Mental Health News Radio

Telepracticing in Behavioral Telehealth: An Interview with Dr. Marlene Maheu

marlene3I met today’s guest at the annual Samaritan Institute behavioral health conference. We were both session speakers and excited to collaborate in any way possible to support the sector of healthcare we are both immensely passionate about. My first thought after listening to Dr. Marlene Maheu was, “Why haven’t I met this powerhouse in person yet? She is the thought leader in telemental health.” Spend five minutes with her and you begin to grasp how much influence, passion, leadership and knowledge Dr. Maheu has about behavioral health in general but especially telebehavioral health. Take this journey with us to discover from the Executive Director of the Telemental Health Institute where technology is headed in relation to online behavioral health counseling.

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What motivated you to start working in telemental health as far back as 1994?

I had grown restless with my private practice and wanted to expand in ways that were more true to my immigrant, entrepreneurial roots. I also have serious physical limitations and imagined that the Internet could allow me to work from home as I grew older and possibly less able to be mobile.

How did you get involved in the legal/ethical risk management side of telepractice?

SHM-logo-dark_0I started an online magazine called SelfhelpMagazine, which led me to asking questions at the American Psychological Association about ethics of internet projects for psychologists. They didn’t know but asked me to chair a subcommittee to look at the ethical issues involved. This opened the door to my sitting on a dozen committees, work groups, and task forces for telehealth ethics.

How has your publication experience helped you in the field?

I’ve written four textbooks related to different aspects of telemental health, many book chapters and over a dozen journal articles – not because I am an academic, but because I feel a compulsion to pull this information together in a way that makes sense to my colleagues.

Why is there such a focus on telehealth right now?

Groundwork has been laid for almost 60 years with hundreds of federally funded programs by governments worldwide. This movement has been fueled by rising medical costs in the face of very poor access to care, largely due to many trained clinicians not wanting to move to rural locations where the majority of people live. Concurrently, we have seen the technological revolution, with automation of many industries, including many processes in healthcare. Such automation drives down costs, including costs of computers. Add a wave of baby-boomers entering their sixties and seventies, and we have the perfect time for technological solutions to become popular.

MarleneMaheuPhDWhat are some of the key issues involved with telepractice in telemental health or behavioral telehealth?

The main issues in behavioral telepractice can be boiled down to:

◦licensure
◦referrals
◦intake/assessment
◦informed consent
◦handling emergencies
◦continuity of care
◦documentation
◦reimbursement
◦choices related to technology

Which types of technology do you see as the next wave, or the next generation for behavioral health care?

One big area of development is passive data collection though wearables and sensors both clipped to the body or embedded on or under the skin (subcutaneous). There’s also tremendous growth occurring in digital therapeutics, affective computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and predictive analytics.

MarleneMaheuTextBookAre these newer technologies considered part of telehealth?

Terminology is evolving, so right now, the answer is no, but in the next five years, the answer will be yes.

How will these newer forms of technology make their way to the telehealth arena?

Patient need leads the way. Patients need to quit smoking, for example. Entrepreneurs and engineers put their heads together to develop technology that will serve that need, and make it available to primary care physician offices. Those physicians see the technology, then hire staff members to help them introduce the technology to their patients and patients get access to the new technology to make their nicotine abstinence more manageable. Another avenue is for the technology to become available to patients directly, through other avenues, such as the internet.

What does your company offer to professionals wanting to get involved with telemental health or behavioral telehealth?

We focus on professional training (for CEs or CMEs), staffing and consultation to two primary groups: traditional behavioral programs seeking to expand into telehealth and information technology companies seeking to develop products for the behavioral market. Our website has a lot of free information as well as information about each of our programs: www.telehealth.org.


marleneA dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and author, Dr. Maheu has been a telemental health leader since 1994. As a telepsychologist and technology developer, she’s addressed over 200 audiences; trained over 2000 professionals online; and has consulted with large health and mental health insurance companies, community clinics, physician groups, universities, and independent practitioners seeking to bring various forms of technology to the behavioral services. She has been a staunch advocate for telehealth, with specialized interests in legal, ethical and other risk management approaches to developing and delivering behavioral services.

Dr. Maheu is the Executive Director of the TeleMental Health Institute, where behavioral professionals earn continuing education (CE) and continuing medical education (CME) in a Certificate Program for telemental health. Her passion and focus have drawn a noted group of core and guest faculty members; over 2350 professionals from more than 39 countries for training, and 25 work/study scholars to the 100% online professional training Institute. Her leadership at the Institute has inspired the development of more than 90 hours of instructional materials, all available online through a variety of desktop and mobile-compatible formats.

As Faculty Associate of the Nicholas A. Cummings Doctor of Behavioral Health Program, School of Health Solutions, she teaches doctoral students how to work with technology as behavioral health professionals. As Editor-in-Chief of the TeleMental Health News, she oversees the publication of a weekly newsletter and blog as free services to help educate a community of more than 10,500 licensed professionals. She also pioneered the development and delivery of online conference model that culminated in the Telehealth Summit in 2012-2013, where more than 10,000 stakeholders viewed video-based telemental health training via the Internet. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SelfhelpMagazine, an online portal that is an award-winning, peer-reviewed publication which has provided free support to millions of consumers worldwide.

Please reach out to Dr. Maheu via her contact information below:

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