[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]
Back in the good old days on the Internet—hmmm, I think it was 2006—a psychologist from Georgia ran the first therapy group in Second Life, a 3-D virtual world online. He had 400 members.
Today there are many more groups, including the Online Therapy Institute, a reputable think tank for clinician avatars.
E-therapy is not new: The first computer–patient interview happened on a one-K machine in 1966.
But what about real results?
This month, The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study of computer-based training for cognitive-behavioral therapy (aka CBT4CBT). Seventy-seven cocaine-addicted subjects seeking treatment received general drug counseling or computer counseling in addition to traditional counseling.
The digital therapy included games, graphic illustrations, video and audio instructions, along with examples that dealt with cravings, refusing drug offers, problem solving and other coping skills.
Those getting digital help had half the number of coke-positive urine samples as those receiving traditional counseling. The digital group also showed longer abstinence from drug use (although the results were not statistically significant).
No signs that e-help will usurp humans—yet. But for now, it offers cheap, accurate and flexible healing worldwide, 24/7.
- Christie Nicholson