Telemental health care is a rapidly growing service as people’s lives become busier and they seek more convenient and immediate methods to address their needs. It is also a useful alternative to office visits for clients who live in rural areas and those who are homebound. Sessions are conducted by secure, HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing from a client’s home, office, or virtually anywhere with internet access, depending on each state’s regulations.
The Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider (BC-TMH) credential was designed to help mental health professionals navigate this type of service delivery. Developed by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE), an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), in conjunction with leaders in the field, the BC-TMH provides the training, knowledge, and credibility that clients and employers demand from mental health professionals, allowing them to seek the best practices to offer safe and effective services.
For Dan Nommensen, the Member Assistance Program Director for Christian Family Solutions, a counseling provider in Wisconsin, the benefits of obtaining the BC-TMH have been far-reaching.
“I have had the opportunity to provide counseling through video since 2008, when we launched our first telehealth program providing services for pastors. Our services have grown significantly, and we now have about a dozen of our therapists who are BC-TMHs,” Nommensen says. “We provide hundreds of hours of video service each month in various parts of the country.”
Nommensen, who is also a National Certified Counselor (NCC), licensed professional counselor (LPC), and Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor (BCPCC), says the BC-TMH has also helped reach those in need who may not have otherwise received help.
“There are key obstacles for people in need of mental health services, and one of these is distance. There are many rural areas of our country where the nearest clinic could be an hour drive or more. By providing services through a secure video connection, we are able to remove this obstacle so people can receive the care they need,” Nommensen says.
Mental health professionals interested in obtaining the BC-TMH credential must either hold a current, active, qualifying license to practice in a behavioral health field in the state or country in which they live or work, or hold a current, active, qualifying credential to practice in a behavioral health field from the list of qualifying credentials and certifications found on CCE’s website. Candidates must successfully complete the online Telemental Health Professional Training Series, passing each of the nine modules and the comprehensive final examination within two years of applying for the credential. The credential is valid for five years as long as the holder complies with credential standards.
Telemental health professionals work in a variety of settings, including private practices, clinics, hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, and nursing homes.
“Many therapists have a thriving in-person practice and may not see the need to expand into telehealth,” Nommensen says. “However, as our society changes and we see the means of interacting with each other changing, it would be in everyone’s best interest to explore the benefits of telehealth. The BC-TMH credential itself not only demonstrates a commitment to providing excellence, but the training process has helped us shape our program to ensure we are maintaining great service within legal and ethical standards of care.”