Over three years ago, I wrote a post about Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which reported early promising results using the Internet to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A recent news story expands on this idea and also highlights some important research being conducted. Jonathan Comer, of Florida International University, has been studying the use of telemedicine to treat mental health disorders, specifically OCD. In a nutshell, telemedicine involves the use of electronic media to provide health care services.
I always find these types of studies interesting in regard to OCD because I feel there is a real potential to help people who otherwise might be left by the wayside. As many of us have experienced first-hand, the right treatment for OCD can be difficult to find and access, and can involve a good amount of traveling, or even relocating. That’s assuming we can afford it.
I want to make it clear that we are talking about more than just Skype sessions here. I recommend reading the article, which details the remote therapies which involve the use of the Internet, wireless electronic devices, and video teleconferencing. One study involved teaching parents of young children with OCD how to help their children as well as learn to manage and control their own reactions to the disorder. Sessions involved online games and other interactive activities. Also, video teleconferencing and two-way audio and visual equipment allowed for real-time communication between the therapist and family. Given the fact that many OCD triggers tend to occur in the home, I think this type of therapy could have a lot of benefits. Another study used webcams, video teleconferencing, and Bluetooth ear devices which could be used to coach parents in real-time as they assist their children in dealing with their OCD. Both studies showed participants had significant improvement in their OCD symptoms.
My guess is this is just the beginning. While in a perfect world there would be a top-notch OCD therapist on every corner (utilizing sliding scale fees or covered by insurance) that is not our current reality. As Dr. Comer says:
There’s a highly discouraging disconnect between research advances in mental health care and what services are actually available in the community for the majority of people affected by mental illness.
So while we might know what needs to be done to help those with OCD and other mental health disorders, this knowledge hasn’t translated enough into proper therapy. Maybe telemedicine can get us that much closer to our goal of quality, affordable treatment that is accessible to all who need it.