Before you sign up as a client with one of these large corporations, it is important for you to understand how these applications differ from private-practice therapists operating remotely. (See links to related articles at the bottom of this page)
Mental Health Applications do not have to follow privacy guidelines established by HIPAA.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. It turns out that Mental Health Apps on smartphones are not considered "covered entities" which fall under the requirements of this law, and therefore, they are not required to follow these stringent privacy standards.
While some of these smart-phone apps claim they voluntarily adhere to HIPAA guidelines, several of them have been found to share and even sell client-data with other online apps such as Facebook!
Some of the large online mental health apps have policies that inadvertently force clinicians to violate their professional ethics
(See article below entitled "The Messy World of Anonymous Talk Therapy")
Many of these online therapy applications have set up their policies to favor profits over professionalism. The policies tie therapists' hands and leave them unable to act in the best interest of the clients (such as being able to contact the police or other emergency services when a client is a danger to themselves or anyone else). There have been many cases where clients reported children being endangered, however the company refused to allow therapists to contact Child Protective Services to get the children the help they needed, claiming that their privacy policies precluded the therapist from being able to access the clients' contact information. This leaves the door open to great harm being caused to clients, and could threaten a Therapist's good standing with their licensure boards.
Clients' sessions may be recorded without their express awareness., as often clients may not read the End User License Agreements which could, by default, record their sessions.
Online Mental Health Apps have already been utilizing AI (Artificial Intelligence) enabled analysis and transcription of therapists’ sessions to determine whether or not Therapists are providing their sessions according to standards that are set by the company. This may seem like a good idea, however, many clients have no idea their sessions are being recorded (because they don't read the End User License Agreement before clicking "I agree" when first signing up), nor do they know whether or not the recordings or transcripts are being stored in an encrypted manner that protects privacy. In this technological age, we have all seen examples of large corporations being hacked and important data, breached. Can you imagine the horror of having audio recordings of your most personal, private psychotherapy sessions being shared on the internet? The damage this could cause is unimaginable.
Many mental health apps treat therapists very poorly.
Therapists who work for these type of companies are often severely underpaid, compared to their privately-practicing counterparts, and have to load their schedules with clients to make up for the lower rates of pay. This leads to overworked clinicians, which eventually leads to professional burnout. Do you want to work with a therapist who resents their job because they are not treated well by their employer? Do you want to support this kind of economic inequality? Or would you rather support a therapist who loves what they do and enthusiastically engages in the provision of their services?
Seasoned, accomplished therapists are, in large part, unwilling to work for companies like these large mental health apps.
That leaves inexperienced and often mediocre clinicians to choose from. This will lead people who cannot afford to pay private practitioners -- already marginalized groups such as lower- and middle-income clients -- to receive sub-par therapy. As these companies adopt more and more ways to cut costs and increase their profit margins, the most competent of therapists will refuse to participate at all.
Large Mental Health App Companies threaten to put private practices out of business
Before these giant corporate therapy apps came along, privately practicing clinicians could purchase Google Ads in their local communities, to target clients within their local areas. The way these ads are purchased is via auction -- the ad customers all compete to purchase "pay-per-clicks" and the ones who can pay the most per click get their ads ranked higher on Google Search Results.
These large companies bid on pay-per-click rates of Google Ads, and drive the costs so far out of the affordable range for most privately practicing clinicians that there is simply no way for them to compete. And this means that when a potential client seeks help in a specific zip-code area, instead of seeing the local therapists, what they see is multiple ads for these big companies only. Do a Google search for therapists in your local area right now and see what we mean! You will see that these companies are taking over the industry and are driving local clinicians out of the market. Do you want to support the corporatizing of the profession of psychotherapy?
Click on the links below to access articles on this very important topic.