The title of this blog is intended to be a joke, but it’s true: when it comes to technology, our field is surprisingly disconnected, especially in comparison to other medical specialties. The psychotherapy professional community has, by and large, been very slow adopters when it comes to integrating technology into their practices—perhaps they use online billing tools or calendars, but how many practitioners have moved into the virtual sphere?
I can relate, certainly. I have decades of clinical practice behind me and am a highly specialized psychotherapist, but I only recently did I start using a smart phone! That said, however, I’ve come to value the flexibility and reach of technology—how it gives us a new means to deliver care to the patients who need more options, especially if they travel a lot or have circumstances that impact their mobility.
So why are therapists not leveraging technology to the fullest? In my opinion, I think it’s because we’ve been trained to work with people, not with technology. Technology is different and new and it can be demanding. While psychology is about working in the gray areas, technology is very black and white—there are specific steps to follow to connect, to get from point A to point B.
It seems that younger therapists are more comfortable with technology—they’ve simply been exposed to more. For older therapists, however, training was in-office or in-room, making virtual therapy feel very foreign. Regardless of age, though, most therapists just aren’t accustomed to practicing virtually, using video conferencing in place of face-to-face sessions. Yet, the demanding lives of our patients demonstrate that the demand for virtual therapy will continue to grow.
Over time, I anticipate that virtual therapy will become part of the standard therapeutic delivery schema, with specific licensing, insurance reimbursements and more. If you haven’t yet investigated virtual therapy, do so; provide an added service to your patients and know that, even if you have no experience with technology, these tools can be learned and mastered. Then you can leverage this new delivery method to give your patients the flexibility they need to maintain their regular program of care even when they are on the road or unable to meet you for an in-person session.
– Martha H. Ireland PhD, RN, CS, CEDS