TeleHealth, Social Skills, and the Future of Psychotherapy by Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D.


In the near future, it is very possible that most psychotherapy appointments will be held with two people sitting in their respective homes or offices, communicating via phone or video.


The field expects to see this major shift from traditional in-person appointments to telehealth due to the growing popularity of technology among younger generations. Similarly, the ease of telehealth, as opposed to leaving your office, taking the subway to your therapist’s office, and then schlepping back to your job, may be extremely appealing to some.


For example, food delivery services like GrubHub or Seamless have become incredibly popular in the last few years. With these apps, you don’t even have to talk to another human in your food delivery process; you use one simple interface to place your order quickly and easily. In reality, you end up paying more than if you had just called the restaurant directly, but, millions of people prefer to use these apps due to the convenience.


For the TeleHealth revolution to really take hold, there needs to be a generational shift. First, this new generation of clients needs to seek treatment. Second, capable providers need to want to and be capable of adapting to this new form of therapy. Given these issues, it may take several years to make TeleHealth truly mainstream.


Benefits of TeleHealth


With TeleHealth, you can deliver services to a large number of people while virtually eliminating travel and other logistical issues. You can conduct therapy from your home, reducing office costs and other potential business expenses. TeleHelath may create a radical shift in the availability of treatment options to individuals who either live in areas where specialty services are less common, or who don’t have the luxury of time.


However, many people are just not interested. Even when considering the advantage of doing it from home or work, they still say no.


Some in this demographic might have hectic schedules, so they might be more likely to consider it, but for the most part, patients are still more interested in face-to-face services. They may prefer this because they didn’t grow up using a lot of technology during their childhood or adolescence. In high school, I only had a beeper. It’s not the way we interacted.


Disadvantages


Related to this, there is an argument to be made that a handshake and an in-person meeting goes a long way, which TeleHealth does not allow for.


As we move toward a technology-focused world, there may be an increase in individuals struggling with social anxiety, social skill troubles, etc. People who have difficulty leaving their apartment, interacting on the phone, or coming in for a treatment session — in general, struggling with social and performance anxiety — may be more attracted to the idea of TeleHeatlh, but therefore also avoid confronting their fears of embracing a new in-person situation to form a social relationship.


Mental Health in the Mainstream


The climate right now in the U.S. is moving closer to normalizing mental health services. Slowly but surely, the stigma against mental health, or against seeking help seems to be shrinking. The advent of TeleHealth and Teletherapy may help this movement take firm hold in our society. Turning inwards toward one’s emotional health has myriad benefits, especially for those in distress. In this way, relying on technological advances may increase access and popularity of mental health services.




Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.

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