To contact this group please email [email protected].

Since the emergence of technology-assisted media such as the computer, Internet and telephone, there has been a considerable shift in the way psychologists provide services to their clients. The terms commonly used are telepsychology or telehealth, however other terms are used such as e-health, e-counselling, online counselling, web-counselling, telephone counselling or helplines. All these terms reflect the nature of remote psychological services.

In recent times there has been an enormous growth in the call centre industry and, as a result, services provided by Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Social Workers are now offered in this environment. The evolving nature of technology means that these services are becoming more flexible and accessible: technology facilitates the client’s ability to choose when and how services are used.

TISCA, the Telephone Information Support and Counselling Association www.helplines.org.au has estimated that this type of service will increase by approximately 20 to 30 per cent per year.

In Australia, approximately 500 telephone and Internet based ‘services’ offer a combination of information, support and counselling. Furthermore, they provide the public with a very effective method of accessing services and are playing a major role in the provision of health and community welfare across this vast country.


Telepsychology specialities are now being recognised and have emerged in Australia in several areas:

  • Private practitioners are offering coaching services to executive clients.
  • Professional people are consulting psychologists about relationships, stress and family issues via the telephone and/or modem.
  • Psychologists are providing supervision for students via telephone and email, as an effective method of keeping track of progress.
  • Health insurance companies are developing telepsychology practices as a way of effectively case-managing their clients. Members call a ‘telepsychologist’ prior to making an appointment with a face-to-face psychologist. The service is free to members (callers) and the telepsychologist consults with the referred service provider for managing the best treatment.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are providing counselling and case management services for patients using new products. The pharmaceutical companies set up a support hotline for families and patients on specific medications, to provide information and counselling. This allows patients to discuss concerns about their treatment and to be more informed about a product, which will result in a greater chance of them adhering to the prescribed medication and completing their treatment.

Also emerging are the 1900 Telepsychology "pay as you talk" services, often charged at a rate per minute. The client (caller) talks to a psychologist about their issues and a referral is made if necessary. The caller is assured that the person on the phone is a qualified and registered psychologist.

With advances in technology and the low cost of equipment, the accessibility of the service to the public gives it an enormous advantage over other services. Information can be quickly passed to the caller and the service is provided directly and immediately. Recent studies have found that if telepsychology or helpline services are available to clients, a small percentage may not require face-to-face consultation.


The future of telepsychology

Future developments in telepsychology are reliant on technological advancements.In a technology-based environment there is an increase in demand for health-related products and services.As technology breaks new ground in communication and personalised information, telepsychology can develop into mainstream mental health services.Government departments and private organisations are embracing telepsychology as a way of effectively providing mental health services.Private and public sectors are supporting the call for the establishment of minimum standards for helplines and a guide to good practice for telepsychology services.

The APS has developed this interest group as way of representing psychologists in this area.

It appears that Telepsychology is a new direction for psychologists to provide mental health services. The scope and the effectiveness of this type of service are rapidly being discovered.


Terms of Reference

The terms of reference of the ePsychology Interest Group are:

  • To develop a network of members and subscribers throughout Australia who are interested in the areas of telephone and internet-based psychological and counselling services (also referred as telepsychology or web-counselling) to be known as the APS Interest group on ePsychology (eIG)
  • To provide support for this network by exchanging relevant information about seminars, conferences and workshops that are relevant for providers of telephone and internet-based psychological and counselling services.
  • To exchange information about developments in research and professional practice in the area of telephone and internet-based psychological and counselling service provision.
  • To explore and utilise the APS website, newsletters, workshops, conferences and other mechanisms and media, where appropriate, for the exchange of all such information.
  • To enhance professional awareness of the extent and range of telephone and internet-based psychological and counselling services that are available throughout Australia.
  • To increase awareness amongst other health and mental professions who are involved in the provision of telephone and internet-based services of the existing and potential contributions that psychology and psychologists are making, and might make in the future, to telephone and internet-based service delivery.
  • To explore and formulate policies and guidelines for the best practice in these areas of service delivery, which cover issues relating to quality management, professional development, strategic research, and other related issues.
  • To explore and formulate policies and guidelines that promote the ethical delivery of services using these technologies, and the ethical management of information that these services generate.