Impact of Technology on the Therapy Profession in the 21st Century

Computer addiction, loss of privacy, seduction, boundary and intimacy issues, high-wired life styles, cyber porn are breakdowns in face-to-face personal interactions that seem to be pervasive themes that appear in the cyber space age.

Clients bring into sessions their experiences and dilemmas not only with significant partners and family, but their personal experiences with and through their electronic devices.

Ironically, what was originally a way to facilitate communication between people, has had a tendency to push people closer to their machines and further away from each other. For example, expressions of anger, hurt, boredom and disillusion in relationships can be manifested in passive aggressive ways by simply tuning the other person off and turning on one’s blueberry or I phone. I am angry with you for reason X or Y, so my electronic devise becomes my best friend for the moment. To heck with talking things out.

Or I’m feeling significant and small today so I will plunk on my electronic devise to make myself feel important and inflate my sinking ego.

Another impressive scenario might be: I am jealous and insecure about your possible infidelity so I will snoop around and check your e mail, text messages phone calls and voice mail. And if I find anything suspicious, I may rail you with charges of infidelity and wanton behaviors.

On the other hand, if there is any sex life difficulties and/or penchant for addiction, the easy access to porn and on-line flirtations are readily available.

All of the above are predicable dilemmas in any relationship but the currency for working them through has been more multi-layered and complex since the arrival of our electronic leashes.

In addiction, the amped-up lifestyle of multi-tasking with electronic devices has leaked into people’s personal and home life. Many pressures can demand us being “plugged in” at all times. An occurrence which has significant impact on one’s family life. As a clinician, I often see alienated, lonely, isolated people who use therapy as their best friend because it is the last bastion of person, upfront fact-to-face encounter.

Sometimes I wonder if people aren’t becoming more like machines than humans. Taking into consideration the attachment theorists who espouse the ideas of maternal twin ship and patterning after the good object, I wonder in this electronic age, if machine have not been a robotic substitution for the good object.

As a 35 year practicing clinician, I find myself treating more clients with social phobias and severe attachment disorders. In the past, the client themes seemed to be more about deep exploration of self and family of origin issues. These days, I am treating clients with more cognitive and behavior interventions and for shorter time periods (thank you managed care networks!)

Although these treatment strategies may be effective for some, I also wonder if these one size fits all approaches don’t reflect a machine-like approach to treatment.

In closing, I am awe-struck at the vast possibilities and portals that electronic devices have opened up. New worlds are revealed daily at the resources of these powerful tools.

The question one might ask of oneself is who is really in control of these resources? The electronic devices or ourselves? And are we using these powerful tools in the best ways or in the end will they control our humanity and ability to be empathetic to each other?