The Combination of Therapy and Technology – Is the Future Already Here?

The combination of therapy and technology is a topic that I find really interesting and one that I often feel is either overlooked, ridiculed or ignored.

I feel that we are on the verge of seeing some huge technological advances in the way we conduct and facilitate therapeutic services.

The development of online, web chat and telephone counselling in recent years has been met with both massive growth for numerous psychotherapy services and debate between professionals regarding the ethical considerations that come with such advances.

What Already Exists?

The facilitation of web chat and telephone counselling services may not seem like therapy has reached a galaxy far far away. It does however give us an idea of the direction that therapy is heading in, one that is more technologically aware.

The anonymity and ease of access that users may experience in utilising such online services may improve the likelihood of them accessing therapeutic services that will only benefit them in the future. I wonder what you think of the ethical dilemmas of online therapeutic services, contrasted with the potential outreach such services can facilitate.

Recent Research

I recently read a few articles that focussed on the development of technology and how it can benefit those wishing to access therapeutic services. ‘Technology-Enhanced Human Interaction in Psychotherapy’ (Imel, 2017) is a very interesting read, published in The Journal of Counselling Psychology, that focusses on how technology could help with feedback processes for client and counsellor, as well as the potential for what they call a ‘technology –mediated treatment modality’. Fundamentally meaning how technology can play an active role in the facilitation of therapy.

This quote from this article really highlights how Imel (2017) views the potential of technology in therapy:

“Technology is beginning to provide treatment options that do not require these dramatic efforts at the outset—meeting the client closer to where they are.” p390

New Initiatives

Perhaps the timing of this blog post is appropriate as only recently the Scottish Government has announced the development of a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy programme that will be launched nationwide next year.

This is in part due to the initiative by the government to increase the accessibility and development of psychological therapies to treat the developing issue of mental health.

As exciting as it is to see the access and development of psychological therapies increasing, what does this mean for working therapists?

Recent research has stated that computerized or app based therapy services can be as effective as face to face therapeutic treatment with a qualified practitioner.

The Future of Therapy?

Therefore, should we as therapists and trainees be concerned?

In my opinion, we shouldn’t be concerned. I view technological advances in therapy as something therapists can work with instead of compete against. Furthermore, many of the studies that have concluded that app based therapeutic service are as effective as face to face, consider issues such as smoking addiction and self-help initiatives instead of issues such as major depressive disorders. With regards to these issues, face to face therapy has been deemed highly effective.

Developments in app based and technological therapeutic initiatives should be welcomed by us working in therapy. Not only is there a place for such developments, but I believe they can aid our work in psychological therapy and ultimately benefit the client.

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