Technology can take the place of many things but can it really replace the relationship between client and therapist? Scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine are developing web-based technologies that may in fact do just that.
While it may not eliminate the need for therapy altogether, it could greatly reduce the necessity of weekly office visits. From a behavioral standpoint, I believe this new technology could be of tremendous benefit to those suffering from depressive disorders.
Picture someone who has a long-standing chronic depression as they begin to spiral into a deeper depressive episode. Typically there are warning signs when this begins to happen. It is not uncommon for someone experiencing depression to begin to isolate and to alter his or her daily routine.
Imagine if this individual’s phone or computer were able to track these subtle behavior changes, and begin to prompt the user to call friends, go to the gym, or make plans. This technology is just around the corner and the glitches are currently being ironed out. It is called Mobilyze! and it has already proven in tests to help reduce symptoms of depression.
Other interesting developments are on the horizon as well, such as a virtual human coach that will be able to help teens and adults improve their social skills. A prototype of this technology is in the works at the University of Southern California.
The program will be able to role-play difficult situations, as well as help teach assertiveness skills. Increased confidence and the ability to navigate one’s social environment comfortably, can help prevent early signs of depression, which can put individuals at risk for a later diagnosis.
Clearly these apps and programs don’t address many of the deeper issues of human complexity but I applaud their development and believe that, done correctly, they will provide a valuable service to those in need.
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