Everything You Missed at the 2016 Future of Therapy Conference

Talkspace conference Freud character

If you missed our clinical conference, The Future of Therapy, don’t worry! This post will retroactively bring the experience to you. After all, Talkspace is all about virtually providing services for people who can’t make it in-person or prefer the online experience.

9:30-10:30 a.m. — Meeting People In-Person for the First Time

Our virtual tour of The Future of Therapy begins with attendees entering Cedar Lake, a historic multi-use event space in Manhattan.

cedar lake Talkspace conference
all photos by Liz Clayman Photography

The hall was filled with long wood tables, Talkspace memorabilia, complimentary snacks, free copies of Psychology Today and an increasing number of attendees looking for familiar faces — or unfamiliar ones. The attendees were a mixture of panelists, speakers, people who represent companies innovating in health care and technology, therapists, reporters, venture capitalists and Talkspace staff and community members. All of them wanted to learn, network or promote their brand or cause.

For us, one of the highlights was finally meeting our co-workers in-person.

At Talkspace we work with hundreds of therapists who live all around the U.S. and a few who live outside the country. We spend our days virtually communicating with these people, discussing how we can do better for our clients.

Sometimes we only know them by text and email. We see their avatars in messages and chats, but we don’t know what they sound like or what kind of mannerisms they have. The curiosity subconsciously builds over time.

As a Talkspace client and staff member, meeting my Talkspace therapist in-person was surreal. We talked, laughed, hugged and commented on the experience. I also met the therapists I had referred my mother and friend to using our gift card.

The experience was unforgettable for therapists as well. After existing only as avatars on our corporate messenger, they now had the chance to form new friendships and do the therapist version of talking shop.

Talkspace therapists conference table

10:30-10:50 a.m. — CEO Oren Frank and Co-Founder and Head of Clinical Services Roni Frank Speak About Mental Health, Therapy and Talkspace

Then it was time for Talkspace co-founders Oren and Roni Frank to welcome their guests and speak about their mission.

Roni discussed Talkspace’s mission to eradicate the stigma of mental illness and provide therapy for those who cannot afford or access it. She also announced the “Therapy for All” program that will pledge 500 months of free therapy for people with low income.

Read Roni’s full speech here or watch the video below:

Oren spoke next, revealing the origin of Talkspace and explaining its necessity in a time where health care has failed many people.

Read highlights of Oren’s speech here or watch the video below:

10:50-11:40am — PANEL: Can You Develop a Relationship with a Machine?

Read the key takeaways:

  • Technology allows people to better measure goals from relationships and transcend the limits of human contact (asynchronous messaging, video messaging, etc.)
  • Human contact needs to be part of an automated system for it to be most effective
  • Machines can help people better connect with humans (example: someone with severe social anxiety might need to work with a machine before reaching out to humans)
  • Technology is advancing to the point where people will soon be able to have artificial romantic partners and other synthetic people to help them live happier lives

Or watch the video below:

11:40 a.m.–12:30 p.m. — PANEL: Impact of Social Media on Our Mental Health

Read the key takeaways:

  • The negative mental health effects of social media are worse for Generation Z than for millennials
  • Discussing mental health more openly and frequently with young adults and teenagers might combat these negative effects
  • “Fitsperation” [bragging about fitness by posting pictures on social media] is an example of a negative tendency
  • “Likes” increase dopamine and have the same reward and reinforcement effect as an addiction to drugs
  • People experience withdrawal symptoms when they can’t use their smartphones
  • Social media has degraded our ability to tolerate boredom and other negative emotions because it is an effective distraction
  • New education on mental health and social media is necessary

Or watch the video below:

12:30–1:30 p.m. — Lunch (More Mingling!)

The lunch break was like the first period of the conference, but with more grub and activities. Attendees scribbled their visions for the future of therapy on a chalkboard while waiting in line for food and drinks.

chalkboard the future of therapy conference

1:30–2:20 p.m. — PANEL: Innovations in Consumer Health Tech

Read the key takeaways:

  • Part of innovating in consumer health technology is integrating mental health care
  • Regulations often impede innovation, but there are ways to supplant the parts of systems that don’t work rather than replacing them
  • One of the biggest problems in health care is the fragmentation of the organizations that take care of people
  • One trend in health care is how it is becoming more personalized

Or watch the video below:

2:20–3:30 p.m. — KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “The Evolution of Therapy” by Dr. Irvin Yalom and Dr. Iris Reitzes

Read Dr. Yalom’s story or the key takeaways:

  • The nature of the relationship between therapist and client will always be the most important issue in therapy
  • Dr. Yalom was resistant to text therapy at first but eventually saw its merits
  • Dr. Yalom thought traditional psychoanalytic therapy was not sufficient
  • He wanted to speak about existential issues,such as death, with clients
  • Case histories and elements of storytelling are now reemerging in psychological research

Or watch the video below:

3:30–3:45 p.m. — Afternoon Break

People took advantage of the Talkspace backdrop while snapping more photos. And of course there was more mingling and eating.

Talkspace staff conference backdrop

3:45–4:35 p.m. — PANEL: Is Technology Making Us Mentally Ill?

Read the key takeaways:

  • There are measurements for the addictive potential of technology: withdrawal, cravings, impairment (same criteria for substance addiction)
  • People can buffer against these negative effects by treating technology like food (establishing diets, rules about when to consume it and how much)
  • Technology distracts from negative emotions
  • There are more adaptive ways to deal with negative emotions
  • Technology exacerbates old issues such as cyberbullying
  • Keeping mental health in mind when developing digital products could reduce the future negative impact

Or watch the video below:

4:35–5:25 p.m. — PANEL: The Future of Work Benefits

Read the key takeaways:

  • Employers value engagement. Mental health problems inhibits engagement, so employers have motivation to invest in improving them.
  • Many major insurance companies already use telehealth

Or watch the video below:

5:35–7:00 p.m. — Cocktail Reception for All Attendees and Speakers
Everyone drank, chatted, ate and took more photos!

Talkspace Molly Enking chalkboard conference

Are we going to see you next year? We hope so!

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