Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cyber WHAT?

The Internet continually comes up with new ways for us to use technology, socially and privately. Now there's telemedicine, a developing genre of sites that in the near future may make a trip to the doctor's office unnecessary. Some physicians are already diagnosing and treating online, reaching people in underserved areas who would otherwise have no access to medical help.This particular application may take a few more years to become mainstream, but one health-care specialty in particular has already generated such a large following that a lively competition has emerged among multiple sites, creating its own burgeoning market as it attracts new patients and clinicians daily. 

Call it cybershrink, e-therapy, or online counseling -  it's the new wave of mental and behavioral health care delivery quickly gaining followers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., South Africa, Australia, and generally wherever English is spoken, and even where it's not.

Imagine this scenario - you feel anxious and need someone professional to talk to about it, but you don't have a therapist. You don't want to let anyone know that you think you need a therapist.  You see an ad on Facebook: "Wouldn't you rather be happy? Click here for a licensed counselor you can chat with 24/7."

Too good to be true? The fact is, it is totally true. These sites are not "dating" sites, nor for late-night sultry, suggestive conversations. It's really e-therapy, or online mental health counseling. Some people see it as more like coaching, since there is no diagnosing of mental illness nor any drugs being prescribed.The counselors or therapists (the platform vocabulary differs among sites) are fully credentialed and licensed to practice in an office, and most of them do. But for a lower fee than you would pay if you drove to their office to see them face-to-face, you can be matched with one of those same therapists for on-line texts, live chats, or videos. No appointments necessary - you text whenever you want to. No travel involved. You can even show up in your pajamas!

Does it work? While many people have more faith in the old-fashioned face-to-face kind of therapy setting, many others feel able to open up more freely using the anonymity of the computer, where a client can use a fictitious user name with the counselor, initiate conversations whenever they like, and leave long posts or videos for the counselor at any time of day or night. The process moves along rapidly, just as the phenomenon is doing, like a train so new-age that the regulatory agencies are racing to keep up with it.

Relocating to another part of the country motivated me to examine the options for opening a new practice. I jumped aboard the e-therapy  train and the referrals began rolling in. My new clients, don't need to travel to meet with me. They gain access to all my professional skills, training, and experience, while I get to do more of the work I love.