Technology in Mental Health


An exciting new book has just been released addressing the subject of the use of technology in mental health. I previously contributed to the first edition, but this new edition has been substantially updated and rethought.

In the half-decade since publication of the first edition, there have been significant changes in society brought about by the exploding rise of technology in everyday lives that also have an impact on our mental health. The most important of these has been the shift in the way human interaction itself is conducted, especially with electronic text-based exchanges. This expanded second edition is an extensive body of work. It contains 39 chapters on different aspects of technological innovation in mental health care from 54 expert contributors from all over the globe. The book is now presented in two clear sections, the first addressing the technologies as they apply to being used within counseling and psychotherapy itself, and the second section applying to training and supervision. Each chapter offers an introduction to the technology and discussion of its application to the therapeutic intervention being discussed, in each case brought to life through vivid case material that shows its use in practice. Chapters also contain an examination of the ethical implications and cautions of the possibilities these technologies offer, now and in the future. While the question once was, should technology be used in the delivery of mental health services, the question now is how to best use technology, with whom, and when.  Whether one has been a therapist for a long time, is a student, or is simply new to the field, this text will serve as an important and integral tool for better understanding the psychological struggles of one’s clients and the impact that technology will have on one’s practice. Psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, nurses, and, in fact, every professional in the field of mental health care can make use of the exciting opportunities technology presents.

I have contributed two chapters to this book.

Chapter 20. Online Research Methods for Mental Health (with Vanessa Dodd)

Chapter 37. The Role of Online Careers Work in Supporting Mental Health  (with Siobhan Neary).

Buy the book online and use code GOSS0716 to get a 15% discount.

Online research methods for mental health

I published an article a few years ago looking at the use of online research methods in mental health.

I have just agreed for a version of it to be posted on our University’s website. So you can now read it even if you haven’t got a copy of the book.

Hooley, T., Wellens, J., Madge, C. & Goss S. (2010). Online Research Methods for Mental Health. In: Anthony, K, Mertz Nagel, D and Goss, S (eds.) The Use of Technology In Mental Health: Applications, Ethics and Practice. Springfield: Charles C Thomas.

Neither ???virtual??? nor ???reality???: recognising the importance of where and how people perform their identities #dmsrc

I had a great day at the Digital Methods in the Sociology of Religion (#dmsrc) conference today.

I gave a presentation with Paul Weller on Surveying (online) the religious and non-religious. In it I made the point that whereas much early research conceived online as a separate space from ‘real life’, increasingly we see the two as being blended. I usually make this point in a lot of the stuff I do about technology and I broadly stand by it. On the whole it seems to me that people use technology as a part of their lives and that the way that they interact online is largely an extension of who they are when they are not online. Furthermore (again in general) most of the people that we interact with online are also people that we interact with offline. Online tends to expand, sustain and bind existing networks rather than create entirely new ones.

However a number of people took me to task on this. They argued that talk about “blended” lives tends to diminish the differences that exist between online and offline. People articulate themselves differently online both because they are in a different social space and because the technology offers unique affordances for communication and self-presentation. Online is different and it is therefore important to recognise and comment on the differences when you are considering online research.

By and large I think that this is fair criticism. I think that I’ve got so used to defending my interest in online and in stating its relevance to the offline world that I’ve taken up an extreme and unsubtle position. So I’ll try and state what I do think here.

I think that people are incredibly complex and that it is possible for an individual to present themselves in a host of different ways. We perform our identities in different ways to different people and we use different media to make these performances. So how I appear in a conversation down the pub is different to the way that I appear in a job interview. Similarly the nature of online spaces allows me to perform my identity and to communicate with others in different ways from other forms of interaction. This doesn’t mean that I’m a different person online, but it does mean that you see a different side of me.

What I would hold onto however is that while there may not be a “real” me, the various versions of me are bound together within a single consciousness and personality. Even if I am actively mis-representing myself or trying to re-invent my identity there are still psychological and social strands that can tie all of the different versions of me together. I don’t believe that we are just language or performance, but I will accept that this might be all that can really be seen by others. Researchers can’t hope to unify the subject, but they can hope to notice differences in presentation and at least identify some problems and contradictions in the stories that we tell about ourselves in different venues. They can also hope to notice contradictions between the stories that we tell and broader forms of evidence. I haven’t been to the moon no matter what I tell you and the lack of any conceivable way for me to have got to the moon does matter.

So I recognise the fact that online shapes our self-presentation and provides opportunities for the performance of identity that are different from offline spaces. However, I also hang onto the idea that the online and offline are tightly inter-dependent and to the idea that many people do not make strong distinctions between their online and offline lives.

I’d be interested to hear from people whether this makes any sense at all?

What is ….. research?

The ESRC have helpfully filmed a set of presentation on different research methods that were given at the recent Research Methods Festival. These are an absolutely invaluable set of resources.

·         What is analytic induction?

·         What are cohort studies?

·         What are community studies?

·         What is discourse analysis?

·         What are electronic data collection methods?

·         What is event history analysis?

·         What is geosimulation?

·         What is multilevel modelling?

·         What is multimodality?

·         What is narrative interviewing?

·         What is online research?

·         What is propensity score matching?

·         What is the regression discontinuity approach?

·         What is social network analysis?

In the list you might notice “What is online research?” which was given by me and Jane Wellens.