Can Psychotherapy and Technology Mix?
For many people, the idea of combining therapy and technology makes no sense. The therapeutic relationship is thought to be the essence of successful psychotherapy, and the essence of a relationship is a human connection - not technology.
And yet the appropriate
use of suitable
technologies can enhance therapy. In fact, it's already happening. From therapy conducted over Skype, videoconferencing or email, in telemental health, to therapeutic 'serious games' that provide opportunities for practicing new skills, technology has the potential to enhance clinical work. This can happen by making therapy more accessible, as is the case with telemental health, or by facilitating homeworks associated with some therapies. For example, serious games exist to support homework for cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment of depression.
More recently, synthetic 'virtual' characters and social robots, have begun to be used to support clinical work. Virtual characters, also called embodied conversational characters, can interact with humans in natural language (that is, in typed or spoken English), can show emotional expressions, and provide support for behavior change.
Social robots are being used to teach social skills to children on the autism spectrum.
These technologies don't replace human therapists. It will be a long, long time before artificially intelligent characters and robots can function at the same level of sophistication as humans. In fact, it may never happen. But, at the same time, these virtual characters and social robots have much to offer. And for some tasks, they may even be better. For example, a robot never gets impatient.
Therapy & Technology Blog... coming soon
I will be adding a blog to this web site that will discuss the use of these 'advanced' technologies in therapy. Please check back later and come visit the blog.
You can download a copy of a presentation on "Beyond Social Media: Advanced Technologies in Clinical Social Work"
I gave at the NASW symposium (APR-4, Framingham, MA).
Download a brief summary of this presentation here.
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