Malpractice in App-Based Mental Health Therapy

Technology is expanding into more and more aspects of healthcare, including mental health. A variety of websites and apps have become available that provide mental health therapy through phone, video chat, or text. While these new advances may make mental health services available to more people, there are some dangers that could lead to legal issues or malpractice. 

Advantages of online therapy

The biggest advantage of online or app-based therapy is its easy availability. With in-person therapy, a person has to find a therapist, make an appointment, remember it when the day comes, and then get there. This can be challenging for people suffering from mental health issues. 

However, with apps or websites, there are usually a variety of therapists available who can help the person in the comfort of his or her own home, often without any wait. This is especially valuable if the person is experiencing an emotional crisis and needs to speak to someone right away. 

There is no doubt that these services can be extremely helpful. But people must use caution when accessing the service, something that vulnerable people may not be equipped to do. In such circumstances, unethical behavior or malpractice is possible.

Concerns with online therapy

The biggest concern with online therapy is patient confidentiality and the protection of clients’ privacy. If therapy is not delivered on a secure, encrypted channel, others may have access to the session. If the platform saves the patient’s IP address, this will also negate privacy. Additional concerns could be raised if the therapist and patient are in different states since different jurisdictions have different laws. 

Talkspace, one of the leading providers of app therapy space, has been accused of a variety of unethical practices. According to research done several years ago by The Verge, a technology news website, Talkspace employees can access conversations between therapists and patients. The company has reprimanded therapists for telling patients they are leaving Talkspace and encouraging them to follow them to another platform, and it has threatened former therapists who try to maintain professional relationships with patients when they leave the app. It has locked therapists out of the platform without notice and without giving them the opportunity to contact their patients. And it has required their therapists to insert content into their communications with clients that promote Talkspace services.

Even more seriously, Talkspace did not at the time have an adequate plan for providing immediate help for patients who are in danger, because the clients are anonymous on the platform. 

An additional concern when working with an anonymous therapist over the internet is the concern regarding the therapist’s abilities and professionalism. Even in-person therapists with established practices and many patients can be guilty of malpractice. There is a greater danger with an anonymous online therapist since you, as the patient, are unable to guarantee the person’s credentials and need to trust the app company, which, while undoubtedly concerned about mental health and providing a good service, is naturally also concerned with its profit. 

What you can do

If you are a Florida resident who has used an online therapy service and you believe your privacy has been compromised or your therapist or the company has harmed you in some way, reach out to me. As a Florida personal injury lawyer, I am committed to helping Florida residents throughout the state receive just and fair compensation to help them cope with the harm they have experienced due to someone else’s negligence or unethical practices. 

A company engaged in mental health services may not breach your privacy. And cutting off communication with a therapist with whom you have developed a relationship of trust can be seriously detrimental to your health. They must be held accountable for such behavior. 

Mental health therapists can be sued for malpractice just as medical doctors can. As with all malpractice cases, you must be able to show that the therapist had a duty to provide you with appropriate care, failed in that duty through negligence, and that you were measurably harmed by that negligence. Some possible malpractice issues may include using techniques without proper training; purposely misdiagnosing for personal gain or for insurance purposes; developing an inappropriate relationship with you; failing to collect sufficient history from you; and ignoring standards of care. 

Let’s talk about your experience to determine if your treatment by the therapist or the company constitutes malpractice or unethical behavior for which you can sue for damages. People seeking mental health services are vulnerable and should never be taken advantage of. Contact me at (954) 448-7288, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.

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