MOBILE SOCIAL WORK

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Is Text-Messaging About to Revolutionize Therapy? | Psychology Today

By Colin Weatherby

Mental health practitioners have long sought to extend their services to the poor. The high cost and social stigma of therapy in poor communities has proven to be a major barrier. Aside from the obvious medical justice issues, many policy advocates argue that preventive therapy could dramatically reduce the staggering cost of institutionalizing America’s mentally ill populations living in poverty. A little intervention now could mean huge savings later in life.

In the past decade, the mental health profession has seen an explosion of technological innovation in the use of Short Message Service (SMS) as a means for delivering and maintaining basic therapy services.

A study published last month in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology used automated SMS messaging software to engage bulimia patients in a supplement to their standard therapy treatments. […] Patients involved in the study showed nearly a 20 percent reduction in relapse rates over an eight month period. Perhaps more importantly, the majority of test subjects had positive reactions to their first experience with a non-human therapist.

A wide and exciting range of research is beginning to coalesce in this frontier of psychological treatment. Interactive SMS is now being used to stimulate memory recall in patients with brain damage and monitor hallucination cycles in schizophrenics. Measurable benefits have been modest, but the research is still in its infancy.

A team at Berkeley is testing SMS technology as a new way to address mental health issues among the urban poor. In a very small cohort study published last year, the researchers found that depressed patients responded positively to an SMS-based addition to cognitive-behavior therapy that was designed to improve self-awareness, track progress, and increase adherence to CBT goals. The team was quick to note that the experimental therapy was provided as a highly cost-effective service in a low-income public clinic, a model they believe has promising implications for the future.

Takeaways from the current research are limited, but it is important to remember that just ten years ago this approach to therapy would have been appreciated by only the most extreme science fiction fans.

via Is Text-Messaging About to Revolutionize Therapy? | Psychology Today.

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Lutz Siemer

Lutz Siemer

Education, Research & Development in Social Work & IT After working as an alternative practitioner and psychotherapist in private practice for nearly ten years I stepped over to higher education in 2005. At Saxion University of Applied Sciences I lecture and do research and development in the area of Social Work, Psychology and IT. Currently I'm focussing on merging mobile technology and social work.

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