Psychology Melbourne Blog

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On (suddenly) being an online psychologist

Edited by Jill Wright,

on (suddenly) being an online psychologist

In early March, as it became increasingly obvious that COVID-19 was going to make face-to-face contact between our clients and our staff problematic, Psychology Melbourne began an increasingly urgent process of change.

It was going to be a dramatic shift. We would have to be prepared to move our booking and reception staff and psychologists out of the world of physical premises and set them up to operate via the Internet.

It was a huge logistical and technical challenge. It would involve the duplication of our telephone PBX extensions onto laptops and headsets. We would have to set up 16 different applications to duplicate our operating infrastructure in an online environment. And we would move close to 50 psychologists out of their physical consulting rooms into virtual ones, using real-time video and audio links.

The fact that we were able to make a smooth transition – closing our physical office on a Saturday afternoon and opening a completely online version on the following Monday – was largely due to a huge advantage that we had over most health practices. We had long-term, real-life experience in online mental health practice, having delivered a contract with Medibank Private and Telstra Health to provide remote psychological services to the Queensland rural community of Gladstone from our Melbourne clinic.

During the two years of that contract, helping people with their technical issues as well as their mental health issues, we had become experts in the techniques and technology of video counselling.

One thing that experience told us was the challenge of keeping sessions secure – something that cannot be guaranteed on consumer platforms.

Online therapy is an intensely private activity, and we’re not comfortable with our clients using anything but the most secure video. Instead, we use Doxy.me - a highly secure solution developed specifically for use by healthcare professionals.

Below, one of our Melbourne psychologists, Dominique Mulhane, writes about her experience of working with clients via video.

Dominique: We understand not all clients may feel comfortable having therapy using video instead of the more traditional face-to-face, however, we also know that at a time of an international pandemic, taking care of your mental health is vital.

People are self-isolating, experiencing changes in work conditions and unable to do many of the things they would normally do to maintain and improve their well-being.

The fact that Medicare has provided updated telehealth rebate options gives clients some comfort. Those rebates mean they can continue sessions using their Mental Health Care Plan.

I, and the clients I have been working with using Doxy.me have found it is simple to use, confidential, and a great way to stay connected with your psychologist.

What happens? When you call or book your next appointment online you can choose to have a video counselling session. The day before your appointment you will receive a message with instructions on how to access your video session using Doxy.me. You simply click on the link which will take you to our page. On the main page you will see a drop-down menu with a list of our psychologists’ names. Find the name of the psychologist you have your appointment with then click on the name. This will take you to the psychologist’s virtual waiting room. The psychologist will be able to see you in their waiting room and will start the call at the time of your appointment.

As with all technology, some people do experience the occasional problem. This may be due to a poor internet connection, or not having your webcam or microphone switched on correctly on your device (phone, tablet or computer). If your psychologist cannot hear or see you, they may send you a written chat message.

Most times your psychologist will be able to talk you through what to do in order to fix the problem. Alternatively, if you have trouble connecting you can contact our administration team on (03) 9629 1001 for assistance.

Feedback from clients who have already used the new Doxy.me video counselling option has been positive. After the first one or two sessions they know exactly how to use it and find that it can be just as good as coming into the clinic.

If you have not already had a video session, please book in now as your psychologist would love to re-connect with you and support you through this challenging time. And of course, we have space available for new clients.

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.