3 Effective Ways To Train Counselors Using Real Sessions While Protecting Patient Privacy

Training students to become counselors requires a more strategic approach than most other industries. Students need to learn conceptual information, but they need to be trained in live situations to absorb the context of their training. For instance, it’s difficult to understand appropriate ways to respond to patients without watching a live counseling session.

However, recording live counseling sessions opens the door to HIPAA violations. While standard patient data is protected, psychotherapy notes have special protections under HIPAA.

The good news is, there are ways to train counselors using real therapy sessions and protect patient privacy. Here are a few of the most effective methods:

1. Use an established video recording system with a focus on security

It’s easy to keep patient data secure when you use a video recording system that puts security first. For example, the Video Audio Learning Tool (VALT) from Intelligent Video Solutions is designed to securely observe and record counseling sessions to aid in new counselor training.

The system allows students to observe live sessions, but it can also be used to record sessions in 1080p high definition for later review.

All recorded sessions are stored in a secure media library where access is granted by user groups. Each therapy session can be tagged with keywords that will make it easy to find when searching the database at a later time.

Why casual video recordings are risky

If you just start recording counseling sessions with your phone or camera, you’re asking for trouble. If those recordings get into the wrong hands, you could end up paying hefty fines for HIPAA violations.

HIPAA violation penalties exist in a 4-tiered system that corresponds with the level of harm caused. The fines range from a minimum of $100 per violation (up to $50,000) all the way to a minimum of $50,000 per violation with no pre-determined maximum.

The following actions involving homemade recordings would put you at risk:

· Emailing a file directly to someone else
· Uploading a file to a web server
· Uploading a file to a data storage account
· Sending a file to someone through a file sharing service
· Keeping a backup of a file in a cloud storage account
· Keeping files on a computer that is connected to the internet
· Storing files on an external hard drive or USB stick

None of the above are HIPAA-compliant ways to manage or store a recorded therapy session and put you at serious risk.

However, you don’t need to worry when using a secure system specifically designed to manage and store recorded therapy sessions.

2. Keep an extensive library of therapy sessions

With an extensive library of real therapy sessions, you’ll have enough material to train students to handle and respond to just about any situation that may occur.

Over time, you’re bound to capture sessions that address the nuances of being an effective counselor during less common situations. Keep those sessions in your training library, properly tagged, and incorporate them into your training system.

If you don’t have a real example, set up mock therapy sessions

Training future counselors with real, live training sessions is the best method. However, mock therapy sessions can also be useful. A mock session can provide one major benefit you can’t get from a live session: targeted training.

If there are specific situations you need to train students to handle, those situations may not come up in a real session during their training.

For example, if you want to train a student in de-escalation techniques or train them how to respond to a patient who confesses to a crime, your best option is to utilize a mock therapy session.

You can train students how to respond in theory, but unless they observe a proper interaction and try it themselves, the appropriate response may not come easy.

3. Increase your cybersecurity budget

No matter what methods you use to train new counselors, make sure you reserve a large budget for cybersecurity; it’s the only way to maintain HIPPA/HITECH compliance.

Hire an IT security team to lock down your company network, add strong security measures, and enact a strong security policy with proper enforcement.

Protecting patient privacy comes first

Your patients’ privacy should always come first when training new students to become counselors. Strong cybersecurity measures will protect you from outside threats; however, don’t forget to tighten up the inside of your ship, too. Make sure all employees and students follow the same cybersecurity policies to keep protected data secure.

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