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How Technology, Texting and Social Media Have Impacted the Counseling Industry

A new frontier in mental health data collection and support has been created by revolutions in technology. Researchers, doctors and patients are using mobile devices to further the understanding of mental well-being, monitor progress and access help. By staying on the frontlines of technology developments, helping patients and providing counseling has become increasingly accessible – as close as a text away.
 
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Wake Forest University’s online Master of Arts in Human Services degree program.
 

Infographic: The impact of technology, texting, and social media to counseling industry.

 
A number of well-designed apps are also available to patients. The applications use the device’s sensor to gather vital information relating to a user’s typical behavioral patterns. When a change in behavior is detected, the app automatically notifies the crisis center or healthcare practitioner that help is needed. Doing so provides a sure-fire way to avert crises.
 
On the other hand, some applications are designed to work as stand-alone programs. They help improve memory or cognitive skills, while others assist users to connect with a healthcare practitioner or counselor.
 
Developers have responded to the increasing demand for patient focused apps and continue to innovate and introduce new technologies to the marketplace. Patients are finding a steadily growing availability of mental health-related apps in Google Play and Apple stores.
 
However, some degree of uncertainty is arising due to the lack of regulation. In addition, patients may experience a difficulty identifying the best apps for their requirements.
 

Mental health tracker apps

Examples of mental health tracker apps on the market include:
 
Moodscape is one of the most effective mental health apps available to patients. People who use the application regularly tend to experience a marked improvement in well-being scores. The T2 Mood Tracker app helps users monitor their emotional state. This is aimed at providing useful insights to healthcare practitioners. Meanwhile, the Anxiety Reliever app provides a viable way to monitor anxiety triggers, symptoms and progress.
 
The pros and cons of mental health apps
 
Technology comes with wide-ranging benefits for mental health. Patients can take advantage of convenient ways to take treatment. They can also enjoy the confidentiality or anonymity benefits by seeking treatment without the involvement of other people. Technology makes it easier for individuals who previously have avoided mental healthcare to take their first step towards reaching out for assistance.
 
The applications are available either for free or at low cost, thus improving access. They offer service to people regardless of location, which allows patients in remote areas to seek help when faced with a crisis. Some patients find health-related technologies appealing, which may encourage them to continue with therapy.
 
Applications extend the hours of service when it comes to intervention and monitoring. Patients have round-the-clock access to support.
 
Cons

On the downside, the use of mental health apps may compromise privacy. Developers need to ensure that sensitive information is protected from unauthorized access. Additionally, there are no industry-wide standards that help patients identify effective and trustworthy applications.
 
Regulation is also lacking in this area, yet the data generated is very sensitive. Another area of concern involves the lack of scientific evidence that these technological interventions work.
 

Mental health in America

According to recent reports, up to 43.7 million Americans (18.29 percent) are affected by mental health problems every year. Prevalence rates in Oregon stand at 22.66 percent while Florida registered 16.3 percent. These figures are only applicable to the adult population.
 
Approximately 8.5 percent of adults in the United States have admitted to having a drug or alcohol abuse problem. The prevalence rate in Tennessee is 7.18 percent while Washington, DC stands at 12.51 percent.
 
When it comes to adults who experienced serious thoughts of suicide, it is estimated that up to 9.5 million Americans have been faced with this dilemma.
 
The issue of mental health problems is compounded by the lack of insurance cover. In 2011, the percentage of insured mental health suffers stood at 19 percent.
 

Social media and the counseling profession

Counselors are leveraging the power of social media to connect with clients. The platform is ideal for advertising services and supplementing counseling work with current clients. Sharing useful information or advice with users makes it easy for practitioners to establish themselves as an authoritative voice in the field.
 
One way to achieve this objective is posting relevant articles or videos that cover key mental health issues. The platforms are also useful for conducting therapy sessions in a nonthreatening virtual environment. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) patients can reenact traumatic experiences using virtual worlds like Second Life. This is aimed at allowing the patients to create a new narrative.
 
Integrating technology into therapy sessions requires careful consideration and planning. Counselors should ensure privacy and security. It is important to know that technology sessions may be fraught with misinterpretations because the tone is missing. Hence, the need to clarify any ambiguous statements.
 

Current trends in mental health app development

Creative engineering and research teams are working tirelessly to create effective technologies that address a wide variety of mental health issues. The applications come in various categories to suit different needs.
 
Self-management apps provide useful information to users and feature tools for managing sleep problems, anxiety and stress. They have the capacity to set medication reminders. Some offerings are designed to monitor breathing patterns, heart rate, blood pressure and more.
 
Skill training apps, on the other hand, use graphics to help patients learn about coping. They feel more like games and provide a practical way to achieve cognitive remediation (improved thinking skills). The apps can also integrate educational videos teaching the role of social support and anxiety management.
 
Illness management applications enable patients to interact with healthcare practitioners or access peer support. Meanwhile, passive symptom tracking apps collect crucial data using built-in sensors. This allows mobile devices like smartphones to record social patterns, vocal tone, movement patterns, speed and more. The sensors can detect social interaction by analyzing phone call and text messaging activity.
 
In the future, the applications may have the capacity to analyze data to establish the patient’s state of mind. As a result, the technology will make it possible for healthcare professionals to detect psychosis, depression or mania before it takes effect. However, these apps may not replace mental health practitioners, regardless of their sophistication and capabilities.
 
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