Clinician Resistance to Technology in Behavioral Health Therapy

Behavioral health clinicians may be hesitant to introduce technological options into therapy for many reasons. They may connect the use of some new technology, like mobile apps, solely with entertainment purposes such as games (e.g., Angry Birds). They may fear that the addition of a technology may interfere with the building of rapport with their patients. However, the barrier may also lie in a discomfort with how the adoption of a new technology may disrupt the traditional model of therapeutic interaction.

The traditional model of therapeutic interaction involves the clinician and patient interacting one-on-one in the same room. The clinician talks… the patient talks… the clinician talks some more… then the patient talks some more. At the end of the 50 minute hour, the clinician gives homework to the patient expecting the patient to work on that week’s discussed behavioral changes and the patient eventually “gets better,” right?

Some problems with this model involve misunderstanding and noncompliance with the therapy on the part of the patient, as well as the inability to generalize gained information into their lives. Also, if a patient has cognitive differences, such as those seen in autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, etc., it’s likely that the traditional model of therapeutic interaction may not be the ideal modality to influence real behavioral change. Presenting information in a clear, concise, well-organized, and oftentimes visual format is often preferred over the verbal discussion of abstract concepts.

The introduction of therapy tools in the form of mobile apps could provide many advantages for both clinician and patient in the administration of evidence-based therapies. Giving patients access to the tools needed for therapy and encouraging them to track their symptoms over time not only empowers them, but also provides the clinician valuable data regarding the patient’s progress in treatment.

Christina Armstrong, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and subject matter expert at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). Dr. Armstrong has provided clinical services to children, adolescents, and adults for a broad range of conditions such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Read other posts by Dr. Christina Armstrong