Teletherapy Professionalism – No Shortcuts!

I have heard teletherapy managers, supervisors, and company owners speak about shocking behaviors some teletherapists overlook as acceptable, much to the dismay of other professionals in our field.  From having family members entering the office during the provision of teletherapy services, dogs barking, an ill child sitting on the therapist’s lap, to wearing inappropriate clothing; these are just some of the expamples. Why are these situations problematic, you ask?  The impressions formed by parents, administrators, and teachers are critical to the success of teletherapy.  If it is not something you would do, bring, or wear to an office within a school or clinic, then it should not be brought, heard, or seen, in your home office.

Your teletherapy office should be “off-limits” to any other people or animals in the home.  Clearly define what consistutes an “emergency,” to family members.  Some children feel when a sibling is not being fair, that is an emergency.  It would be best if your house were empty during your scheduled teletherapy sessions.  Things such as the doorbell ringing or a dog barking in the background are not only distracting to you but also to your client.

To adhere to HIPAA compliance, the home office and its contents should be under lock-and-key.  This includes your teletherapy computer as well as any paperwork you have on your desk.  Having family members enter your office during teletherapy sessions, is a violation of confidentiality.  As a parent, I can understand how difficult this can be at times, but as a telepractitioner, you MUST establish the rules and hold firm.

Does this mean that you should place your preschool or younger child in daycare while you work from home?  YES.  And provide services while older children are at school.  Working from home as a teletherapist does not allow you to take your professional responsibilities any less seriously. I find it alarming that so many telepractitioners have the misconception that teletherapy is a watered-down, laid-back, very casual type of service delivery.  If you have been led to believe this by other professionals or teletherapy companies, they have done you, and our profession, a great disservice!

It is imperative that we, as teletherapists, adhere strictly to ASHA’s Code of Ethics and guidelines as they relate to therapy.  The “tele-” in front of “therapy” does not lessen our responsibility as professionals!  Would you wear pajama bottoms to work in a school (other than “Pajama Day,” of course) or clinic?  Then do not do so while working from home.

If, while meeting with an online doctor for a problem, you noticed: a messy bed behind him/her, children yelling somewhere in the his/her house coming/going from the from the home office, and/or the doctor wearing inappropriate attire, what would be your impression? I, personally, would question the doctor’s professionalism and over all abilities.  It would appear that he probably isn’t the most qualified doctor, but he will have to do for now. That may not seem fair, but we humans have a tendency to judge others by their presentation.

Think of the consequences of your choices, while working from home as a teletherapist.  Each and every one of us represents the others in our profession.  How you present yourself (e.g., professionalism, attire, work area/environment) directly impacts every teletherapist!  As a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t do, wear, see, or hear it at an office outside of your home, then don’t let it happen while working from home.

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