OnlineTreatment Programs in the Mental Health Profession

This article is part two of a series of five that explores interesting, unique and noteworthy trends in the mental health profession. Understanding current and upcoming changes within our industry gives us the ability to identify new opportunities and challenges arising in the field so we may identify appropriate responses and successfully meet the demands of our dynamic profession. This exploration process empowers professionals to make more effective and rewarding business decisions both now and in the future. Examining these changes often brings about exciting opportunities if we, as clinicians, are able to look at these new service offerings and competitive influences in unique and creative ways.

Online Treatment programs

An interesting area arising within the industry is that of the online treatment program. This model goes beyond individual psychotherapy and offers a comprehensive approach to treatment that may include group work, interactive exercises, use of clinical tools, use of assessment applications and aftercare programming.

An example of this kind of approach is being pioneered by an organization known as E Get Going, Inc. This organization offers a substance abuse treatment program for adult's ages 18 and older using live video and audio technology that simulate that of a traditional treatment model based on the 12-step principles. Participants become a part of an online treatment group that takes place over the course of several months. They use a highly structured and empirically based treatment model and provide each of their participants with a headset and microphone so they can interact with a group of up to 10 participants. A counselor facilitates each group and participants also receive individual consultations as needed. In addition, EgetGoing, Inc. offers an aftercare program for successful graduates in an effort to support former participants who are out in the community. This also gives them the ability to track outcomes and to identify risk factors following treatment.

This type of model is a big undertaking and, at present, it is still in its infancy stage. However, adventurous organizations like EgetGoing, Inc. are making a valiant effort to offer this solution as an alternative to traditional treatment. It is an exciting area to explore in the near future as technology offers clinicians an opportunity to push the envelope and explore use of this format in other areas of treatment. This model also has promise from a business perspective in that it offers potential clients a solid value proposition that may distinguish itself from its more traditional competitors. Some of the key values to potential consumers are ease of access and approachability, confidentiality and overall convenience in a fast past world. Some, however, may argue that this also offers clients an opportunity to resist treatment in a subtle way by choosing a treatment alternative that might require less commitment. Regardless of this argument, people who are in need of treatment services may in the future find themselves more willing to seek treatment through the Internet. Perhaps this will serve as an entry point for longer-term treatment whereby it captures the attention of those who are unsure of or questioning the need for treatment. As a result, they choose to try an online option as a way to "test the waters". A bigger question will be whether or not this model will go beyond being a mere entry point and serve as viable option to a more traditional treatment model.

My reason for discussing the topic of online treatment programs along with other trends within the mental health profession is to provide practicing clinicians with information that will provide them with unique perspectives, approaches, concepts and ideas about the clinical process. This information should offer practitioners some insight into what may lie ahead in the future as both a challenge and opportunity. One of those opportunities may be an online comprehensive treatment program in its many variations and specialties.