I glanced down at my smartphone today, and I have accumulated quite a collection of apps. I have apps for shopping, banking, watching TV and checking email. These are all very important and helpful, but then there are the apps that I can’t live without. I couldn’t go more than a few days without my mobile book reader, my GPS and the fantastic app that makes the same sound as a fan blowing in my bedroom at night, so that I can sleep when I’m traveling.

Most, if not all, of these technological advances are welcomed, even embraced by the general public, waiting to jump at the chance to happily take advantage of each and every new opportunity to save time and improve their lives. However, some forms of new technology can not only make life easier, but it can make our minds function BETTER, strengthening mental health all the way across the board.

Technology can be accepted quickly in most industries, but for some reason, some aren’t so eager to jump in with both feet. However, new software can bring about amazing results in connection with mental health, so embracing it is a MUST. Obviously, there are plenty of reasons why this should happen and why it is SO important.

Therapy: Then

In the past, when you left your therapist’s office, you were finished for the week. Sure, you may have been given some “homework” to do, consisting of working on some emotional tasks and even filling out a survey on your progression. However, a lot of people don’t give their therapy sessions a second thought, until they are walking back into the office the following week, frantically thinking of the right answers for the impending questions that would undoubtedly be asked.

Obviously, this might be a bit counterproductive when on the road back to good mental health. Yet, this is a problem that many people face when it comes to their therapy. When leaving what is even an extremely productive therapy session, the patient can easily and quickly experience something of a “disconnect.” While they may have every intention of applying what was learned or uncovered therapeutically, actually putting this plan into motion may prove to be a bit more difficult, specifically when out of the watchful presence of their therapist.

However, this is somewhat common. There seems to be a need for better patient engagement in all areas of therapy, bridging the gap between what happens in the therapy office and what occurs once the patients are once again in the comfort of their own homes or behind their desk in the workplace, where they may more than likely experience situations – and people – that may make the resolve of sticking to their therapy regimen a little more challenging than they may have initially anticipated.

We’ve all had that feeling of “Wow, I was doing so well until that meeting didn’t go as planned or my sister called to gossip.” Being able to document these feelings, or even go a step further and try to think through why a particular situation might have made us feel a certain emotion, would probably go a long way.

 

Therapy: Now

So, while this was all once a problem that did not offer a ready solution, technology has once again stepped in to change all of that. With new applications and software, patients can now stay connected with their therapy, even when they are sitting at home, at a business meeting or even watching their kid’s softball game.

Therapists may now send their patients home with the ability to remain engaged with their treatments, via a handy app that they can easily download to their smartphones, tablets and computers. When doing so, they may access a variety of surveys, questionnaires (like the one below utilized by Mentegram), worksheets, thought records and daily journals, which the therapist will assign, according to the particular needs of each individual patient.

In other words, if a patient is faced with a particularly difficult emotional situation, like losing an account at work or locking the keys in the car, there’s a journal to keep track of it. Helpful little reminders will also pop up, reminding the patient to fill out a survey on what kind of day they’ve had, how feelings of anxiety may be interfering with participating in a book club, or of they still can’t manage to get a good night’s sleep. There are also handy information sheets that may map out ten unhealthy thinking processes or can provide exercises to assist in avoiding thought suppression.

The completed “homework” will then be sent directly to the therapist, who can apply the findings in a variety of ways. The progression of the patient may even be noted to previous weeks, allowing for a simple, easy-to-use method for developmental comparison. This can assist the therapist in a myriad of ways when setting up preferred treatment methods for the patient, while also finding out whether they need to move forward or take a few steps back.

Of course, the benefits for the patient are many, and it won’t take long for them to become evident. While treatment may have once been easily forgotten in between appointments, such new technology will easily make this a problem of the past. Patients may access these helpful digital tools that will document their emotions, thoughts and reactions at any given moment, providing a constant reminder of their mental health care goals.

 

Wait… There’s More

It seems like nearly every week even more features are being added to this already beneficial technology. Patients can now even receive appointment reminders, making sure that they don’t miss their office visits, sometimes incurring no-show fees, along with the missed opportunity for a productive therapy session. And even more upgrades and additions are on the horizon.

As predicted, once technology was embraced by therapists and patients alike, the opportunities for advancement are now limitless, held back by only by ideology that is rooted firmly in the past. As we embrace this new world of exciting potentials, who knows where mental health care can take us over the next few years. We may even be able to see a new era packed full of mental health standards and therapeutic expectations. Really… how cool is that possibility?

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