The Future of Psychotherapy

Counsellors are afraid to admit this, but the precious sanctity of face-to-face counselling is slowly dissolving.

The four walls of confidentiality has always made for a very literal safe house where clients can escape and be who they really are. As counsellors, we are taught to make this a place of healing not only through our honed skills, but also through the very essential human connection and relationship. Nothing can replace this.

Or so we were taught.

The meaning of “connection” and “relationship” is evolving. Take memes. We relate to them on an emotional level all across the globe. Have you ever looked at them and wonder which country was the person who posted it was from? Or that it didn’t matter because, regardless, you made a connection with that person.

Relationships, on the other hand, don’t start with a formal introductions or nervous lines anymore. Psychologically, we used to intuitively on pick up micro-expressions on a person’s face to judge how what we say is being taken.

Today? We can start a relationship by swiping right ->

Where does this leave counselling? Here are some changes that I think we will need to embrace soon:

1. Mediums of Therapy

We’re okay with face-to-face appointments or tele-counselling, but psychotherapy will be exploring and incorporating video-conferencing and text messaging soon.

Counsellors are currently trained to work with different demographics. Trained to work well with individuals, couples and families. Trained to use different modalities. Soon, trained to integrate text messaging, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) into their practice.

While organisations undergo a trial-and-error process of ironing out the policies of these alternative mediums, Counsellors are ethically obligated to be prepared to embrace them as soon as they are a viable option.

2. Speed of Therapy

As the world moves faster and instantaneous, therapy will gravitate towards brief therapies like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (no surprise there) and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. People will want to make sense of their problems (and find their solutions) faster.

More educated (in mental health) society will be able to access to materials to understand and help in their healing journey that are widely available.

Then, there is the corporate stand-point. Employee assistance programs, a significant portion of the counseling industry, already lobby for counselling as is efficient on cost and time.

Sure, some issues will take time and cannot be rushed. But for the most part, it cannot be denied that an increase in knowledge in general and in mental health will quicken the process of therapy

3. AI/ML and Therapy

No, robots aren’t going to take over the world.

As that fear of techno-apocalypse slowly subsides, architects of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) will be able to introduce robots that have “learned” the responses of counsellors, incorporated with facial micro-expressions. Two existing technologies.

Technology has always followed the path of science fiction, and we’ve seen plenty of talking tech in the cinemas.

But is it possible that AI/ML can take over the counselling industry?

Psychotherapy might be a form holy grail for programmers who focus on AI of human interaction. Perhaps as a first line of defence, or an easily accessible (Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?)

Conclusion

Psychotherapy started out as a place to lie down and speak your mind as it wanders, while an analyst wrote things down. We’ve come a long way since then and it isn’t a surprise to that there is a long way yet to go.

In all changes that are taking place the first concern to any self-respecting psychologist is of course one of ethics. That is why we need to be ahead and involved in these changes to make sure the right considerations and policies are made.

Anyways, these are my predictions. What do you think?

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