Last night I attended my first “Webinar”, an online seminar hosted by Stillpoint Spaces and Dr Aaron Balick on “Thinking Psychotherapeutically in the Digital Age”. It was fascinating, both in terms of content but also in terms of format as the entire seminar was experienced via the technology of Fuze, an online video conference and meeting application.

If all of this sounds unfamiliar to you don’t worry – it is for me too! Until last night I didn’t even know these technologies existed let alone that they could be applied in this way. Dr Balick gave a 30 min presentation in front of his computer screen, which was then broadcast to us (about 20 people from different countries all sitting in front of their computer screens!) in real time much the same way a conversation occurs over Skype. Afterwards there was an opportunity to ask questions, which could be done either via text or audio. It was a truly surreal experience, but a very enjoyable one at that! The bonus was getting to experience and learn from a highly knowledgeable figure in the community while sitting in my living room. I could even have chosen to go pants-less if I’d wanted to haha! The experience was something like what we all already do anyway when we watch YouTube ted talks or listen to podcasts but this was in real time and the audience could interact with the presenter!

 

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The topic was very interesting as well. I’ve mentioned before how I have started to do more Skype sessions in my private practice, so I’ve been getting more familiar with the use of technology in therapy myself. I also recently discovered the work of Stillpoint Spaces, an online therapy service, because they are starting a practice in Berlin. It is very interesting for me to think about the boundaries of the therapy space being extended into cyberspace!

The seminar last night addressed these changes and also some other interesting topics around the intersection of psychology and technology. Dr Balick has written a number of books around these subjects including “The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: Connected up instantaneous culture and the self”, which looks at the nature of social networking and how it is used as a tool just like all technologies have since the beginning of time for some or other human endeavor. What Dr Balick says, which is very similar to my analysis in my Compliment Challenge post, is that we use social media to exhibit aspects of our selves or egos in such a way that we are looking for recognition from the other. In this way we are doing nothing out of the ordinary realm of human behaviour, we just have different tools to use and this has certain consequences. One such consequence is in terms of scalability because we have a wider audience then ever before and way more opportunity to share our ‘selves’.

He suggests this actually makes us more vulnerable. We are ‘putting ourselves out there’ more and thus more likely to receive criticism or feel rejected than ever before.

Do you believe this? What do you think about the psychodynamics of social networking? Do you relate to your friends and followers in the same way you relate to people in real life? Do you see your ‘like’ or ‘share’ button as an expression of recognition?

He also spoke about how technology has changed the way therapists and clients interact. Before, therapists could easily keep quite a bit of their identity private from their clients but nowadays each of us has quite a large digital footprint. This has changed the way clients interact with therapists and obviously this has consequences in the consulting room.

How would you feel if you discovered something untoward about your therapist on the internet? Would you bring it up in therapy? Did you research your therapist online before scheduling an initial meeting? What kinds of things are you looking for? What would put you off entirely?

I really am interested in your opinions on this topic as it is really still very new and under-explored.