Telehealth and Telepsychology Licensure – Barriers and Possible Solutions as Psychology Adopts the Psychotechnologies

Here now, it’s Sunday morning and nearing the end of this year’s APA convention. Over the last few days – happily for me and others who made a point of tuning into technology, psychology, and 21st Century experience – we have witnessed this year, the beginning of the 2nd decade of the century and millennium, far greater and broader interest in areas of ‘tele-psychology’, technology-assisted consultative activities, and a wide rage of Internet/computer facilitated activities. More research. More access. More applications. All good. But questions remain: In terms of professional practice, is it appropriate and legal to offer regulated professional services across state lines, or ‘on the Internet’? Under what circumstances? Why or why not? What are the risks – and benefits? Who wins or loses in terms of ‘access’?

The various professional and ethical codes endeavor to promote ‘best practice’ and protect the public. That said, we live amid a tsunami of changes in everyday life experience: new research, new technologies, new applications and new needs. One can now seamlessly transcend borders of all sorts as we find – and offer – all kinds of services and products. Some practitioners see this as a godsend, others are wary of ‘doing something illegal’ or jeopardizing one’s license or insurance, or worse. Many out there simply just ‘do their thing’, with and without licenses, no worries. That’s the broad context.

With all the ambiguity and mixed messages about the presence or absence of license portability, legality of cross-state professional practice on the Internet, ethics and insurance issues, and the still-ongoing debate over “where Internet consultation actually takes place”, here we have the ultimate panel of experts to provide some grounded, evidence-based information.

The panel today includes government and licensing board leaders, a physician/attorney specializing in litigating professional/licensing/ethics cases, an online psychology provider/trainer, and an APA Past President- who is an attorney/psychologist who also works on staff for a U.S. Senator with a strong record in the healthcare area. They offer an informed perspective, to say the least.

Introducing the panel: Marlene Maheu, Ph. D. (chair)

The first speaker is Stephen DeMers,Ed.D., Executive Officer of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the ASPPB, which is now celebrating its 50th year. The title alone hints at the complexity of the whole ‘system’ of licensing, in the US essentially a ’50-state octopus’ [my term] with 50 sets of law and regulation, local and regional professional boards, and myriad ethical codes. Here to sort some of it out we have a distinguished panel of experts.

Stephen T. DeMers, Ed.D.
TelePsychology Practice Within A Regulatory Minefield: Outdated, Inconsistent and Inadequate Rules Across States & Provinces

So what is the ASPPB? It is NOT a license board itself. Rather, it supports member boards throughout the US and Canada, and it supports the EPP (nationally accepted test of core competencies).

A brief history of psychology licensure:

— In 1888 the US Supreme Court authorized professional licensing by States.

— In 1892 the American Psychological Association was founded

— In 1912 All U.S, States had Medical Practice Acts

— In 1945 the first Licensing Law for psychologists was adopted.

— In 1953 the APA adopted its First Ethics Code

— In 1961: The Association of State & Provincial Psychology Boards is born.

— By 1977 all 50 States had Licensing Laws.