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The Mental Health Professional and the New Technologies: A Handbook for Practice Today

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Technology, used for both informational and telecommunication purposes, is becoming one of the most important factors in the future of health care delivery. One can see the oncoming change simply by surfing the Internet and looking at the proliferation of health-related Web sites. The 7 million Web sites uncovered by the Alta Vista search engine using the key words health care are actually only a fraction of what is available worldwide. Also discernible on the Web are the international, federal, state, and private sector initiatives supporting the development of an information infrastructure for global, national, and regional health care. For instance, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), and the American Telemedicine Service Providers (ATSP), as well as other private groups, are focused on providing leadership for the adoption of health care information technology and management systems. They help shape health care public policy and industry practices through advocacy and educational and professional development initiatives. Mental health care mirrors these trends of general health care.

By incorporating technologies into various facets of mental health care, from service delivery to practice management, "psychotechnologies"1 are dramatically changing the field. Even concepts of mental health treatment are affected by the psychotechnologies, as new therapeutic approaches are designed to benefit from technological innovation. When combined with the power of the Internet, the psychotechnologies promise not only increased accessibility and affordability, but also greater acceptability and adaptability in delivering care. This inevitable use of technology means opportunities abound for mental health practitioners who are ready to explore new avenues for service delivery. Mental health professionals need to learn about, and take advantage of, the technologies that have already transformed much of health care delivery.
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