Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program and Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program (IRS RHSP)

Mental Health Counselling Provided Through Telehealth

Questions and Answers

What is telehealth?

Telehealth refers to the use of communication technology to deliver services rather than in person. Technologies such as telephone and videoconferencing could be used. However, only mental health professionals who are qualified to do so may deliver counselling services in this modality.

Why is Health Canada permitting the inclusion of telehealth as an eligible means of service delivery for NIHB and IRS RHSP?

Although the delivery of face-to-face counselling is working well for NIHB and IRS RHSP clients, innovations in communication technologies now give us the opportunity to improve access to mental health services for clients who want it, and where there are providers able to do so. 

Keep in mind that some providers may not deliver counselling by telehealth, as a result, telehealth may not be available in all regions.

When will mental health counselling services through telehealth become eligible for NIHB and IRS RHSP?

Effective immediately, a provider can apply for prior approval for mental health counselling services that include the use of telehealth as a means to deliver counselling sessions.  However, please note that:

  • Like all services, the provision of mental health counselling via telehealth must be prior approved by the Health Canada regional office.
  • The initial assessment should be done in-person. However, a provider can conduct an assessment via telehealth with the prior approval of the Health Canada regional office.
  • Gaining access to and setting up the telehealth equipment and location is the responsibility of the provider.

Who provides the equipment and the location for telehealth services?

Mental health counselling providers are responsible to set up and secure the tools (i.e. video conferencing or telephone) and location (e.g. nursing station, community health centre, home or other) used.

What are the responsibilities of providers?

Providers are responsible to ensure their ongoing competence with the technologies used, and they are expected to meet the standards and code of ethics of the applicable legislated regulatory bodies and provincial/territorial regulations. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of clients' personal information are also important factors.

What do I need to consider if counselling by telehealth is offered to me by a mental health counselling provider?

As a client, it is your choice if you want to use telehealth. Your provider will ask for your agreement to use this as a modality for counselling services. You have the option to revert to face-to-face counselling at any time. Your provider will work with you to obtain confirmation that you have received the service, as is required for all NIHB and IRS RHSP services.

How does my provider protect my privacy when using telehealth services?

Providers are required to take all the necessary steps to ensure that security measures are in place to protect your privacy and/or information from unintended access or disclosure. Before agreeing to use telehealth services, you should raise any concerns or questions you might have with your provider.

Who should I contact if I have questions or require more information?

For more information regarding NIHB and IRS RHSP guidelines for the use of telehealth, please contact your Health Canada regional office. You may also consult the joint NIHB and IRS RHSP
through the Health Canada website. Your regional office can also help you to find a provider who uses telehealth in your region.
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