While the idea of digital forms of therapy – the AI therapist for example – have been met with some uncertainty there is no doubt that technology has a lot to offer when it comes to mental health. 2020 proved to be the year in which therapists were forced to be digitally resourceful and this has created a new willingness among both clinicians and patients when it comes to embracing the opportunities that can be delivered by the technology that exists. A blended approach that combines human therapy supplemented by technology, such as apps and Virtual Reality programmes, could deliver a wider range of treatment options than was previously the case.
There is currently a fairly significant gap between the demand for therapeutic support and the capacity for treatment and this is a problem that technology could help to solve. Digital mental health therapies have the potential to make human support even more effective and to overcome many of the obstacles that currently exist when it comes to getting help, such as high costs or low accessibility. The additional support that technology can provide when a patient is having human therapy could make this more effective and maximise its reach.
Where is tech already being used?
- Mobile apps for mental health. Apps can do a lot to support human therapy. One app already being used is ClinTouch, which asks users who are recovering from schizophrenia, psychosis or bipolar disorder how they feel several times a day and then generates an alert if there is the potential for a relapse. The app is used as a support aid to monthly visits to a care coordinator. Wearable devices and sociable media could in the future provide more data to improve the effectiveness of the app.
- Telepsychiatry. Therapy sessions via video conferencing really came into their own in 2020, as the pandemic forced patients and clinicians to remain in separate rooms. In the future telepsychiatry could also integrate the use of data analysis, looking at tone of voice, how fast someone swipes on an app, the language of written messages and the content people use on social media to support more insightful video conferencing sessions.
- Virtual Reality. This is an especially useful technology when it comes to tackling fears. For example, one pioneering professor has integrated Virtual Reality into the treatment of fear of heights by using it to put people in a virtual atrium. A six session programme is now being developed that virtually places people in challenging situations, gradually working through increasing levels of difficulty. This could be particularly useful for conditions such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.
Will tech ever replace the human therapist?
Visions of a robotic future where we are being counselled by cyborgs are likely to remain something of a fantasy as although technology has a key role in supporting human therapy it’s unlikely to replace it any time soon. Empathy and human responsiveness are essential resources that currently only flesh and blood therapists can deliver.
From Virtual Reality to apps and telepsychiatry there are many ways in which technology is proving to be an increasingly useful supplement to human therapy.
First established in the heart of London’s West End, The Grove Practice has grown organically from its original conception as a private psychotherapy service into a cutting edge-leader in the field of mental health education. To read more articles or if you can make an online appointment at https://thegrovepractice.com/book-online/