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Don Meichenbaum, Technology and the Future of Psychotherapy


Today’s lunch with Don Meichenbaum, Ph.D., the renowned founder of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and current Research Director at the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, was the perfect complement to Sherry Turkle’s morning’s keynote. This morning, Turkle spoke about how our relationships with technology may be harmful to our relationships with each other. Meichenbaum’s presentation, “Technology and the Future of Psychotherapy,” told the other side of the story: how our digital gadgets can be extremely helpful as part of therapy.

Throughout his presentation, he gave us examples of how, through his specific work and through future possibilities, technology can be a key to improving mental health. His work on the Melissa Institute is all available on their website for free, for any mental health professional, educator—or anybody at all—to learn from and use.

Currently, with so many soldiers coming back home in need of help and support, the system is overwhelmed, Meichenbaum explained. So he’s helping to create an online program, the War Fighter Diaries, to promote resiliency within soldiers. On this site, people will recount stressful life events and discuss their coping techniques, so that other soldiers can then download it to their iPods or laptops, and listen to it whenever they need. If they can’t take a therapist into the war with them, maybe this is the next best thing?

“My goal is to improve clinical care for soldiers,” he says, “Think about what this means as a tool.”

We can use the Internet and other technologies to reach out to each other, as an adjunctive tool to therapy, Meichenbaum stressed. We can help integrate autistic kids into schools through videos. We can virtual reality therapy. We can help addicted clients through mobile apps that may, for example, use a GPS system to track when they’re near a bar—and have their AA sponsor come up on the screen! We can do therapy over the Internet when it’s not possible to be in the same room as a client—Meichenbaum said metanalyses suggest that therapy through the Internet can actually be just as effective as face-to-face.

“There are innumerable ways that we, as therapists, can think about this,” he said, “If the goal of therapy is to let clients take your voice with them, think about what technology can do to help in this way.”

03.25.2011   Posted In: Keynotes   By Jordan Magaziner
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