Digital therapy for a digital age

The Lorian solicited open-ended answers for this “What Du You Think?” feature. Of the 60 total people who responded, 90% of students think there is a negative stigma around mental illness and 46.7% think digital therapy is an effective way to help mental health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness but 40 percent of them do not seek help. Also, 80 percent reported feeling overwhelmed and 50 percent struggle with anxiety that impacts their academic performance.

Many organizations strive to support and represent those who struggle with mental health. One such organization is Modern Therapy. Created by Brandon and Cassandra Christensen, Modern Therapy is an online counseling platform, making counseling available to anyone from their office in New York.

“Modern therapy is a mental health practice that makes talk therapy available to anyone, anywhere, through text, email, phone and video conferencing,” explained Christensen. “We make therapy more affordable and accessible through a membership program where members get unlimited access to connect with their therapist when they need it the most.”

While digital therapy may be unfamiliar to many students, it is not a new form of therapy.

“Digital therapy has actually been around for some time, but is recently becoming a commonly used form of mental healthcare,” said Christensen. “While traditional talk therapy is typically conducted in an in-person setting, digital therapy is conducted through an electronic medium such as text, email, phone or video conference.”

In a recent poll by The Lorian, the student response to digital therapy was fairly split. Some believed this form of therapy was better than nothing while others thought in-person therapy is necessary.

“I think that anytime something new comes along, it takes some time to be adopted,” said Christensen. “There was a time that people thought that online dating was strange, and now it has become the new normal, because it makes the process much more easy and convenient.”

Christensen, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is one of the therapists at Modern Therapy. As someone in the field, she knows the barriers many people face in regards to traditional therapy, such as travel, wait time after an appointment, payment and the stigma surrounding mental health.

“There is this perception that you have to be struggling with a severe mental illness to receive help from a therapist and that is just not true,” she said. “Let’s face it — life is just hard sometimes. The one thing everyone has in common is we all go through a wide range of emotions and many times these emotions are extremely tolling and difficult to navigate. I think it is very important to continue the conversation about the topic openly and increase efforts to make care more normalized and acceptable.”

According to the recent What Do You Think Poll, many Loras students agreed with Christensen, as the majority of students believed there is a negative stigma surrounding mental health. While there are many organizations like Modern Therapy that combat this negative stigma and support those who struggle with mental health, there still appears to be a lack of resources for the community.

“I don’t think that there are enough resources for those struggling with mental illness,” said Christensen. “People struggling with mental health have individualized needs and should be able to see someone who specializes in what they are dealing with. Many times, the resources that are available are either unknown or struggle to accommodate the rapidly rising needs.”

That is why Modern Therapy and other companies are turning to digital therapy. Also, according to a study by Azy Barak in 2008, digital therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy. In fact, based on the normality of modern modes of communication, Christensen believes it is a very normal way to create effective relationships.

“So much of our communication in our daily life with friends and family members is done through text, email, phone or video conference,” she said. “Talk therapy is extremely relational in nature, so it makes sense to apply these communication methods to the practice.”

Yet, she also understands that different people require different types of therapy to best address their needs.

“I do not believe that digital therapy is for everyone and there are certainly many cases where it may be preferable, or even necessary to see a therapist in person.”

“I would really like to convey the importance of seeking help when it’s needed. College students who take the step to talk to someone about the issues they face will be better equipped to navigate challenges and improve the quality of their life and future. Our hope is that people become more educated on the importance of mental wellness and the stigma continues to be busted.”

For more information about Modern Therapy and digital therapy, visit their website.

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