Consumer Information Regarding Online Psychotherapy

Notice to California Consumers Regarding Psychotherapy on the Internet

The Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) would like to make the following recommendations to California consumers who choose to seek therapy or counseling over the Internet.

Individuals who provide psychotherapy or counseling, either in person, by telephone, or over the Internet, are required by law to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state. Individuals who provide psychotherapy or counseling to persons in California are required to be licensed in California. Such licensure permits the consumer to pursue recourse against the licensee should the consumer believe that the licensee engaged in unprofessional conduct.

Be a cautious consumer when seeking therapy over the Internet, or by any other means, by doing the following:

  • Verify that the practitioner has a current and valid license in the State of California.
  • Be sure you understand the fee that you will be charged for the services to be rendered and that you fully understand how and to whom the fee is to be paid.
  • Be sure you are satisfied with the methods used to ensure your communications with and by the therapist will be confidential.
  • Be sure you are aware of the risks and benefits of doing therapy, over the Internet or by any other means, so you can make an informed choice about the therapy or counseling to be provided.
  • According to Business and Professions Code Section 2290.5, prior to the delivery of health care via telehealth, the health care provider at the originating site shall verbally inform the patient that telehealth may be used and obtain verbal consent from the patient for this use. The verbal consent shall be documented in the patient's medical record. All laws regarding the confidentiality of health care information and a patient's right to his or her medical information shall apply to telehealth interactions.

Business and Professions Code Section 2290.5

(a)  For purposes of this division, the following definitions shall apply:

(1)  "Asynchronous store and forward" means the transmission of a patient's medical information from an originating site to the health care provider at a distant site without the presence of the patient.

(2)  "Distant site" means a site where a health care provider who provides health care services is located while providing these services via a telecommunications system.

(3)  "Health care provider" means a person who is licensed under this division.

(4)  "Originating site" means a site where a patient is located at the time health care services are provided via a telecommunications system or where the asynchronous store and forward service originates.

(5)  "Synchronous interaction" means a real-time interaction between a patient and a health care provider located at a distant site.

(6)  "Telehealth" means the mode of delivering health care services and public health via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient's health care while the patient is at the originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site. Telehealth facilitates patient self-management and caregiver support for patients and includes synchronous interactions and asynchronous store and forward transfers.

(b)  Prior to the delivery of health care via telehealth, the health care provider at the originating site shall verbally inform the patient that telehealth may be used and obtain verbal consent from the patient for this use. The verbal consent shall be documented in the patient's medical record.

(c)  The failure of a health care provider to comply with this section shall constitute unprofessional conduct. Section 2314 shall not apply to this section.

(d)  This section shall not be construed to alter the scope of practice of any health care provider or authorize the delivery of health care services in a setting, or in a manner, not otherwise authorized by law.

(e)  All laws regarding the confidentiality of health care information and a patient's rights to his or her medical information shall apply to telehealth interactions.

(f)   This section shall not apply to a patient under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or any other correctional facility.

(g)  (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law and for purposes of this section, the governing body of the hospital whose patients are receiving the telehealth services may grant privileges to, and verify and approve credentials for, providers of telehealth services based on its medical staff recommendations that rely on information provided by the distant-site hospital or telehealth entity, as described in Sections 482.12, 482.22, and 485.616 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

(2)  By enacting this subdivision, it is the intent of the Legislature to authorize a hospital to grant privileges to, and verify and approve credentials for, providers of telehealth services as described in paragraph (1).

(3)  For the purposes of this subdivision, "telehealth" shall include "telemedicine" as the term is referenced in Sections 482.12, 482.22, and 485.616 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

If you believe you have been treated unprofessionally by a BBS licensee, either through treatment over the Internet, or by any other means, review our information on filing a complaint.