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USA passport on wooden floorOn April 23rd, 2019, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) announced that the PSYPACT was (finally) active. Even though PSYPACT is purely for licensed psychologists, and only for those licensed in PSYPACT states, it’s still a huge step forward for everyone in the mental/behavioral health field with a desire to see true interstate telehealth become a reality. One of the Person Centered Tech team members even compared the PSYPACT to, “the European Union, but for psychologists. And not European.”

The PSYPACT is an agreement amongst the governments and psychology licensing boards of all its member states. PSYPACT is, quite naturally, lead by the ASPPB. For those not familiar with the ASPPB, it’s the primary association for North American psychology licensing boards.

Licensed psychologists in states that join the PSYPACT have the opportunity to become approved to perform telepsychology services all over the PSYPACT (yes, across state lines!) through the ASPPB’s “E.Passport” program (I’m still not sure if the “.” is supposed to be pronounced, “dot,” or if it’s a silent “.”.) PSYPACT states will also allow temporary, in-person practice across state lines through a separate ASPPB program called the Interjurisdictional Practice Certificate (IPC.)

At the time of writing, PSYPACT is officially active. But, the actual implementation of it still awaits the drafting of bylaws and rules by the PSYPACT commission. It appears that psychologists in PSYPACT states won’t be able to start applying for that magical E.Passport until that part is done. The good news, however, is that the wheels are now turning.

More details can be found on the ASPPB website. Specifically, see the E.Passport page here, and the PSYPACT home page here.

I Want That E.Passport! What Do I Have to Do?

The ASPPB defines a registration process for the E.Passport. Those who register for it must be a licensed psychologist in one of the PSYPACT states, in good standing, with their degree from a program that meets the ASPPB’s standards. They must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which ASPPB administers.

According to the E.Passport page, that will qualify a psychologist to get the E.Passport. But there’s more to follow.

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Firstly, the E.Passport holder has to renew it each year. Natch. That’s how these things work.

Secondly, the E.Passport holder must agree to abide by the APA’s telepsychology guidelines and also the ASPBB’s telepsychology guidelines. That’s a point where we think things get more interesting.

From Guidelines to Rules: APA and ASPPB Telepsychology Guidelines

We’ve often touted the APA telepsychology guidelines as a strong document for helping to inform the telemental health practice of any mental health professional. The ASPPB also has a much shorter set of guidelines which do a good job (in my opinion) of distilling the generally accepted good practices and standards of telemental health for any professional.

What’s interesting, however, is that before PSYPACT, these were just guidelines. They are not codes of ethics or laws. Holding the E.Passport, however, will require abiding by the contents of these documents.

As PSYPACT’s influence on telepsychology grows, so will the influence of these documents and their successors. We’ve always thought it was a good idea for any mental health clinician interested in telemental health to read the APA guidelines. Now it seems to behoove nearly any psychologist interested in telehealth to become familiar with both the APA and the ASPPB guidelines.

Fortunately, they aren’t too dense or too long. Familiarizing yourself with them is an achievable goal. Also, the standards and best practices distilled by the ASPPB guideline and contained in the APA guideline are also covered in Person Centered Tech’s Telemental Health Certificate Program. You may find the program helpful in getting prepared to comply with those guidelines.

What About Those of Us Who Aren’t in PSYPACT States or Aren’t Psychologists?

If you’re a psychologist but you aren’t in one of the PSYPACT states, you should petition your licensing board to get on the PSYPACT train! The more, the merrier! If you don’t hold a license in a PSYPACT state, however, you won’t be able to leverage it.

For MFTs, social workers, counselors (like me), and everyone else: this is a call to get our collective behinds in gear and also to be willing to come to a consensus on professional standards. It’s very difficult to navigate all the legal and personal vicissitudes involved in something like PSYPACT. Every state has its own needs and every area of practice has its own needs. Finding the right compromises to make an agreement like PSYPACT work is an enormous ordeal. To get something like it going for each of the associated professions, each profession will need to do a looooot of compromising with each other. I, for one, believe we’re all up to the task.

In the meantime, you can get up to speed on the standards and best practices of telemental health — including cross-state practice — through our Telemental Health Certificate Program.

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