The Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors had a proposed rule that would have made online therapy much more difficult. Luckily, due to pressure from counselors, the regulatory board scrapped the initiative. The proposed rule would have required an in-person session before a practitioner could commence a distance counseling relationship with a patient.
This proposed rule comes on the heels of an April 2015 rule enacted by the Texas Medical Board that requires doctors to see a patient in-person before conducting telehealth sessions. This rule exempted psychiatrists because 201 of Texas’s 254 countries are designated mental health shortage areas. In fact, 174 counties don’t have a single psychiatrist! While the Texas Medical Board doesn’t have regulatory authority over non medical doctor mental health practitioners, the Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors followed their lead with their own similar rule.
Our friends at Teledoc (a primary care telehealth company) helpfully initiated a federal lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board regarding the ruling that affects physicians. We certainly wish them luck as a federal ruling on telehealth is likely to improve the regulatory future for all health professions when it comes to telehealth.
Teladoc, alleges the rule violates antitrust laws because it would restrict the company’s ability to compete, resulting in higher prices and less access to doctors for Texans. We’ve written an article about online therapy and interstate commerce that’s worth checking out if you’re interested in the iCouch analysis of how anti-trust laws affect cross-state telehealth practice.
What does all of this mean for Texas mental health practitioners?
The scrapping of the rule by the Texas Board of Examiners means that online counseling in Texas can proceed as normal. That means you do not have to have an in-person session prior to beginning treatment with a client.
At iCouch, we’re confident that online counseling legislation will be soon catching up to the modern era — so that’s great news for behavioral health practitioners, but even better news for potential clients!