Preparing your practice to move online may appear to be a simple feat - the technology is ready, willing, and waiting - let's go! If only it were that easy. Mental health professionals need to develop competence with any new treatment modality

Without a doubt, the technology world has enhanced the world of mental health treatment. As software and security continue to improve, mental health professionals are increasingly considering moving their practices online, or at least part of their practice. However, being a competent mental health professional does not necessarily equate with being a competent "online" therapist.

"Working online involves a new set of competencies that are required by our ethics codes. It is suggested that interested professionals work with experienced trainers who have considered the issues and their solutions from various angles: risk management, licensing, regulatory law, ethics, patient education and training; hardware and software issues (monitors, microphones, speakers, cameras); how to best prepare yourself and your recording office for the virtual experience; and what is around the corner for us with Electronic Health Records (EHRs), mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones, and a whole lot more." says Dr. Marlene Maheu, executive director of the TeleMental Health Institute. As a pioneering leader and expert in the field of telehealth, she has been researching, authoring professional articles and books, and a trainer in telehealth for almost 20 years.

In response to the immediate demand for live training and consultation for telehealth professionals, Dr. Maheu has developed a Video Teleconferencing (VTC) Master Study Group that will be available through the TeleMental Health Institute. The Master Study Group was first introduced this past June and August. Both sessions were met with such enthusiasm that the TMI Institute plans to launch another group next week. Through this 6-week study group, mental health professionals will be introduced to the essentials of online service provision, including hardware issues, software issues, office set-up, professionalism, client issues, and record keeping.

The Video Teleconferencing Master Study Group is a fast-moving, get-to-the-point and get-started series of 6 meetings online or by telephone that will begin November 19. It will provide mental health professionals with the skills and know-how to find the right equipment, at the right price, and do it immediately. Topics covered will include possible solutions to consider in choosing hardware, software, and other crucial set-up issues for online practice. This is a highly interactive group, meant to be a hands-on-learning experience for professionals who want to know how to best use technology in their mental health practices.

This study group will provide a place for mental health professionals to ask questions, and Dr. Maheu will tailor the information provided to meet the needs of the professionals in the group in a live call format. The upcoming Master Study Group will also be utilizing a new interface, which will allow for break-out groups and further discussion. Group attendees will also gain access to a Video Teleconferencing spreadsheet that details the names and services of 50+ VTC companies claiming HIPAA compliance.

The Video Teleconferencing Master Study group will meet online Mondays from 3-4 PM EST/12-1 Pacific over 6 weeks starting Monday, November 19, 2012. All Master Study Group Sessions will be recorded and available to download for those who cannot attend or miss a meeting. Registration is available through the Telemental Health Institute.