January Committee Spotlight: Communications & Technology

The Origin of the Telepsychology Competencies
By: Marc B. Dielman, PhD, Co-Chair, Communications and Technology Committee

At a workshop in Hamilton, Ohio on April 27, 2012, Dr. Marlene Maheu, the first lady of telepsychology, was presenting on the topic of “Legal and Ethical Online Practice Strategies.” During a question and answer period, an Ohio psychologist asked how one could determine competency in telepsychology. Although there are certificate programs in telepsychology provided by such individuals as Dr. Maheu and Ofer Zur, these programs do not fully meet the need for Ohio psychologists. Therefore, the challenge to develop telepsychology competencies for Ohio psychologists was born.

Clearly, the Communications and Technology Committee (CTC) has been a trendsetter in the field of telepsychology. Ohio was the first state to have telepsychology guidelines and the first state board to have a telepsychology law. The development of telepsychology competencies seemed the next logical step for the committee.

Starting on November 6-7, 2012, a subcommittee of the CTC met in Columbus, Ohio. These members included Audrey Ellenwood, Jeanne Jenkins and Marc Dielman. These individuals used the APA Guidelines, OPA Telepsychology Guidelines and Ohio Telepsychology Law as foundational components in the development of the competencies. At the November CTC conference call a number of individuals including Cynthia VanKeuren, Paule Asche, Mark Babula and Christina Goodwin also provided very helpful suggestions. On January 9, 2014 Audrey Ellenwood, Jeanne Jenkins and Paule Asche met through VSee – a teleconferencing format to further discuss these competencies. Audrey Ellenwood, Jeanne Jenkins and Marc Dielman met again on April 15, 2013 and August 21, 2013 in Richfield, Ohio to finalize the telepsychology competencies.

The focus in developing the competencies was simultaneously on knowledge and skill. The decision was made early on to view these competencies as a skeletal structure rather than encompassing all possible scenarios. It was hoped that eventually specific workshops, seminars, webinars, etc. could be developed as part of continuing education to maintain current knowledge and skill competencies in telepsychology. In fact, that is already occurring as Ken Drude, former chair of the CTC, and Cynthia VanKeuren, current CTC committee member, presented on “Telemental Health: A Practical Approach” at the OPA 2013 Convention. There are plans for a number of members of the committee to present at the OPA 2014 Spring Convention in the area of telepsychology with an emphasis on practical implications. The competencies will be posted on the OPA website soon.

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