May 6, 2020 : By Ryan Klinker - Liberty University News Service
Liberty University’s School of Behavioral Sciences has released a free, three-hour online training session in the practice of telemental health to help mental health professionals and anyone else who is interested in becoming more familiar with the discipline. With the current COVID-19 crisis, the training is more relevant than ever.
Over a year ago, Dean Dr. Kenyon Knapp formed a committee of eight faculty members in the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies to develop the training, called “Ethical Considerations for Telemental Health,” after noticing a higher demand for online counseling services.
“Originally, the telemental health committee was a vision Dr. Knapp had because he saw the benefit in having something like this and how it was trending within the field,” said Dr. Jerry Vuncannon, committee co-chair. “It’s a transition from in-person counseling or traditional counseling into online counseling.”
The training covers topics such as staying up to date on the expanding field of digital counseling, proper ethical conduct to protect the confidentiality of clients and practitioners, and ensuring that clients feel comfortable throughout the process of therapy from remote locations, according to committee co-chair Dr. April Crable.
The training can fulfill three Continuing Education Units (CEUs in ethics through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). These unit hours are often required by states when mental health professionals renew their licenses.
“The CEUs are catered toward licensed counselors, but almost everyone these days is doing telemental health training and many states accept NBCC CEUs for other mental health disciplines besides counseling, so this may be beneficial to many of them,” Knapp said.
Crable explained that this training was also designed to aid Liberty students as they prepare to enter the field full time.
“We have a lot of our counseling field experience students — those taking internships and practicums — who were going to be transitioning in a small amount of time and we wanted to provide them with something where they can learn the skills, best practices, and ethical requirements,” Crable said.
The students took a “tele-mental health training from the LU faculty committee last month in case their field experience sites made a shift to online services due to COVID-19. The online session, which was offered on two different days and allowed participants to receive CEUs, was attended by about 700 people, including faculty, students and colleagues at their internships and practicums, and members of other institutions.
Now, with many counseling services being offered online due to stay-at-home orders, Vuncannon said the training Liberty already set in place has become more necessary than before.
“In some ways this training was by necessity because of the unexpected transition to online,” he said. “People still had things they needed help with, they still needed services, and there was really no choice.”
Audra Weatherly, a career coach for Liberty’s Career Services office, took the training because she wanted to learn how to better assist students during her weekly virtual workshops.
“While for me it wasn’t directly for counseling, I was able to get ideas on how to help steer students by using online technologies,” she said. “It was a really good eye-opener to how I could help students feel more comfortable with connecting with our online workshops. It gave me a better perspective on how I can be there and support our students during this time.”
The committee plans to put together more training series in the near future.
The training sessions can be accessed below: