Technology — 10 April 2014

The therapist’s couch has long been a staple of books and movies, a place   where unpleasant truths are revealed and neuroses untangled. But, almost   unnoticed, the delivery of psychological support is being transformed – by   the internet.

If you need NHS   help for common problems such as anxiety or mild depression, you won’t   necessarily meet your therapist face-to-face. You could be at home or even   by the pool, typing your emotional secrets into a dedicated instant   messaging service. You might be following a computer program that takes you   step by step through a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) programme, or   having a digital face-to-face on Skype.bigstock_Help_button_concept_17049809

“The benefits of online therapy are considerable,” says Joanna Bawa, a CBT   practitioner with the NHS in Hereford. “Going into the cloud abolishes   geography. You can be at home in Brighton and your therapist can be in   Bradford.” Timing can be much more flexible, too, she adds. “No more having   to miss work, or pay a babysitter, or spend half an hour travelling each   way.”

The anonymity is particularly attractive to men, who, says Bawa, “are more   likely to go for therapy if they can confess to feelings of weakness and   inadequacy without being recognised”.

But does internet therapy – or “Skypotherapy”, as it has been termed – work?   Surely there is something special about the intimacy of the consulting room?   “That’s what many of the more traditional therapists thought,” says Nadine   Field, a qualified therapist who set up   several years ago. The company, which now has more than 100 accredited CBT   therapists on its books, many of whom work for the NHS, uses an instant   messaging system which can be accessed 24 hours a day.

This article first appeared on The Telegraph on 19 January, 2014.


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