The Mental Health Professional and the New Technologies: A Handbook for Practice Today

By Marlene M. Maheu; Myron L. Puller et al. | Go to book overview

2
Telecommunication Technicalities
For the unlucky mental health practitioner thrashing about in the swelling sea of technology, this chapter can serve as a “Guide for the Perplexed” (ben Maimon, 1956). It may calm the reader's troubled amygdala, shifting adaptive processing to the ventral and medial prefrontal cortex (Pine et al., 2001).Spirited professionals who have somehow become familiar with the Internet and other telecommunications networks may want to skip to chapter 3. Other readers may notice that we explain technology only to a degree required to understand the remainder of this book. This chapter does not try to cover the vast world of technology but instead focuses on four general areas:
The two types of telecommunication.
Data.
Transmission channels and devices.
The Internet, with a focus on the World Wide Web.

Psychotherapy is ordinarily thought of as involving very private and intimate dialogue between two or more people. Technology can connect people to information and to each other, as easily from across the world as from across town. How can psychotherapy and technology be blended? It should not surprise clinicians that the usefulness of telecommunications technology for mental health care rests primarily on extending and otherwise facilitating relationships.

However, common reactions to the notion of delivering mental health services online are to question confidentiality, to mention delays, and to express concern with the elimination of nonverbal behavior through some technologies. Even though such concerns are ripe with merit, exclusively negative reactions to bringing mental health care online ignore important realities. As we explain in the remaining text, some varieties of psychotherapy and support services are well suited to electronic media, and new applications have just begun to emerge from research labs around the world.

Please note the inclusion of the term support services in the previous sentence. For the first time in history, professionals are more easily able to develop services that do not involve direct contact with clients. Consider the following example sent by a user of the SelfhelpMagazine.com discussion forums (a type of online bulletin board covering mental health topics), which is not moderated:

I used your forum for a couple of months when I had lost my therapist. Please know that you are indeed life savers by giving us a vehicle to help ourselves. I thank you.

-39-

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