Strategies for occupational therapists performing mental health assessments over telehealth
Performing mental health assessments over telehealth as an occupational therapist requires careful consideration of the individual’s needs and the limitations of the remote format. Here are some effective strategies for conducting mental health assessments via telehealth:
- Initial screening and intake: Begin with an initial screening and intake process to gather relevant information about the individual’s mental health concerns, history, and current symptoms. This can be done through a structured interview, online questionnaires, or forms sent electronically.
- Structured interviews and assessments: Utilise structured interviews or standardised mental health assessments that have been adapted for telehealth administration. Several validated tools are available in digital formats, allowing for remote administration and scoring. Ensure that the chosen assessments are appropriate for telehealth and consider factors like reliability, validity, and cultural sensitivity.
- Video conferencing for observation: Video conferencing platforms allow you to observe the individual’s non-verbal cues, affect, and behavior during the assessment. Pay attention to their facial expressions, body language, and overall presentation. This can provide valuable information for understanding their mental health status.
- Self-report measures: Incorporate self-report measures such as questionnaires, scales, or inventories that assess specific aspects of mental health. These measures can be administered electronically through secure online survey tools, allowing the individual to provide subjective information about their symptoms, emotions, and functioning.
- Collaborative goal-setting and exploration: Engage in collaborative discussions with the individual to explore their goals, values, and priorities related to their mental health. Utilise open-ended questions and active listening techniques to understand their perspective and develop a shared understanding of their mental health needs.
- Use of visual aids: Visual aids such as diagrams, worksheets, or psychoeducational materials can be shared through screen sharing during the telehealth session. These aids can facilitate understanding, psychoeducation, and therapeutic discussions related to mental health topics.
- Assessing daily routines and occupational balance: Explore the individual’s daily routines, habits, and occupational balance during the assessment. Discuss how their mental health symptoms or concerns impact their ability to engage in meaningful activities, self-care, work, or leisure. This assessment can help identify areas of dysfunction and guide intervention planning.
- Collaborative safety assessment: When assessing mental health, evaluate the individual’s safety and risk factors. Ask direct questions about their emotional well-being, suicidality, or self-harm ideation. Have a safety plan in place in case of emergencies and establish clear guidelines for follow-up or referral if needed.
- Referrals and follow-up: If the mental health assessment reveals significant concerns or requires specialised interventions, provide appropriate referrals to mental health professionals or resources. Follow up with the individual to ensure they have access to the recommended support and provide ongoing care coordination if necessary.
Remember to prioritise confidentiality, privacy, and ethical considerations when conducting mental health assessments over telehealth. Adapting therapeutic techniques and interventions to the remote format can help with assessment and intervention planning for mental health concerns.
Leanne Hopkins is an Occupational Therapist at Succeed Healthcare Solutions and is passionate about creating a world where families thrive. If you are a health or education professional seeking an evidence-based multi-disciplinary clinic for your patients/clients that strategically avoids waitlists, please contact us and arrange a free 15-minute Discovery Interview to see how we can assist.