Technology in Counseling

Using Referral Sites to Grow Your Counseling Practice

Due to my niche practice, I've never had to use online referral sites such as Psychology Today.  My practice works directly with probation and parole departments for referrals, so I've never had to try other referral resources.  

For a short time, I worked in a general private practice with other counselors, accepting insurance and seeing people on a referral basis, but the referrals came into the practice and were dispersed to us based on availability and specialty.  Again, never had to do any referral development on my own.

I'm curious if anyone is willing to share some real numbers of the amount of referrals they receive each month through referral sites?  Is it worth the money?  I'm hoping we can create some honest dialogue about the best ways to develop referrals.

Helpful Website

I recently came across this website, and it has a lot of really good information about technology in counseling.  Also, Roy will be doing a podcast with me in the next couple weeks.  Really excited to have a chance to talk with him!  Check out his website...

I especially like all the helpful information regarding HIPAA compliance. 

Breakthrough Update

I recently received an update from Breakthrough reporting some exciting changes.  Due to the recent merger with MDLive, some new opportunities will be available starting in 2015.  Here's the main takeaways:

  1.  Breakthrough is beginning to contract directly with insurance companies.  For example, if you are a Texas provider, Breakthrough already has a contract with Aetna that allows them to conduct the benefits and eligibility lookup and they will file the claim for you.
  2. After doing one additional credentialing step, providers will now be able to join large contracted employer groups to receive referrals.  You will receive a flat rate of $60 per session.
  3. Breakthrough reports they will be adding additional contracts with organizations and insurance companies, which could translate into more business for providers.

Technology continues to change the way all businesses are being run.  It seems that online counseling will continue to be a growing market in the 21st century.  There are people that believe this is bad for our field, but I think we either adapt and change with our technological culture, or become obsolete.

Do You Need a Certification to Practice Online Therapy?

The short answer: NO

The other short answer: check with your licensing board to confirm your ethical obligations and license requirements to practice online.

Regarding any certification program, make sure it will provide you with a benefit before purchasing.  Typically, "certification" programs can cost quite a bit of money, and are sold as a way to market yourself.  Truth is, your client likely doesn't know (and doesn't care) what LPC stands for, much less any other certification you hold.  What does your client care about: if you can help them overcome the problems they are currently dealing with.

Training and experience are what matters.  My recommendation is only get a certification if it is required to conduct your business, or if you just feel it's important to you.  Also, confirm the certification is from a reputable source before moving forward with your purchase.

I learned this lesson the hard way...
Early in my career, I purchased an "anger management" certification course.  During the process, I watched some videos, read a book, and answered some simple test questions.  At the end of the process, I received a certificate.  I thought this would open some doors for referrals, but no one cared about the certification, because it doesn't mean anything to the general public (AKA your clients).  I did learn some valuable information in the process, but wasted money and time getting a certification that holds no value.  

What are your thoughts?  Have you earned a certification that has paid dividends in your practice?

Update Regarding Breakthrough

Breakthrough has recently switched to another platform, causing all providers to make the switch as well.  Here's what the email I received about the switch stated:

As the leaders in our industry Breakthrough is committed to providing you with best in class products and services. That’s why we’re excited for the release of our new video platform, VSee. VSee provides a more streamlined and improved user experience, and we’re happy to bring our providers and clients an innovative and trusted video solution for your Breakthrough sessions.

New features
There are a few major differences between VSee and our current video platform, Adobe, you’ll notice right away:

1. One of the best benefits of VSee is that it uses low bandwidth (30-50% less than most video calling solutions!) so you conserve data usage.
2. VSee delivers superior HD video quality, even in low bandwidth networks.
3. VSee keeps the session window on top of other open applications so you can always see yourself and your patient during a session.
4. With VSee you can resize the session window and move your client’s session window closer to the video camera so it appears like you are looking directly at your client.

Best security as always
VSee offers a secure level of end-to-end (from the moment it leaves your computer all the way to its final destination, the receiving person) encryption that eliminates the possibility of anyone eavesdropping in and is HIPAA compliant.

Ready to get started?
VSee requires downloading and is easy and fast. VSee is compatible with Windows and Mac systems and works with any of the browser you use.

If you want more info on VSee, go here:

I am actually very excited about this change in platforms.  Though I haven't conducted an actual session using Breakthrough, my initial "practice" session was somewhat frustrating because of the visual issues.  Now that Breakthrough is using VSee, those problems should no longer exist.  The biggest issue was eye contact with clients.  Now that you can move the picture of the client to the top of your screen (where the camera on your computer is), you can now look at them while talking instead of staring at the camera.