Imagine a future where most therapists text their clients or video chat with them. Then picture these therapists working alongside doctors, yet focusing more on the strength of their relationships with clients rather than symptom reduction.
It’s not as far away as you might think, and it’s only scratching the surface of how therapy is changing. Therapy will always have the mission of helping people live a happier and healthier life, but the methods of working with and reaching clients are evolving rapidly.
To glean a glimpse of this future, keep reading to learn about the most prevalent current and emerging therapy trends Talkspace looked into.
Online Therapy: Texting, Voice Messaging and Video Chatting with Therapists
Roughly one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness every year. Approximately 60% of them do not receive treatment because of the stigma, costs, inconvenience and inaccessibility of mental health services such as therapy.
Online therapy is an effort to make seeing a therapist more affordable, convenient and stigma-free. It uses technology such as secure text, audio and video messaging to facilitate sessions and conversations between clients and licensed therapists.
This helps clients who do not have enough income to pay $75-150 per session or the time to commute to an office. It also allows people to see a therapist confidentially rather than risking someone seeing them at an office and telling others they deal with a mental illness.
Online therapy has increased in popularity as therapists realize they can use it to see more clients, supplement their income and develop new skills. Therapists are doing this within their practices or via companies such as Talkspace that facilitate online therapy networks.
Many clients love video chatting with therapists because they are receiving the in-person interaction without commuting to an office. What if there was a way to make this feeling more intense and immersive?
Virtual reality is in the early stages of development at the moment, but Talkspace therapist Ken Fields thinks it could become a valuable tool for therapy once the technology advances. It could allow the therapist and client to feel as if their physical environments have merged, Fields said.
More Collaboration Between Doctors and Therapists (And Other Medical and Mental Health Professionals)
Therapy is typically removed from the experience of seeing a doctor or another professional who helps someone with their health. Clients see their therapist in a separate office, and it’s rare for a client’s therapist and doctor to communicate.
This makes little sense because mental health and medical issues are tightly connected. When people experience symptoms such as insomnia and unexplained aches, they often see a doctor without realizing the symptoms could stem from mental health issues. Then the doctor might tell patients they are fine or prescribe medication rather than referring them to a therapist. The medication might help reduce symptoms, but only therapy addresses the underlying issues and provides a long-term solution.
Fortunately, many primary care facilities are beginning to integrate mental health professionals. Talkspace therapist Robin DeBates works at a primary care clinic and thinks further integrating mental health care will benefit patients.
The majority of people who deal with mental health issues consult a primary care doctor before or instead of seeing a therapist, DeBates said. Integrating therapy by providing funding for mental health professionals to work at primary care facilities could increase access to mental health treatments.
Bates said the government is supporting this on a national and state level, citing the recent Medicaid waiver in the state of Washington that temporarily allows more funds for integration of primary care and behavioral health. Other events suggest a trend of integrating mental health care, including the recommendation to screen pregnant women for depression.
Focusing More on the Relationship and Client Rather than the Symptoms
Therapy is moving away from the medical model of focusing on symptom reduction and toward the humanistic, client-centered approach. This involves stressing the quality of the relationship between therapist and client, which has been an accurate predictor of positive outcomes in therapy.
The challenge — and opportunity for innovation — is measuring the success of this relationship, said Talkspace Head of Clinical Development Nicole Amesbury. This is where technology will step in again.
“If we can all use technology together, we can bring better care,” Amesbury said.