Email in Mental Health Practice: Legal-Ethical, Clinical and Risk Management Issues

1 CE Credit Hour. Legal-Ethical. Self-Study Seminar w/ Videos

Developed by: Roy Huggins, LPC NCC
Presented By: Roy Huggins, LPC NCC; Liath Dalton

Hushmail LogoCo-sponsored by Hushmail for Healthcare

Course Description

Magic Effervescent Email

Email is a huge part of how we communicate with each other in our professional lives, and therapists often want to use it with our clients. Maintaining ethical standards and HIPAA compliance while using email can get complex, however. The right way to use email in clinical practice — even “secure” email — is not always clear. It is, however, completely doable with a little guidance.

This introductory-level course for counselors, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and clinical and counseling psychologists will help learners to navigate the options for secure and non-secure email services and know what to use, how to use it, and when to use it. The course will cover types of email services, how they do and don’t protect clients and maintain HIPAA compliance, and how they fit in to the picture of client health records.

Specific usage examples will be demonstrated so that learners can leave the training with actionable learning that be put into practice immediately.


Attendees will receive these Person Centered Tech forms for use in your private practice:

  • Sample Communications Policy
  • Email and Texting Risk Questionnaire
  • Request for Nonsecure Communications Form

Educational Objectives

  • Choose email types that support HIPAA compliance and ethical decision making
  • Manage ethical and effective boundaries around mobile, textual communication with clients
  • Document messages exchanged with clients securely, legally, and ethically


  • How does email fit into legal and ethical standards?
  • 3 Kinds of Email Security
    • How do they differ?
    • Which do I use in what situations?
  • How to email with clients
    • Using Communications Policies effectively
    • Managing boundaries in an always-on world
  • Emails and the health record
    • How do emails fit into client health records?
    • How to document emails (and what emails to document)


  • American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of Ethics . Alexandria, VA: Author.
  • American Psychological Association. (2010). American Psychological Association Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct . Washington, DC: Author.
  • National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of Ethics . Washington, DC: Author.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors. (2016). Code of Ethics . Greensboro, NC: Author.
  • US Dept. of Health and Human Services. (2006). HIPAA Administrative Simplification . Washington, DC: Author.
  • US Dept. of Health and Human Services. (2013). HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule . Washington, DC: Author.
1 CE Credit Hour.

Presented/Developed By

Roy Huggins, LPC NCCRoy Huggins, LPC NCC, is a counselor in private practice who also directs Person-Centered Tech. Roy worked as a professional Web developer for 7 years before changing paths, and makes it his mission to grow clinicians’ understanding of the Internet and other electronic communications mediums for the future of our practices and our professions.

Roy is an adjunct instructor at the Portland State University Counseling program where he teaches Ethics, and is a member of the Zur Institute advisory board. He has acted as a subject matter expert on HIPAA, security and clinical use of technology for Counseling licensure boards and both state and national mental health professional organizations. He has co-authored or authored 2 book chapters, and he routinely consults with mental health colleagues on ethical and practical issues surrounding tech in clinical practice. He served for 5 years on the board of the Oregon Mental Health Counselors Association and then the Oregon Counseling Association as the Technology Committee Chair.

He really likes this stuff.

Course Co-Presenters

Liath Dalton is a Ph.D candidate in Religious Studies. She began her academic career at Reed College and continued her graduate work at the University of Cape Town.

Liath is the Deputy Director for Person Centered Tech and runs our HIPAApropriateness review program. Through her combination of experience evaluating products for their utility and security in regards to how they can meet risk management needs and providing guidance to members around what product options will best meet their specific practice needs, Liath has an intimate knowledge of both what the practice tech needs are for mental health professionals and what it takes for a product to meet those needs.

Program Notices

Accuracy, Utility, and Risks Statement: The contents of this program are based on publications and reports from the federal Department of Health and Human Services; consultation with experts on HIPAA Security standards and their implementation; and personal study from the program developers. Some interpretation and analysis presented is made by the presenter, in consultation with knowledgeable colleagues and expert consultants. Statements about applications to technology are according to presenter’s understanding of the technology at the time of the program. The presenter may not know how to apply all principles discussed to every technology type or product. This program discusses strategies for complying with HIPAA and covered ethics codes. It may not include information on all applicable state laws. Misapplication of the materials, or errors in the materials, could result in security problems, data breaches, or non-compliance with applicable laws or ethics codes.

Conflicts of Interest: None.

Commercial Support: This presentation is co-sponsored by Hushmail for Healthcare. See our Partnership Policy to see how Person Centered Tech selects co-sponsors to collaborate with.

This course is subject to our cancellation/refund policy and complaint policy.

1 CE Credit Hour.
Magic Effervescent Email

1 CE Credit Hour. Legal-Ethical. Self-Study Seminar w/ Videos


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