Practicing Telemental Health Internationally
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For mental health professionals, this is the question of the day. ‘Can I practice telemental health in other countries?’
And they’re looking everywhere for the answer. Checking with the state where they are licensed. Asking state and national professional associations. Asking other therapists. And finally, asking Google…
…and still not finding a definitive answer.
International Telemental Health Defined
Essentially, when you are delivering electronic forms of therapy to a patient in another country you are delivering overseas telemental health.
Sometimes the client is an existing client who is traveling, reports they will be staying in that country for an indefinite period of time, or they have relocated.
A counselor may be contacted by someone living in another country– out of the blue– who wants to see a therapist residing in your country. But this is infrequent.
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Is it Legal To Practice Psychotherapy In Other Countries
1) It is difficult to determine legality of counseling across state lines.
2) It is difficult to find whether it is legal to practice counseling or social work in another state- let alone another country.
3) As you may have discovered, the state where you are licensed can’t answer these questions. Your board will usually refer you to the other jurisdiction for answers.
Why? They have no right to make determinations about laws in another state or country.
4) So therefore, you are under that country’s legal jurisdiction. Is it possible to understand and access the civil and criminal processes of that country?
Cultural norms vary widely around the world. And laws are written accordingly.
Is it Ethical To Provide Counseling Internationally
Now that you understand the legal, let’s understand the ethical issues of counseling internationally because they are of even greater concern.
These are very personal decisions and each counselor must determine what is best for them. Questions to ask yourself include:
1) Why are they out of the country? Are they vacationing? Relocated indefinitely? Relocated Permanently? Are they a new client?
2) Assess the clinical risk of that client.
3) What is your justification for treating a client that is possibly thousands of miles from where you are licensed.
4) Simply put, we are mandated to protected our clients from harm and ensure they are receiving the most appropriate care.
The *only* way to determine legality is to contact the appropriate jurisdiction in that country.