What Lies Ahead?

Posted by: Dawn Schell on January 14, 2013 2:50 pm

It happens every year. Newspapers, television and radio programs gather together a panel of pundits and ask them to predict what will happen in the coming year. I’m not sure about the overall statistical accuracy of such panels but it makes for entertaining listening.

I thought about doing the same here in this blog post. Gather the brightest and best in the online counselling world together and ask them to predict online counselling trends for 2013. Before I could get started on gathering a panel I came across an article in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice on the Future of Telepsychology and I opted instead to share their view of the future.

Written primarily for a psychology audience the article is a call for action on the part of the psychology profession. The authors’ observation is that the psychology profession is lagging behind when it comes to technology. The authors state, “Whether psychologists embrace or resist aspects of technology, they should: recognize how advanced technologies are changing the way we communicate and process information, anticipate needed growth, and prepare to meet ensuing challenges to professional psychology.”

The authors are concerned that mental health consumers receive proper, ethically-delivered care from adequately trained professionals who can “understand and skillfully guide clients in using the most appropriate resources, and possibly help clients tailor technology to their specific needs.” Fair enough.

As to their “predictions” [for lack of a better word] – they use the following criteria to determine which technologies “…are likely to become prominent in mental health care delivery in the near future…those that allow us to enable, extend, augment and connect …as their built-in intelligence facilitates completion of complex tasks with minimal demand for understanding how they work.”

“Enabling lets people accomplish what their bodies alone cannot.” The example they give is the smart phone’s ability to converse with people almost anywhere at any time.
Extending abilities (e.g. capturing sound and pictures) and extending one’s reach (e.g. can work with people in remote areas)
Augmenting – an example here is a smartphone app that can support biofeedback training.
Connecting – ah, yes, connecting (e.g. texting, social media).
And easy to use without having to understand the “how”.

So, considering all these aspects the authors suggest the following will become more prominent:
increased use of video teleconferencing
mobile devices
cloud computing
virtual worlds
virtual reality

Interesting list. Especially the last three. I don’t know a lot about those areas though this article has prompted me to learn more about how these apply to mental health care.

Finally, the authors address the issue of governance and all that entails. Licencing, laws, regulations, policies, procedures, insurance – it’s all changing or needs to change to keep up with technology.

I encourage you all to read the article in its entirety. And let’s see what the future holds.

Dawn Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca


[1] Maheu, M., Pulier, M., McMenamin, J. & Posen, L. (2012). Future of Telepsychology, Telehealth, and Various Technologies in Psychological Research and Practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 43(6), 613-621  Retrieved from http://telehealth.org/future

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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