Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Technology in Clinical Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Technology in Clinical Practice

Article excerpt

I (McMinn) went hunting once-and only once-because a friend somehow convinced me that shooting at rabbits would be a worthy endeavor. Rabbits move quickly it turns out, so the one shot I took came much closer to my friend's dog than to the rabbit the dog was chasing. My friend agreed that it was a good time for me to stop my one and only hunting expedition.

Keeping up with technology in practice is a bit like rabbit hunting-the target moves too fast. Just when we figure out how to manage electronic billing in a confidential and ethical way, then we are asked to consider the nuances of virtual reality for treating anxiety disorders or the ethical implications of having a MySpace page or confidentiality issues pertaining to electronic medical records.

A decade ago, I was involved in two research projects to better understand how psychologists use technology (e.g., McMinn, 1998). In the intervening years, the rate of change in technology is nothing less than stunning and ten years of aging have rendered me less passionate about keeping up with the latest technological tools. So I recruited two young, bright doctoral students to help fill in the large gap that a decade brings. Together we have reviewed recent literature and asked various clinicians what sort of technologies they use in professional practice. We asked by posting our queries on various listservs, which is the way much professional dialog occurs these days. What follows is a summary of what we have learned about how technology is used in clinical practice, which we have separated into support functions (those technologies that help "behind the scenes" as the psychologist delivers professional services) and service delivery (direct applications of technology in providing professional assessments and interventions).

Technology and Support Services

Today's psychologist works in an office that bears great resemblance to that of 10 or 15 years ago, but the view is strikingly different behind the scenes. Whereas many clinicians have bravely opened e-mail accounts for themselves and ventured onto the World Wide Web, others have moved on to downloading podcasts, using cellular phones for business purposes, maintaining handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs),1 implementing treatment planning software, communicating via Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), keeping electronic records, billing electronically, and so on.

Consider a day in the life of Jill Psychologist, who stays current with the latest technological trends. She begins her day with a time of spiritual reflection and meditation. After a period of silence and meditative prayer, she downloads a podcast of a recent sermon from bible.org to her iPod and listens to it on her drive to work. When we asked Christian mental health professionals how they use technology in their daily life and work, most of those who responded offered ways that Internet sites have improved their access to faith resources. They mentioned biblegateway.com, bible.com, bible.org, beliefnet.com, probe.org, arcapologetics.org, relevantbibleteaching.com, and so on.

As she leaves the house, Jill checks to be sure her cellular phone is charged. Cellular telephones have become so commonplace that some clinicians may not remember how they have freed us from wearing pagers and finding the closest pay phone when a client is in crisis. Some clinicians use answering services in order to avoid giving out cellular phone numbers to clients, but still they benefit from the convenience of having a personal telephone with a confidential voice mail system and caller ID when dealing with professional matters. One clinician we consulted maintains a very limited clinical practice-just a few hours per week-and has opted to use a cellular telephone as his sole business number. This keeps his overhead costs low-because he does not pay for another business telephone line-while still allowing his clients to leave confidential voice mails when he is not available to take phone calls. …

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