Brewing Hope-Let's talk about technology

The topic of technology is very often discussed in many different contexts, as it impacts our lives personally and professionally on a daily basis. It is a powerful tool that has helped shape our modern world both in positive and not so positive ways. How technology has impacted the world of mental health is no different. As this month’s topic of discussion, we thought we would be candidly open about how technology shapes our practice and profession.

How has technology helped streamline your practice?

Ellen-“Technology has made it handy to be able to text or email reminders or rescheduling. I also use my iPad for clinical notes, which is extremely handy, as I have more access to them when I am not at the office. With that stated, there is responsibility on my part to meet all of the ethical and confidentiality requirements.

Susan-“I agree, It’s very convenient to be able to text clients about scheduling and to email references. I also like having our paperwork on the website for clients to have before the first session. It saves time and allows them to review the informed consent prior to their first appointment.

Andrea-“I like it too for the obvious reasons of scheduling, having our intake forms and information readily available to our clients, and payment services such as Square and PayPal are helpful. Looking at technology from a more creative lens, I see it as a marketing tool that helps our practice be more efficient in reaching our audience, such as utilizing our website to promote upcoming events and groups and connecting us to our community through webinars, informative speaking engagements and networking opportunities.”

What are your feelings and opinions (both positive and negative) surrounding the trend of tele-mental health counseling.

Andrea-“I currently don’t practice tele-mental health counseling but I do see the potential benefits. I also see some limitations. As we integrate new tools into therapy, the bottom line is weighing the benefits vs. the risks. My opinion is that currently there are still some things that need worked out in this area, such as professional liabilities and technical improvements. With that said, I do see this trend growing and it becoming more of a “norm”practice in the near future.

Ellen-“I think it makes a lot of sense and might be able to bring mental health services to those with less access, once all the bugs are worked out. In addition, it is also helpful to be able to maintain a relationship with your therapist when one of you has either moved or is on vacation.”

Susan-“I have appreciated the ability to keep a couple of clients when I moved a couple of hours away. I don’t always like tele-health because of the technical difficulties (poor video/sound quality due to lack of bandwidth or good hardware or signal, etc.). I feel comfortable doing therapy remotely with persons I’ve met, so that I have an in person baseline of their way of relating, but I find it challenging to really get to know someone without all the body language and posture cues. It’s too easy to miss little signals when I can’t see the whole person.”

How has technology influenced your client’s struggles and the presenting issues they are seeking counseling for?

Susan-“I have more clients who zone out on youtube, reddit, etc, on video games, or on social media or chat, which means their in-person relationships tend to suffer. I think smart phones are blamed for many of my clients’ struggles with their spouse/partner. I also see the damage internet addictions like pornography have caused, both to persons and their relationships. On the other hand, many clients have found a lot of support in things like online support groups and facebook groups, and in finding resources such as articles and blogs that address their particular struggles.”

Andrea-“The internet and social media are relatively new tools, and with any new tool there is a learning curve associated with that. In our profession, I think we are seeing the ways in which social media can negatively impact relationships and mental health. I have seen a lot of issues with self-esteem due to online bullying and extra-marital affairs in particular. I have also witnessed powerful support groups and connections fostered with social media as well. As a society we are learning together the pitfalls of too much online use. I think we should highlight the one key difference with technology which makes it a little different from any other tool out there, is the addictions that can develop. As mental health professionals, we are not only helping clients cope and heal from the negative impact social media has on their self-esteem and relationships, but we are also helping clients with their addiction to technology itself.”

Ellen-“Social media can be fun, but it also has a dark side, and quite frequently we see the results of that - families (and individuals) who don't communicate well in person because they’ve never learned inter-personal skills (or are uncomfortable with being face-to-face) or people who have used social media interactions to step out of marriages or other relationships. While being a good tool, like most tools, social media is quite open to abuse as well.

Do you utilize digital technology as part of your therapy interventions or treatment

options ?

Ellen-“Not often, occasionally I might suggest someone better inform themselves about an issue that way, but I can’t think of any other way.”

Susan-“Depending on the client, sometimes I will have them look up a particular video on YouTube, or look for a reference. I will sometimes pull something up in session. But if having too much screen time is already an issue, I won’t do that.”

Andrea-“I don’t routinely use technology in my course of therapy, however, there are times when I feel it can be helpful. There are some pretty good apps out there which I have utilized. Some in particular that I have found helpful include, Moment, for helping clients that struggle with online addiction. This app helps them track their screen time. I have also utilized the Emotions app to help my younger clients that struggle with understanding and recognizing emotions and social cues.

If you are struggling with the negative impacts of technology in your life, we are here to help.

Contact us through our website @sanctuarychristiancounseling.com or our Facebook page.

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