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|Clinician's Digest Mar/Apr|
By Garry Cooper
The cell phone, now part of everyday life, is still mostly underutilized for therapy, a traditionally face-to-face profession, though growing evidence shows it can be an effective adjunct tool. An article on the December 31 BBC News describes an innovative program for bipolar clients. Every morning at 10 o'clock, clients receive a phone prompt asking them to record on a simple scale how depressed or manic they're feeling.
Consequently, when they go to their appointments, therapists have an accurate daily record of how their clients are doing. Clients report that the structured reporting serves as ongoing support. The mood swings of some have mitigated, and they can get along with fewer appointments. The program is so successful that the British National Health Service plans to use it nationwide, and it's being tested in Colorado.
In the October issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, psychologist Mark Boschen, of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, points out that cell phones are more convenient than computers for therapy. Because they're small, portable, stigma-free, and integral to most people's lives, they're useful virtually anywhere, at any time, for adjunctive therapy tasks. On the simplest level, they can deliver daily reminders via text messages or chime prompts to do homework assignments or reinforce important points from the last session. It isn't even necessary to call clients: phones can be programmed to contact them automatically.
Cell phones, says Boschen, are especially useful for clients who can't afford frequent therapy, who have difficulty getting in to see their therapists regularly, or who'd benefit the most from daily homework, such as phobic clients working on exposure therapy. He believes they'll be used increasingly as a therapy tool in the near future.
Paranoia on the Rise
At a time of rampant social isolation, the proliferation of online support groups has given millions of people solace, information, resource tips, and a sense of connection. But some online groups may be exacerbating disorders. "Pro-Ana" websites, for example, encourage anorexia, posting photos that extol anorexic bodies and imparting tips for anorexics on how to fool parents and therapists into thinking they've given up their eating disorder. Now a growing number of sites devoted to conspiracy theories and the threat of widespread mind control have spread across the Internet, supporting people in their belief that our everyday movements and minds are continuously monitored.