Distance or Telehealth Counseling

Digital or Distance Counseling

Confidential and convenient are two words to describe the Lutheran Family Service distance counseling program. While in-person sessions are preferred, they are not always possible. Distance counseling allows you to receive professional counseling services from one of our compassionate, Masters-level trained, Christian therapists virtually through your computer or smartphone regardless of your location within the state of Iowa.

If you are familiar with how a video call using a computer or smartphone works such as Skype or FaceTime, then this process will seem much the same. However, we use special program called Doxy.Me to ensure privacy, security, HIPAA compliance, and confidentiality. Programs such as this are now commonly used between doctor and patient for medical consultation and counselor and client for mental health counseling. You and your counselor will be able to both see and hear one another throughout the duration of your counseling session. Just think of it like a virtual office.

To determine if distance / telehealth counseling is right for you, please answer the following questions.

All distance counseling clients must be adults age 18 and older.

1. Do you live in the state of Iowa?

  • Because of state licensure requirements, we can only serve residents of the state of Iowa at this time. Requirements also state that residents of Iowa can only receive distance counseling when they are physically in the state of Iowa.

2. Do you have an internet connection through a computer or a smartphone?

3. Does your computer have a webcam or does your smartphone have a video call feature?

4. Do you have or are you willing to purchase headphones with a built-in microphone?

5. Do you consider yourself “technologically able” when it comes to using your computer or smartphone such as using FaceTime or Skype?

  • If you answered no to one or all questions, distance counseling is likely not the right option at this time.
  • If you answered yes to all four above questions, you may review the Getting Started document. This gives a brief overview of how to check in to Doxy.Me which is our secure, HIPAA compliant distance counseling software. A test session will take place prior to your actual counseling session to help determine if distance counseling is a good fit.

6. Does your insurance cover Distance Counseling (or TeleHealth) or are you willing to pay out-of-pocket?

  • If you answered no, distance counseling is likely not the right option at this time.
  • If you answered yes, please review the list of accepted insurance companies. Not all insurance companies approve of distance counseling at this time and more will likely do so in the future. You may need to call your insurance company in addition to reviewing our list of accepted insurance companies below. Cash payments are also accepted.
    • Accepted: Cigna, MHNet Medicare Replacement, Medicaid – including Amerigroup and Iowa Total Care,  Blue Cross Blue Shield – plan permitting, Cigna EAP, and Connections EAP.
    • Unaccepted: Medicare
    • To Be Determined (must call first): All other insurance companies not listed above.

7. Are you willing and able to download and/or print necessary forms, complete and sign/initial the forms, and then scan and email, or mail them back in a timely manner in order to schedule an appointment?

  • If you answered no, distance counseling is likely not the right option at this time.
  • If you answered yes, you may review the distance counseling Terms of Service document. Please note that all forms must be completed, signed, initialed, and dated prior to scheduling test session or counseling session.

8. Are you able to have distance counseling sessions without distractions or interruptions and willing to accept that there may be possible technological delays or issues?

  • If you answered no, distance counseling is likely not the right option at this time.
  • If you answered yes, please review in detail pages 2 and 3 of the distance counseling Terms of Service document. It is important for both privacy and success of your counseling sessions that no one else be present and no one else be able to hear you during your session. A quiet, private room with a closed door is ideal. Keeping your computer or phone stationary on a desk or table will minimize technological issues associated with movement.

9. For mental health counseling – are you having suicidal thoughts or tendencies or the urge to harm yourself or others?

  • If you answered yes, please call the suicide hotline for immediate help at: 1-800-273-8255 or call 9-1-1.
    • Distance counseling is not appropriate for immediate life-saving needs.
  • Distance counseling is appropriate for:
    • Depression and sadness
    • Anxiety and worry
    • Trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Personality disorders
    • Grief and loss
    • Parenting concerns
    • Women’s or men’s issues
    • Spiritual concerns
    • Elderly issues
    • Pastoral or church worker concerns
    • Life transitions
    • Work and career concerns
    • Abuse survivors
    • Chronic mental illness
  • Distance counseling is not always appropriate for:
    • Family counseling due to the complex and unique nature of family therapy
      • Due to COVID-19, family counseling sessions can be done through distance counseling!

10. If married, are you being abused or feeling unsafe?

  • If you answered yes, please call the national domestic violence hotline at: 1−800−799−7233 or call 9-1-1.
    • Distance counseling is not appropriate for immediate, dangerous situations.
  • For marriage counseling, in-person sessions are preferred.
    • Due to COVID-19, marriage counseling sessions can be done through distance counseling!

11. Are you ready to start the process?

  • First, make contact by reaching out today!
  • Our support staff with be in touch with you soon! In the mean-time, you can download and print the necessary forms. These can also be emailed or mailed to you.
  • Once these forms have been received and approved, we can proceed to schedule a short test-session. If the test-session is successful, your distance counseling appointment can then be scheduled.



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