The prevalence of telehealth for mental health counseling has been on the rise in recent years. However, since COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were implemented in early 2020, telehealth services have grown exponentially. As a consequence, the number of questions I receive on this topic are higher than ever before. These questions fall into two general categories. First, test-takers seek to better understand our legal and ethical obligations related to telehealth. Second, test-takers are concerned about the COVID-related waivers and how they could appear on the California MFT licensing exams.
In an effort to clear up any confusion and calm any anxiety, let’s start with the latter concern. The temporary waivers for telehealth practices due to COVID-19 will not appear on your California MFT law and ethics or MFT Clinical Written exams. The waivers only allow for short-term changes, so the BBS will not waste resources developing questions, testing them for validity, and eventually including them as scored questions. It is not worth their time, especially when there are so many unknowns with COVID-related issues and the waivers could change or end at any time.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s shift to a telehealth question that is relevant during this unique time, and that will continue to be relevant when changes due to COVID are thankfully things of the past.
Some commonly asked questions in regards to telehealth include:
- Do I need written or verbal consent?
- Who can be treated using this modality?
- What if my client moves or travels outside of the state?
- What if I am located outside of the state?
- How do I manage a client expressing suicidal ideation?
While these issues are all addressed in our program, I want to focus specifically on the laws regarding the therapist’s location and related key facts.
- The client must be located in California.
- The therapist’s location does not matter.
- The therapist must be licensed in California and abide by California state laws.
Whether you feel like an expert or novice in this area, our program can help. TDC’s California MFT law and ethics and Clinical Written exam programs will provide you with everything you need to know, and how to apply this knowledge to successfully answering test questions. A unique feature of TDC’s exam prep programs, that separates us from others out there is, you’re not alone as you study. With TDC, you always have the ability to email your coach to address any questions or concerns that arise as you study.
Let’s take a look at this month’s FREE practice question.
A therapist licensed to practice in California maintains a full caseload. The therapist traditionally met with clients in-person, but shifted to telehealth at the onset COVID-19. The therapist and their family recently decided to move to a different state. How should the therapist clinically manage their legal and ethical obligations?
A. Since the therapist is licensed in California and has already obtained informed consent for telehealth, they may continue to provide services without disruption.
B. The therapist should inform clients of their relocation, offer referrals for California-based therapists, and move toward termination prior to move.
C. The therapist should inform clients of their relocation and determine if clients would prefer to continue with telehealth or receive referrals for California-based therapists.
D. The therapist may continue to provide therapy to clients in California after obtaining a new informed consent.
(scroll down for answer and rationale…)
The correct answer is C.
The question is specifically asking about clinical management, while taking into account your legal and ethical obligations. Legally, the therapist can continue to provide telehealth services to their clients regardless of where the therapist is located. It is the clients who must be located in California. Answer B is incorrect because it assumes the therapist must terminate. In contrast, answer A is ok, but it is not a very strong answer. This answer has the therapist continuing with treatment, without considering what the client wants to do--does the client want a therapist located in California? Do they want to eventually return to in-person sessions? These issues are not addressed in answer A. Answer D is incorrect, because we would not need to obtain a new informed consent.
The best answer is C, the therapist should share this change with their clients, process what it means for their clients, and proceed accordingly.
How did you do?
How did you do on the telehealth question? Are you ready to tackle these questions on your exam? Regardless of your answers to these questions, TDC’s MFT California Clinical Exam prep program covers it and provides you with practice questions to help you prepare. TDC’s MFT California Clinical exam prep programs give you everything you need to be successful on the exam, without overwhelming you with content you don’t need. We’ve helped THOUSANDS of MFTs PASS their exams with confidence over the past decade. Our team looks forward to helping you PASS with confidence!