PRACTITIONER CHALLENGES: Digital therapy

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The evolution of technology means that practitioners can now see clients in different time zones and locations thanks to Skype, messaging services, and email. But how do we ensure this flexibility does not mean constant availability? In part one of this in-depth article, Dr Ivanka Ezhova combines a literature review and her own experiences as a digital practitioner in part one of this article.

Summary points

  • Digital therapy is an increasing and well-defined type of clinical practice predominantly in English-speaking countries.
  • Despite a number of guidelines on ethical digital practice, there is no clear consensus between countries on which guidance to use.
  • Benefits of digital therapy include less stigma and more accessibility, as well as opening up more therapy possibilities such as written and verbal communication.
  • Digital therapy requires expectation management as it increases availability, which can blur work-life balance and professional boundaries.

Digital therapy, also called virtual therapy, e-therapy or telepsychology, is a relatively emergent field of clinical practice where therapists use various technologies, including telephones, mobile devices, video conferencing, email, internet, e.g. self-help websites, blogs and social media, and other modes of telecommunication to provide therapeutic services (Pelling, 2009).

Digital therapy is an increasing and well-defined
type of clinical practice.

Compared to classic therapy where clients and practitioners meet face-to-face, in a space that is dedicated to this purpose and follows specific ethical and practical guidelines to interact in a safe and protected manner, the notion of space and ethics is much less clear when it comes to telepsychology.

This article outlines the specificities of digital therapy practice, including the pros and cons of digital therapy for client and practitioner, drawing on a literature search and the author’s own experience.

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