Everything else is going electronic, why not psychological care as well? There are still some things you just cannot do while mobile and, so far, receiving psychological help is one of those things. Some doctors and researchers would like to change that fact.
Currently, doctors are working on two different ways that patients can receive psychological help electronically. The first is through “telepsychiatry”, which simply refers to performing a psychiatric therapy session over web chat. This service is still only available through a handful of psychiatrists because many feel that it is either not as effective or not secure.
Those who feel that telepsychiatry is ineffective do so mainly because it becomes more impersonal when the patient is not in the room with the doctor. These doctors find it harder to notice patient cues or physical tells that would help them treat the patient. On the other hand, many doctors think that telepsychiatry can be very useful because younger or abused patients feel more open to talking when the doctor is on a screen rather than in the room with them. To gain insight from physical cues, the proponents of telepsychiatry use televisions rather than smaller computer screens to view their patients during a session.
More video chatting services, including the popular Skype service, have secure chats as a standard feature. It will not be long before all video chatting is as secure as it can possibly be so that psychiatrists and patients do not need to be afraid of privacy leaks because of Internet security problems.
The other electronic method of psychological care that researchers are working on is creating mobile apps. Researchers are designing these apps to be repetitive games so that patients can train their brains to avoid certain behaviors that trigger problems. A person with a social anxiety disorder may sometimes focus on angry people in a crowd and begin to believe those people are threatening and judging him or her, when the person may not even notice him or her. The app trains patients with social anxiety disorders away from this tendency. The current research data, however, is still inconclusive as to the effectiveness of these mobile game-like apps.
The fact that doctors are exploring these new methods of treating patients is a testament to both the changing nature of our society and the ability for traditionally non-technological fields to adapt. That psychologists can administer therapy sessions over video chat and patients can use a mobile app to train their brain away from harmful behaviors is amazing. Although it may not be suitable for all patients, perhaps this advancement into higher technology is a step towards more effective therapies and healthier minds.
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