In this post, Diana Parafiniuk, MS,CCC-SLP, founder and chief marketing officer of E-Therapy, shares 5 telepractice insights from her years of experience. Developing these habits can help school-based speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and guidance counselors that are new to online therapy have a successful telepractice.
Experience Practitioner Shares 5 Habits for Online Therapy
by Diana Parafiniuk
Telepractice has become the service-delivery model of my life’s work. I definitely dedicated sweat and tears—if not my blood—into building my own telepractice since 2008. I believe telepractice offers solutions and enhances the quality of life for underserved students.
Over these years, I learned that telepractice serves as a bridge and relationship-builder between students and clinicians. Many of our students and clients are digital natives, so remote sessions give us a chance to work with them using a form of communication they well understand.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about easing the online therapy process during my dozen years doing telepractice.
Be an excellent communicator
Clear, simple communication is one of the most important habits to develop for successful online therapy. Keep instructions concise, bullet information in emails, and send reminders for upcoming sessions. Keep a log of each communication with parents or colleagues.
If your telepractice platform doesn’t offer direct-communication log tracking, save and file your emails into separate folders for each client or student.
Set expectations at the start
Speech-language pathologists who use telepractice exclusively often make their introductions to families and/or school administrators and teachers initially over the phone. I coach my staff to make those first impressions with confidence, understanding, and a professional demeanor.
Take the time to learn what parents/teachers expect from online sessions. Offer examples of how you might work with their child or student. Let them know if and how they can—or should—participate with intervention, both during sessions and in daily life. Keep the child’s information in front of you so you can confirm with the teacher or parent what you’ll address during sessions.
Create consistent organization
Keep your digital files and hard-copy files organized. I try to keep this process easy to execute. E-Therapy and some other telepractice platforms include a way to create profiles for each client and store data. But you can create a system yourself.
Set up folders in a secure Google drive or cloud storage for your clinical data notes. Save the notes you take during sessions to the client file immediately after each session. You can also include links to activities you used to save time when you set up for your next session.
Schedule for success
Keep your session calendar updated. I find a digital calendar works best, and it is a habit that has served me well while practicing online therapy. It allows reminders and notifications to alert you about an upcoming session in various ways—text, email, pop-up—and with multiple timings. I also use them to send email reminders 24 hours before each session to parents or teachers. And keep your phone nearby in case a parent or teacher can’t get into a session and tries to call. If no one signs on for five minutes after the session is scheduled to begin, call the parent or teacher to minimize lost session time.
Ensure session privacy
Most platforms allow you to assign individual rooms or meeting appointments for each client to maintain privacy. You can adjust this for groups when needed. Assigning each parent or teacher a unique password also keeps sessions secure. Individually assigned rooms can track and digitally time-stamp your sessions as well. This log records what time the client or student arrived for the session, what time the SLP started the session, and how long both parties stayed in the session.
These fundamentals should help you set a sound foundation for your telepractice. Incorporating these tips into your practice also instills confidence in the parents and educators. When team members request items such as clinical data notes, contact log information, and proof of session attendance, these telepractice protocols can easily and effectively save time, show your professionalism, and support your practice.
A version of this article first appeared on Leader Live, ASHA’s blog, https://blog.asha.org/do/10.1044/2020-0429-telepractice-tips/full/