⚕️ In the past few years, mental health has become an area of interest to the Taiwanese society. Both online community resources and consultation services of professional psychologists have become commonplace.
A piece of great news is that starting from this year, it will be possible to consult a therapist without leaving home. In December last year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare published the Practice Principles of Psychological Counseling Provided by Psychologists. Medical institutions, psychotherapy clinics and counseling offices will be able to provide online services when the plans they submit to local authorities have been approved. In other words, as long as an agency is licensed, consultation can be conducted wherever the patient is.
The policy originated in 2017, when the National Development Council first proposed a “Provision of services by doctors and psychologists via online platforms” regulatory amendment on the public vTaiwan platform. It used the platform to solicit comments from different parties, including psychologists, lawyers, and the general public in order to take stock of the regulation and revise its direction.
Based on discussions of the vTaiwan community, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the Communication Diagnosis and Treatment Measures in May 2018. It started with broadening the scope of care targets and means of long-distance medical treatment. At the same time, discussions about the laws and regulations concerning psychologists’ provision of remote consultation continued to take place on the Innovation Regulations Sandbox Platform of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
For example, the Psychologists Act stipulates that “a psychologist’s practice must be limited to one place”. However, there is no limit placed on the location of a patient. Regarding this, the Association of Consultant Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists, as well as relevant online platforms and communities, have actively participated in the discussions. They also noted important issues based on their own expertise to ensure that the legalization of remote consultation can happen concurrently with the safe, reliable and effective protection of participants’ rights and interests.
From my personal experience, using remote consultation as a supplement to face-to-face meetings is indeed quite effective. Starting from 2012 to the beginning of 2017, I worked with a French psychoanalyst in a semi-proximate, semi-remote manner. Every six months, we would have a physical meeting. The rest of the time, we conversed via online video conference four days a week, 45 minutes each time.
The classical method of psychoanalysis involves one person lying on a couch and saying whatever is on their mind, while another person listens attentively. Although this method is different from psychological counseling, they have their similarities. From my perspective, the process of continuously sharing one’s thoughts with a professional listener and being listened to attentively is tremendously healing. Most importantly, this feeling of co-presence can be achieved via a remote connection.
In my opinion, the government’s role in this policy is to listen carefully to the voices of all parties. It has used the vTaiwan platform and sandbox mechanism to help all stakeholders move from brainstorming to dialogue and proceed towards a collaborative creation. It has achieved a very important task for our generation — enabling every person, no matter where they are, to find a professional consultant to confide in and have their mental health taken seriously.