With the advent of new technology come new oppotunities and responsibilities. As a researcher, educator and therapist, I have become fascinated by the role that technology plays in our lives. From social media networks such as facebook and twitter, to skype and google chat. The way we communicate with others (or fail to communicate) is greatly shaped by the cyber culture we currently live in. As a therapist and future psychologist who strives to be culturally humble and aware, I am intrigued by the ways in which we can use cultural trends to enhance our daily lives and for treatment with our clients.
Personally, I am intrigued by the use of technology in our daily lives. For example, how many of us text or post messages on facebook for our loved ones even when they may be in the other room? To some this may seem unusual or even unhealthy. The answer is much more complex than a simple good or bad. Technology can certainly be used to enhance communication with our significant others on a daily basis. For example, we can send a text during lunch time wishing our loved ones a good day. And, as an older sister of a young woman, texting is the best way for me to communicate with her.
At the same time, if we take this to the extreme and we only communicate with others using technology, this may become problematic. Often the lines of communication can be stunted by technology because we may be spending too much time in front of the computer or on the phone. We may have little to say to others in person or maybe distracted by a text conversation while having dinner with someone else. Where the line is drawn depends on our interpersonal skills and ability to bring balance to our lives. All in moderation!
One great example of this potential problem are the new generation of teenagers whose main mode of communication is through texting or posting messages on social media forums. On the one hand, their brains may become flexible in new ways that we have not yet been able to study. On the other, a more concerning perspective, teenagers may not be exposed to direct face-to-face communication. While, this may not be detrimental, and in fact, may have an evolutionary value within their cohort, as adults, they may lack the social skills needed to build meaningful relationships. This may have serious ramifications when applying to college, interviewing for a job and potentially finding a mate.
Thus, as therapists, when working with clients, especiallly, but not limited to the new generation, it is important that we assess their level of interpersonal skills and screen for potential problematic technology use. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of our clients’ experiences and we may be better able to serve them. This basic assessment should become an essential part of our treatment modality.
Furthermore, technology-informed therapy can be an effective way to connect with our clients. What do I mean by technology-informed therapy? Like any other form of culturally-attuned treatment, technology-informed therapy attempts to understand individuals’ relationship to technology; both the positive and harmful aspects of it.
Furthermore, technology can be used in session as a tool to create rapport and understanding for the other’s experience. By this I don’t necessarily mean we should friend your clients on facebook, text or skype with them (though some therapists are using technology to provide psychotherapy). What I am mainly referring to is using technology in session both literally and symbolically as a way to connect with our clients. For example, when I worked with teenagers, a number of my clients wanted to share youtube videos, online gaming sites, links to an interesting articles, etc. These experiences allowed us to connect in a different way and begin the conversation about interpersonal skill building. Shying away from meeting clients where they are (technologically speaking or otherwise) will inevitably lead to a poor relationship and therapeutic outcome.
I am not suggesting we make radical changes in the way we perceive the world, but, it is important to catch up with the times and become interested in the way that current cyber culture shapes our world view and those of the people we serve.