Mental Health in the Cyber Age: The New Age of Therapy and Progress

Human psychology is an intriguing subject in the sense that it provides answers to some of the most common and relevant questions regarding human thought and behavior but at the same time, it is also a sophisticated subject that raises just as many questions as the answers it produces. This element of complexity and sophistication interests millions of people every year to lead them to study psychology at colleges or universities and pursue careers in the field, making human psychology related research and education a very vivid field. Psychology today is also a booming business that includes various services such as one-on-one sessions from Naya Clinics to provide millions of patients with the assistance they need while making mental health professionals significant sums of money. Much like any other field of business, the human psychology sector also requires further investigation to make sense of its strengths and weaknesses and most importantly to raise awareness to key issues and concerns prior to harm or damages.

 

Lindsay Holmes for the Huffington Post reports on the ways individuals can benefit from therapy to initially state that regardless of how confident or secure people feel about themselves and the issues they confront, there is always room for using “a little extra support in handling life’s challenges” such as “talking with a professional.” The author refers to how verbally expressing feelings creates a therapeutic effect on the human brain, which means that vocalizing problems is a good start for dealing with such problems. Holmes then refers to therapists and life coaches as the two main possible actors of psychological health assistance for the residents of today’s modern world and identifies the services they provide separately. According to the author, therapists are either psychologists or counselors who have received Master’s or Doctorate level degrees to obtain a legal license for their profession from their respective state authorities. They carry out talk therapy, which enables such licensed professionals to develop long-term relationships with their patients for creating strategies to understand their thoughts, moods and behaviors. Life coaches however, receive their certification through programs of accreditation such as the “International Coaching Federation” which require no academic degrees. Such coaches seek to help their clients by motivating them or offering them emotional support to develop confidence in them, which is why numerous former psychologists have become life coaches after realizing the potential associated with the practice. In either profession, the core teachings of human psychology are utilized to identify problems while life coaching is a lot more interested in and capable of interfering with the patient’s life to create change and improvement. Therapy on the other hand, is a more theory-based practice that seeks to develop a more academic comprehension of the subject matter to provide more in-depth and detailed explanations and remedies.

 

Elisabeth Harris for Forbes magazine reports on a brilliant mental health professional, Alison Darcy, whose project “Woebot” has raised significant interest and support among the psychology circles so far, following its recent release in the market. Darcy believes that computers can be very useful in bridging people with comprehension and explanation of mental health issues, who do not possess the financial resources to access extensive consultancy services for discovering the proper treatment they need. The robot utilizes “conversations based on understanding of cognitive behavioral therapies” through social media applications such as the Facebook Messenger in order to answer user questions, while utilizing emoticons to explain the situation of concern better. The inventor states that the main interest that she developed for producing such a solution was that in the recent years, mental health related issues have reached statistically concerning levels, leaving the mental health personnel at an incapable position to help their patients. Darcy left her prestigious position at Stanford University to test different technologies related to human psychology and psychiatry to be able to develop a consumer product that could directly enter the market and help patients. Darcy and her team’s consideration of the current situation in the world can be described with the statement, “everybody has mental health issues but few come through with them.” Woebot in this sense turns psychological assistance into a more fun and likable practice while implementing the practices of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to better help its clients. This is due to the fact that there exists significant evidence and research which show that it is possible to deliver CBT without a therapist physically existing alongside with the patient to produce compromising outcomes. Woebot’s algorithm in this sense becomes the perfect guide for such patients because its fast response system develops confidence in the patient, while its anonymous identity induces trust in them. As a result, the system delivers utile and functional psychological services at a very reasonable price and eradicates the need for physical spaces such as hospitals or clinics, providing patients with the right type of therapy at the comfort of their homes.

 

Robbie Gonzalez for Wired magazine reports on a brand new Virtual Reality technology, Ellie, which helps soldiers returning from duty to open up on their psychological problems and complications. Every soldier in America is required to complete a written survey, the Post-Deployment Health Assessment, to help the military’s psychology department and its personnel evaluate individual and collective issues. One of the most frequent complications observed in such individuals is the “Post-Traumatic Stress   Disorder (PTSD)” which needs to be carefully surveyed and observed in order to produce the intended effect of relaxation and comfort on the patient. In such a pursuit, the traditional one-on-one surveys conducted by an actual human psychologist prove to be unreliable because they have a tendency to distort the actual reality. Similarly, paper-based surveys are also inefficient to fully comprehend the complications of such patients because they do not provide insight or detail regarding such issues, which means that this field of research direly and immediately demands for innovation. In order to overcome the issues associated with the lack of reliance and trust in such procedures, Gale Lucas of University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has conducted a private study. This effort revealed that “soldiers are more likely to divulge symptoms of PTSD to a virtual interviewer” or “an artificially intelligent avatar, rendered in 3-D on a television screen,” meaning that “virtual interviewers could prove to be even better than human therapists at helping soldiers open up about their mental health.” Ellie was developed as a result of this given setup, while the Artificial Intelligence behind the virtual therapist was based on actual verbal interviews conducted with a prior beta bot. The system also utilizes machine vision to observe and evaluate facial cues produced by the test subjects to respond in accordance, which adds more power and focus to its question based procedures. It was observed so far that soldiers who were surveyed with Ellie reported a significantly higher number of PTSD symptoms which goes onto prove that the system functions pretty well to bring in more accuracy, honesty and productivity into the process.

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