The popularity of telemental health services has habitually prioritized flashier counseling methods to the detriment of the accessible—but by now means simpler—phone counseling sessions. The truth of the matter is that many clients across the country do not have access to fast-speed internet or a personal computer, leaving them detached from the counseling services they might desperately seek. For these clients—especially those with debilitating anxiety, depressive, or PTSD symptoms—over the phone counseling can be a preferred and exclusive way to receive help.
What the Research Says about Phone Counseling:
- Many clients actually complete a higher number of phone counseling sessions compared to in-person meetings (Hernandez-Tejada et al., 2014).
- Contrary to popular belief, suicidality can be effectively addressed when using phone counseling for depression (Rhee et al., 2005).
- Phone sessions keep the care coming. There’s no need to slow down when environmental barriers take away an in-office option.
The American Psychological Association offers phone counseling tips for therapists interested in practicing counseling by phone. The first step in any phone session is to ensure that the client on the other end of the phone is who they say they are. Asking for a name and a date of birth can offset doubts about identity. Once the client’s identity has been vetted, explaining confidentiality limitations can establish common ground between a client and clinician.
When it comes to phone counseling, distractions are to be expected. Since therapists cannot see their clients, fewer agreements can be formally defined. Talking through these possible scenarios shows how committed you are to the therapeutic process. Beginning with a checklist of questions might sound contradictory in a client-centered approach, but showing compassion for a client’s wellbeing often has the opposite effect: you achieve a higher level of clinical fidelity while amplifying client engagement.
Above all, undergoing comprehensive training in phone counseling techniques, or in any non-traditional clinical modality, preserves your credibility as a professional. The Telehealth Certification Institute has a curriculum designed for phone counseling professionals. Their TeleMental Health Training Certificate (THTC) touches on ethical, legal, and technological topics to boost your confidence and reaffirm your passion for phone counseling.
American Psychological Association Services, INC. (2020). Telephone psychotherapy: Ensuring patients have access to effective care. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/legal/technology/telephone-psychotherapy (Description: The American Psychological Association, known by most as the APA, is a trusted community who represents the interests of professional psychologists. This article outlines the advantages of phone counseling with the support of scientific research).
Bufka, L. (2020). Tips for doing phone therapy: When videoconferencing isn't an option for your patient, consider audio-only treatment. Retrieved from https://www.apaservices.org/practice/legal/technology/effective-phone-therapy (Description: An article from the APA that focuses on tips and considerations for phone counseling).