Thursday, January 6, 2011

Online Relationships: It’s All About Trust

Online relationships. It’s a phrase that used to evoke connotations of mystery and masked identity. But today, whether its seeking someone to date, somewhere to bank, or help from a doctor, shifting relationships to an online setting is all about creating a personalized experience where trust can be developed, and having the technology to support that.

A potentially landmark moment in the field of mental health is on the horizon, as InteractiveMD will be announcing the launch of Interactive Psychotherapy and Counseling in 2011. Not only is this really the first large-scale offering of mental health services through interactive video conference, the unveiling signifies the largest and most significant network of providers to be assembled on the web.

As with any “traditional” industry making an anticipated leap into the digital space (think online banking, airline ticket purchasing, book stores), nothing fully hits mainstream until the leading practitioners embrace the technology shift. I think that’s what we’re finally seeing here, as leaders in mental health around the country join this network. While the option to seek counseling online is gaining wide acceptance, there may always remain the occasion when an in-person session is most appropriate. It’s akin to one’s personal financial management, where occasionally you may need to enter a branch to resolve issues, but the vast majority of your banking relationship – the depositing and transferring of funds, ordering checks, monitoring transactions – is being handled from home online. This principal holds to a much greater degree with mental health counseling, however, where nearly all of a patient-therapist relationship can take place remotely without losing any value of the service provided.

The major breakthrough here is the opening of doors for a large percentage of people who will finally consider seeking the support they need. Though mental health counseling benefits millions of regular folks every day, millions more will now have a tool to overcome the perceived social stigma they feel is associated with therapy by opting for care in their own home setting. There’s plenty of skepticism out there in the patient community, which is quite understandable for anything new. How qualified are the providers? How private is the dialog? Is this as effective as in-person therapy? We’re doing our best to answer these questions by providing full transparency into our people and our process. After all, the value of the service is fully dependant on building a trusting relationship with a credentialed expert.

It’s all about trust.

~ Alex Price

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