There the article, “Poll Reveals Havoc of Unemployment on Workers and Family”, in the New York Times that reminded me of an article I read awhile ago about video conference or virtual therapy for soldiers, which has been a topic in the news lately. More often, it seems, in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings. There are also been articles on the long-term unemployed struggling under burdens no one expected, and then a Wall Street Journal article out today, “Studies: Mental Ills are Often Overtreated, Undertreated” that got me thinking: What about Google Wave as a tool for counseling?
Let that sit for a minute while you think of what normally qualifies as “counseling” or, to be less confusing, therapy. “Counseling” is a term that gets tossed around by many different groups, and thus has many different meanings. College counseling. Credit counseling. Legal counseling. You get the idea. “Therapy” is usually distinguished by another description or qualifier, like “physical therapy.” Without such a distinction, it usually means psychotherapy.
Therapy falls under a favorite health care insurance term: “pre-existing condition.” And seeking treatment for even the most minor of issues, like job transition stress, can be considered grounds for denial. Most health insurance plans don’t cover therapy anyway, or cover such a small number of sessions it is not worth submitting claims. Psychologists and other therapists still take insurance, though, but many do not for a variety of reasons. I never quite understood that until my own battle with individual insurance coverage, which you know has been an enlightening experience on many levels. It’s kind of ridiculous that “health” is not an all-encompassing phrase. It has to be divided into “physical health” and “mental health,” with “physical health” receiving the majority of coverage and “mental health” being an after thought.
After coming across the above mentioned articles, meshed with the chaotic mess of health insurance, I found myself thinking Google Wave, along with Skype, might provide a low-cost, not to mention more convenient, alternative to the standard form of therapy. Standard form as in showing up at an office at a specific time to discuss a topic (or topics) for a 50 minutes (though you pay for 60, I think). And there is that potential hazard of being “seen” though I think in this day and age, no one would pass judgment. We could all benefit, on some level, from therapy, no?
Continued talk of budget cuts, especially in Illinois, make people nervous. Some service is other is always on the chopping block, and our support systems are failing, failed or on life support. Take the CTA, the way most people get around in Chicago. Instead of worrying about your bus route getting cut, or service reductions, both of which would impact your ability to get to the office of a therapist, making therapy a “luxury” instead of a “necessity,” wouldn’t it be nice to just plop down in front of your computer at home? Log into Wave or Skype and start chatting for 50 minutes, then sign off and move on with your day. Or call it a night.
Of course, there are a few barriers. Not everyone has access to the Internet, and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable Skyping from the library (if Skype is even accessible from the library). Or even using Wave since, well, Google would know more than you care to admit. Yes. That’s right, the big “P” as in “privacy.” Patient confidentiality. Not necessarily a guarantee if using Skype or Wave or any other form of electronic communication. That is precisely why the profession is slow to adopt email. But if people willing type information into Google that they wouldn’t dare share with anyone else (so claimed a CNBC segment about Google), then using Wave for therapy does not seem that far a stretch.
This aversion to technology is bothersome and annoying. Don’t get me wrong; I understand why. However, it is time to overcome that aversion in the name of better care and better service. Someone, undoubtedly, will play the “eye contact/facial expression” card, arguing that you just can’t provide effective therapy if you aren’t able to read the nonverbal cues, or hear the tone of voice. I beg to differ, especially since Skype has video capability.
And not all therapists have an aversion to technology. Do a couple Google searches and you’ll find those who have built sites around email therapy, or some kind of online talk therapy. Moving to Wave wouldn’t be too difficult, especially if Wave can be hosted on their own servers instead of Google. May not matter. No doubt all email communication contains a lengthy disclaimer at the bottom.
Perhaps Wave and Skype are not the best tools for long term therapy, but I’d wager them to be effective for short term therapy. Alas, we won’t know until some people somewhere try it out. And that requires a therapist and a patient (participant?), or a few, to try it and see what happens.
I’ll let them figure out the whole issue of billing/payment. PayPal seems the obvious choice, or perhaps industry standard billing methods still apply. I bet there’s a way to better qualify (quantify?) that, and streamline it as well. Now wouldn’t that be something?
I’m curious to see what people think of this. No doubt there are other uses for Wave in the medical profession, and many other professionals, as well. Merely scratching the surface, as they say, no?