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Master of Social Work Behavioral Health Fellows Increase Their Telehealth Proficiency

Since 2020 TCI has taught telemental health to over 600 graduate students. These were students of social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy, psychology, or public health who completed the TeleMental Health Training Program. Participating colleges varied greatly–small, large, private, public, urban and rural.

Alabama A&M University is one of the colleges TCI has partnered with for the last two years. In March we completed the TeleMental Health Training Program with a group of 31 master of social work fellows from their Behavioral Health Workforce Training Program (BHWTP). The BHWTP Fellows’ participation in the TeleMental Health Training Program is made possible by generous funding awarded to the MSW Program by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)(MC1HP42067‐01‐00) through its Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program. The purpose of the BHWET Program for Professionals is to develop and expand experiential training opportunities, such as field placements and internships, to improve the distribution and supply of the behavioral health workforce. The development of competencies in the implementation of telemental health is a current and critical skills area in demand across settings in which social workers practice. 

Beginning in October and ending in March, the students started with pre-testing, attended four live webinar sessions, and completed the program with post-testing. Each webinar was interactive and immersive, led by TCI’s CEO and telemental health instructor Ray Barrett. Students were able to ask questions, apply concepts to real-life situations, and immediately put the skills they learned into practice with their peers during breakout sessions.

These webinars covered the ten modules that compose the full program:

  • Introduction to TeleMental Health
  • Legal Aspects of TeleMental Health
  • Ethics of Using Technology in Behavioral Health
  • Privacy Law for TeleMental Health
  • Ethical, Legal, and Clinical Aspects of Selecting Technology
  • Emergency Management Planning for TeleMental Health
  • Screening for Fit for TeleMental Health Services
  • Ethical and Clinical Skills of Video Sessions
  • Ethical and Clinical Skills of Phone Therapy
  • Cultural Competence and Telehealth

Per the university’s request, TCI measured the learning outcomes for each module or topic area. The assessments are graded on a scale of 0-10. The students’ initial pre-training tests saw an average grade of 5.4/10. After the training series, student post-test grades increased by 55% compared to the pre-test, closing out at 8.4/10.

The greatest area of improvement, according to assessments, was Clinical Skills of Phone Therapy. Phone therapy skills are incredibly important for clinical social workers as they continue to serve remote clients who lack access to high-speed internet.

Many of the fellows shared their experience of the telemental health webinars.

“This presentation was extremely informative. I will be using what I have learned within these lessons within my future practice.”

“I learned in greater detail about best practices with video telehealth and best practices such as camera angles, etc.”

“This training was very informative. The presenter aided my understanding of the inner workings of Telemental health. My only recommendation for improvement would be to include more visual stimuli and discussions in order to keep the class engaged.”

“Being able to assist and work with clients telephonically will make my practice better.”

“I learned a great deal about the legal aspects of Telemental health. I have a better understanding about what is appropriate when practicing across state lines, which will be beneficial to me in the future considering I am interested in opening my own counseling practice using Telemental health.”

“I learned more about HIPAA as far as the details of technology and disclosure. It will prevent breaches of HIPAA.”

“This activity was very informative…The speaker was constantly engaging the class and listening to any questions and comments from students. He seemed knowledgeable regarding the subject.”

“I enjoyed breaking off into groups and practicing how to contact emergency services when a client is having harmful ideations.”

“This gave me a great deal of insight regarding the importance of safety and preparation for practitioners.”

“Everything in the course was new to me. I will now be able to practice TeleMental Health.”

In addition, at the end of each webinar, we asked participants the following questions: “Did this program enhance your professional expertise?”, and “Would you recommend this program to others?”  99% of surveyed participants said “YES” to the first question, and 97% answered “YES” to the second question. 

The BHWTP fellows also provided helpful recommendations for improvement, such as increasing slide content and visual stimuli for some of the topics. They also shared other topics they would like to study, such as vicarious trauma, substance abuse, and feminism in social work. The team at TCI considers it an essential part of their job to listen to these recommendations and make adjustments and additional courses to better meet the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s licensed clinicians.

In the end, we at TCI believe the TeleMental Health Training Program does what it was designed to do, namely, to increase professionals' confidence and readiness for today’s workforce through proficiency in telehealth. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue these relationships with each student, clinician and institution, and we remain committed to being the cutting edge of telemental health success for years to come.

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