There’s no debating that we currently live in a fascinating time, when the number of daily steps you’ve taken can instantly be seen on your wrist, who’s at your doorstep can be viewed from your phone, and your next pizza can be delivered to you via drone.
For some people, these technologies offer small improvements in their lives to help them save a few minutes here or there, or to help them stay in better shape. For others—especially those struggling with their mental health—modern day technologies can be true life savers.
Here are a few of the newest technologies you may consider including in your therapy.
1. Telemental Health
Despite its goal to offer services to anyone in need, traditional therapy has its own shortcomings in today’s fast-moving society, as clients have always been expected to visit with their therapist at a physical office or location.
This arrangement may exclude a great deal of potential clients who are immobilized due to illness or disability, who live in rural areas with no access to care, who lack sufficient transportation for regular sessions, or who have time constraints with work or school.
“Telemental health,” or online counseling, addresses all of these obstacles, enabling clients to meet with their therapists at their own convenience, while eliminating concerns about travel time or cost.
As a result, clinicians are able to:
meet with clients more regularly, some of whom they wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise
handle crises that may arise between face-to-face visits
make a client more comfortable participating from his or her home
conduct initial interviews and assessments via telemental health channels in order to expedite the process when the patient arrives in-person
reduce concerns about stigma and serve as a bridge for reluctant clients to come in for office visits
While the majority of therapy techniques can be implemented just as effectively through video conferencing as they are in face-to-face sessions, they do indeed have their drawbacks, including:
the inability to use certain methods of therapy, such as play therapy or EMDR
the inability to notice all verbal or non-verbal clues, like perhaps twitching hands or feet not visible from the web cam or smart phone
no promise of privacy, as its always possible a website or video feed can be viewed by a hacker
ethical and legal issues, which the therapist must ensure they follow before providing online therapy
2. Mental Health Apps
The second biggest breakthrough in modern day technology for counselors is the prevalence of mental health apps. An immeasurable number of mental health apps await anyone with a smartphone, ranging from bully therapy apps, to breathing apps, to relaxation apps, to catastrophic thinking apps… the list truly goes on and on.
Some of the best mental health apps are helpful to people struggling with mental health issues because they may provide:
a source of therapy in between weekly sessions with the therapist
a place to record, analyze and reflect upon negative thoughts or feelings
updated information or studies on a particular mental health condition
tools in which to help users relax or practice his or her breathing
Of course it is important to remember that not all of these apps are created equal, nor are they all developed by licensed professionals or organizations, so be sure to try them out for yourself before suggesting them to your clients.
Using Technology in Your Practice
Both telemental health and mental health apps have enabled mental health professionals to connect with patients near and far, at their own convenience. While mental health therapy technologies feature many advantages, practitioners still need to be mindful of the many ethical and legal implications of practicing therapy through technology. In some cases, additional training and licensure may be advised to ensure you are able to effectively (and legally) serve those in need.
So, should you prepare to implement technology into your counseling sessions? It really is a matter of preference and the type of therapy you plan to build your practice around. However, if the primary goal is to help clients, and if certain technologies help certain clients, especially as technology continues to advance, it is up to therapists like you to individually and collectively determine technology’s ever-evolving role in therapy.