If you have any form of telephone contact with your clients, you are engaging in telemental health.

The board has not been enforcing scheduling and other business phone calls as practicing telemental health.

Read Chapter 135-11 again: Telemental health is a mode of providing counseling and psychotherapy. It is not defined by specific activities. In contrast, ‘Hi John: since you live in Augusta Georgia and I am in Atlanta, let’s do your therapy via video.’…the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists has enforced that as delivering telemental health.

Myth #3: Georgia has a telemental health law.

False. A number of states have telemental health law. Some states’ mental health boards are ‘piggybacking’ off their telemedicine/telehealth law to allow for out-of-state practice of psychotherapy. This process has required those states to first determine whether their telehealth laws can legally be extended to psychotherapy. In Georgia, provisions for counselor telemental health exist only in board rules.

Interestingly, GA SB 118 was enacted/signed into law on 5/6/2019. The title of the law has been changed from “Georgia Telemedicine Act” to “Georgia Telehealth Act” and also addresses provisions for practice across state lines.

Myth #4: Georgia’s Composite Board has telemental health reciprocity with some states.

No reciprocity. Georgia’s Composite Board has a process of endorsement for Licensed Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. The endorsement application process includes evaluating whether the home state has substantially similar licensing requirements.

Some states have reciprocal agreements, but there are very specific conditions written into those states’ reciprocity rules and they are written joint agreements. Georgia has no such arrangement with another state. Reciprocity, endorsement and portability are constantly evolving and I work hard to keep up with interstate practice of psychotherapy.

Myth #5: If I follow HIPAA law, I am safely delivering telemental health to my patients.

Following HIPAA means you are in compliance with federal law. There are many other factors in safe electronic therapy. In terms of threats to your practice license there are other serious problems inherent in distance communication. –All of that HIPAA communication is still on a third party server. If it is a third party provider of telemental health that you have contracted with, they in effect own that information. If you are using the patient’s insurance company telemed platform, privacy is an even greater issue. To the extent they have access to the databases and servers, they have captured in video/audio every intervention you did –or did not do and should have. Consider whether you want any third party having access to such detailed information–it can be taken out of context.

The greatest hazard to your license lies in the fact that you are delivering the services in an environment you don’t control. The patient controls the environment. It doesn’t matter how many informed consents and other agreements you have them sign. Doesn’t matter how HIPAA compliant. These problems may be reconcilable in your case. Carefully consider the type of psychotherapy activities and interventions you intend to provide.

Telemental health is here to stay. How it can be done safely involves problems that still need to be worked out.

(This post was updated on 2/10/2023)

You deserve a former licensing board president on your side.

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