In addition to in-person therapy and evaluation, we are also able to meet virtually on secure telehealth platforms. Some people find this to be an easier way to access services in certain circumstances. For example, for some socially anxious children and adults, online therapy can feel like a safer first step. For parents with inflexible work schedules or without ready childcare, online services might be the only way for both parents to participate. For people who are unable to come in person, either because of distance or physical difficulty, telehealth can make it possible to seek help.
During the current coronavirus crisis, we are only providing services virtually until it’s safe to meet in person again. Virtual therapy can be quite effective for many forms of therapy for childern and adults, in individual or group formats. We use a HIPAA-compliant service from Google called G-Suite. The video chat tool from G-Suite is called Google Meet, and it is secure and confidential. We will send you a link to a specific Google Meet room for your session. Some of our practioners use a HIPAA-compliant version of Zoom, which will be secure and password-protected. You’ll need a high-speed internet connection, a web camera and microphone (most laptops, tablets, and phones have this built in), and a quiet and private space.
Doing evaluations remotely is trickier but still viable. Because our neuropsychological assessments have always integrated data points from many different sources, there’s quite a lot of the evaluation process that doesn’t involve in-person testing. We’re conducting several parts of the whole process via telehealth platforms, which includes parent background interviews, interviews with teachers and service providers, questionnaires, and all the writing for these–that’s about half of the full evaluation right there! We’re calling this Phase 1. Then, when it’s safe to be face-to-face again, all Phase 1 families will have first priority for scheduling testing dates (Phase 2), at which point we should be then able to get finalized reports out to parents quickly. These methods have worked very well for families, and we’re confident in the quality of the data we’re getting this way. We’re also conducting some remote testing for certain clients in certain situations. However, it’s critical that this data truly reflect a child’s abilities, so we’re going to err on the conservative side, to make sure that our evaluations meet our high standards for accuracy and utility.
Researchers around the globe are doing everything they can to demonstrate validity with solid, evidence-based information. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the Inter Organizational Practice Committee (IOPC), as well as test publishers, like Pearson, have summarized existing research on the validity and reliability of conducting testing remotely, and they have also provided information on the logistics of how to carry out testing in this way. Some data collected remotely can be just as good as what’s collected in person. However, decisions about remote testing will always need to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the particular person and the discretion of the particular neuropsychologist. Other factors, such as the impact of anxiety on test performance, will also need to be taken into account. In the end, our neuropsychologists will need to integrate all of the unusual factors involved in this unique situation and make their best clinical judgments on what a person needs, despite the unusual factors at play.