This professional continuing education conference entitled “I Googled You” is on Sept. 28 & 29 at the University of Washington in Seattle, presented by the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work, and the Washington State Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers. I am honored to be making a clinical presentation regarding internet therapy
A major focus of the conference is to learn about how a therapist’s presence on the internet (hence the title of the conference, such as a personal Facebook page, might influence clients views about the therapist and affect the treatment relationship. Another focus of the conference has to do with whether services like Skype or VSee, which is being used by therapists and clients, are adequately protective of the confidentiality of treatment and client privacy.
Robert Odell Presenting
I’m presenting work I did with one client using Skype, but I’ve actually worked very little with clients using internet voice and video, or even that ancient technology, the telephone (in its traditional audio-only capacity.) Presenting in this conference has allowed me to get more involved in “treatment media” that are currently being used, or are being developed for use (although the conference does not cover experimental areas such as virtual reality for PTSD treatment.)
Bit Of A Leap
It’s a bit of a leap for me (and many of my colleagues) to think of therapy that creates lasting change being “delivered” through a technological medium of some kind. Yet I think that the internet and other technological innovations could be media in which something therapeutic takes place, even if the client-therapist relationship is not at the center of the therapy.It could be a good way to provide what’s called “psycho-education”, literally, education about psychological behaviors that facilitates decisions to change behavior.
Traditional Therapy Still Best
Yet there is no data indicating that the classic in-person, face-to-face/brain-to-brain setting for true psychotherapy is still anything but the ‘gold standard’ for this kind of health care. In that sense, true psychotherapy is not yet shown to be digitally “deliverable.”
Some proponents of the digital delivery of mental health services claim that the “outcomes” of therapy provided that way are comparable to the in-person setting. “Outcomes” sounds like a reasonable standard to work with, but it begs for definition. Are reduced symptoms the desired outcome? If so, for how long? Might the underlying causes of those symptoms be left untreated, prompting another round of symptoms and treatment? I realize that can happen too in traditional in-person therapy, but is digitally delivered therapy more prone to needing repetition? No one knows.
Other Forms of Therapy?
Another question has to do with couples or group therapy. Could these methods be as effective (have equally good “outcomes”) with a therapist-on-video? I have to doubt it. There is too much in the way of human contact in these therapies. Two dimensional video is in my opinion too limited, narrow and shallow to work in these forms of treatment.Yet we may have to accept certain compromises or concessions in order to make a level of service available to everyone.
The internet delivers well; the economies and efficiencies of working through the internet are undisputed. But what is being delivered is the key question.