Anonymity The Key To IM Therapy
Instant messaging has found a useful place in the world of mental health, with a number of services allowing patients to connect anonymously to therapists.
The impersonal nature of instant messaging has proved a blessing for people who want to discuss mental health issues with a therapist, but would prefer to keep those visits as closely guarded as possible. A Wall Street Journal report noted a trio of services catering to those needs.
MyTherapyNet offers “E-mmediate Care” counseling for a $1.60 per minute fee. Patients can also book sessions with therapists according to the website. HelpHorizons connects people with therapists, while eGetGoing works as an online drug and alcohol rehabilitation site.
People who need these services frequently prove reluctant to seek them out. Any whiff of news of needing “help” with depression or addictive behavior would quickly circulate through a workplace. Even the suggestion that someone “can’t cope” without some help can destroy a career, along with a person’s reputation and relationships.
Instant messaging performed over a secure platform helps relieve the concern of being seen leaving a treatment facility or a therapist’s office by someone who may know the patient. In some opinions, that could have a downside.
The article raised concerns about treating people sight unseen. “What one gleans as a psychiatrist in a clinical assessment is not just from the words one says but from the emotions,” says Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University. “Emoticons just don’t get you to the same place.”
Critics also worry about therapists attempting to treat suicidal patients, but providers have said they would recommend immediate personal help to anyone who may be a danger to themselves or others.
The use of technology can be a greater benefit than its potential pitfalls. Many therapists have worked by phone with patients for years, and email has become an extra method of communication. Instant messaging just adds to the available methods of connecting a patient and a therapist.
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.