Malone faculty develop telebehavioral health guidelines

File Under: Academic Excellence

When the national shutdown for the Coronavirus pandemic began in Ohio, three Malone faculty members recognized the impact it would have on mental health. Christina Schnyders, director of the graduate program in counseling and human development, Kara Kaelber, chair of the department of psychology and counseling, and Katie Gamby, assistant professor of counseling and human development wanted to serve the community and also help counselors navigate a new way to care for their clients.

The trio discussed the importance of looking ahead to telehealth and how it might be integrated within the counselor education program at Malone. Telehealth is the distribution of health services and information via electronic and telecommunication technologies.

“I know many individuals who would not be able to see their therapist without the option of telehealth,” explained Gamby. “Many counseling centers are still open because mental health is considered ‘essential,’ however, individuals are generally nervous or scared to be out right now, so I knew that providing this option could help with a lot of peoples' anxieties.”

From that initial conversation, they wasted no time.

“I reached out to the Executive Director of the Ohio Counseling Association, Bob Thomas, to see what had been developed regarding telehealth and he told us that the organization had yet to create any guidelines,” Gamby said. “He connected us to Patty McGrath, a therapist at Sun Behavioral Columbus, who had already expressed interest in writing guidelines for practitioners desiring to do telehealth in the state of Ohio.”

These four women formed the Telebehavioral Health Taskforce and created guidelines to be used by the counseling community. They divided out the research they wanted to include, then compiled the data with the best telehealth standards. 

“We have seen an influx in mental health issues because many protective factors we usually use to improve our mental health, such as attending church, connecting with community, and hugging our friends/loved ones, are not accessible right now. We are thrilled that individuals who need services now have the opportunity to receive them through telehealth,” said Gamby. “We hope these guidelines continue to serve mental health therapists in Ohio who want to sustain this practice even after COVID-19 is behind us!”

The Telebehavioral Health Guidelines were adopted by the Ohio Counseling Association to be used throughout the state and can be found on the Ohio Counseling Association website here.