Paging Doctor Internet: Your Mental Health Expert Is Closer Than You Think
Mental Healthcare in a more accessible landscape: Online
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The Idea of Promoting Mental Health in the Patient’s Most Comfortable Environment
Why is it necessary for a psychiatrist to have a patient visit an office? Why not convene in the patient’s home? Why place them in an unfamiliar, alien environment? Even the most charming psych offices still feel like psych offices.
If you think about it, the same goes for other physicians’ offices. When you walk into your primary care doctor’s office, it feels like a doctor’s office, and most of the time you are there because something is not right with you. So, by its inherent nature, entering a psych office may instill the preconceived notion that something is wrong. Even the best and most relaxed offices will feel foreign to some of our most sensitive patients, so why start the process on the wrong foot?
Maybe seeing patients in familiar, comfortable places should become a growing trend.
Granted, at times this may pose a risk to the physician, but the patient is ultimately our primary concern. Emerging programs such as “betterhelp.com” or “e-counseling” offer such an experience. Although newer to the market, they facilitate 24/7 contact with a psychiatrist or therapist in an environment that is not only familiar but also feels safe to the patient.
Freud Could Have Been on the Right Path — Too Bad He Didn’t Have the Internet!
Although Freud’s theories are controversial and have been discredited or debated significantly, his contributions to modern psychiatry and psychology cannot be ignored. Perhaps one of the most profound of his ideas, and applicable to this conversation, is that the goal of psychotherapy is “to make conscious that which is unconscious.” If you look at the original way his type of therapy was practiced, the patient would not even be facing the physician. In fact, they would be reclining! Laying flat on a comfortable couch with the therapist sitting behind them, they would answer all manner of questions. In my opinion, this was to make the patient feel more at ease. The relaxed, non-anxious atmospheric feeling is what I believe the practice sought to accomplish.
An unfamiliar environment can make a patient feel more afraid. With the fear element, how can a physician be expected to attain the best results? Thus, compared to the current state of at least our outpatient psych practice, I cannot explain enough my admiration for the type of online services I mentioned previously.
Keep Adding Tools to the Mental Illness Support Toolbox
In other blog posts (here), I talk about how mental illness is not getting the attention it deserves. However, I do believe that due to emerging online programs, there will be greater access, better outcomes for psychiatric patients, and mental health in general.
The question then remains that even if these services exist, will they be used to their full potential? Will the stigma of “seeing a shrink” still hinder potential patients out there who are in real need of help? People surely don’t suffer the same internal turmoil when seeing their family medicine provider, so why does it exist for seeing a mental health professional? It will take time, but I am confident that once the utilization of available psychological resources improves (like online programs), those once-hesitant patients will see the benefits and care less about what society’s perceived image might be.
These Services Could Be Big for Others as Well
To take it a step further, I think it would be advantageous for primary care physicians to recommend online mental health services to patients who don’t have signs or symptoms of mental illness. Who couldn’t benefit from talking to an expert about their problems? If affordable or covered by insurance, wouldn’t it be nice to vent to a completely neutral 3rd party about the issues you currently struggle with in life? We all carry some burden with us, be they work problems, relationships, or anything else. Most suppress unpleasant feelings or get agitated by their challenging situations or disappointing occurrences. Some may feel it is unfair or be embarrassed to bring matters up to their family or friends. Nobody wants the metaphorical dam to break; why not get help relieving some of that pressure?
I am so glad that programs like online mental health and telehealth services exist out there in the world today, and I look forward to seeing more recent studies become published that show their efficacy. Mental health is so important, and I am on board with anything that supports it.
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