Using Zoom Securely for Online Therapy
by Heather Dingle
While experimenting with various platforms we have found that Zoom is currently what works most effectively for transmitting live music on a video call, as well as providing the security options we are looking for in an online platform.
However, Zoom has gotten some negative attention recently for ‘zoom bombs’ - where an uninvited caller gains access to a meeting. At best, you have a stranger in your call, potentially hearing confidential information. At worst, the intruder may share unwanted images through file and screen sharing options.
While this sounds like, and is, a huge concern for therapists wanting to provide a safe therapeutic environment for their clients, there are simple security changes that you can make use of in your calls to ensure you maintain digital control over who comes into your therapy ‘room’.
We can’t take responsibility for any security issues you may have in your sessions, but hopefully this will help you to think about the best ways to keep your clients safe!
Setting up a Session
When you sign into your Zoom account you will see the option to ‘Schedule’, probably in the lower left corner of your menu. When scheduling a meeting we recommend:
Use initials rather than a clients full name in the name of the meeting
Make sure ‘require meeting password’ is checked (this is usually automatic on free versions of Zoom)
Be aware of the calendar options that are selected as iCal and Google Calendar will sync your meeting information with your computer’s other applications, which may not be GDPR compliant
Under ‘advanced options’ ensure that ‘enable meeting room’ is selected, and ‘enable join before host’ is deselected.
Depending on the consent you have gained and how you work, select or deselect the ‘automatically record on local computer’ option.
After you have created the meeting for your online session and click ‘schedule’, you’ll be presented with the details of the meeting to select and copy. To keep the meeting as secure as possible, we recommend:
Wait to share the log in details of the Zoom meeting until shortly before your session (this lessens the chance of a third party gaining access to the meeting ID and password)
Ensure that you have an up to date phone number or email address for your client or their parent/carer in order to share the log in details of the Zoom call
The most up to date versions of Zoom appear to always provide a password for each meeting. However, if you are using an older version you need to make sure this is selected when you schedule a meeting. Be aware that participants do not need a password to join if they join via the link you provide in the invitation.
In the Session
When you have clicked ‘start meeting’ for your session, you will be presented with a video screen of your face. If not, you may need to click ‘start video’ and join audio’. At the bottom of the screen you will see various options. The important ones are ‘security’ and ‘participants’. You may also use ‘share Screen’ and ‘record’.
Click on ‘participants’ and you will be presented with a white bar showing your own name. When your client clicks on the link to join the meeting you will see their name come up. Be aware that some people don’t have their Zoom account linked to a name, so you may see a phone number or a random selection of letters and numbers. Click ‘admit’ to allow the client to enter the meeting. If anyone else tries to come into the meeting as well, they will come up on this list and not be able to enter until you click ‘admit’. This is why enabling a waiting room is so important when you schedule your meeting!
After your client has joined the session, click on ‘security’ and select ‘lock meeting’. This will stop anyone else from being able to use the link, and is the Zoom equivalent of putting the deadbolt across the door!
However, the lock function stops people from joining but not from leaving. It will still be possible for you or your client to instantly leave the meeting if you need to.
Be aware that if your client loses internet connection and needs to rejoin the meeting you will need to unlock the meeting using this same process before they can join.
This will likely be deselected as standard in your call, but you wil want to disable ‘chat’ and ‘share screen’ under the ‘security’ menu. This ensures that nobody is able to share content except the host (you!), either by sharing it on their own screen or by sending the files through the chat option.
If you have gained consent, you may wish to record your sessions using the record function on Zoom. There are arguments for and against this, but it may be of use for safeguarding reasons. Make sure that the client and the parent/carer have given written consent if you do this.
To record, simple click the ‘record’ option on the menu at the bottom of the screen. When you end the meeting, the files will be downloaded onto your computer as video and audio files. Make sure that you store these files in a GDPR compliant way as soon as they have been downloaded.
This might seem like a lot to think about, but after one or two meetings it will become second nature. You will feel much more in control of your therapy boundaries knowing that you are able to protect your client and yourself from unwanted visitors during your sessions, so you can get on with supporting your client in a safe therapeutic environment!