What name should one give to this new trend? Should it be "cyber-psychotherapy",
"electronic psychotherapy" or "electro-psychoanalysis"?
No matter how the case might be defined the truth of it remains the same; the
number of universities
along with that of therapists who log on the Net and start offering their services
via electronic means to the world, are on the increase. Even worse, there are
numerous occasions when, on the other end of the line, there is a machine programmed
to offer answers to questions pertaining to our psyche.
Ainsworth, head of the metanoia.net services, is as categorical as one can
be: "This is not a typical psychotherapy. One of the terms we tried in determining
this new service is "behavioral tele-sanity". I've just resorted
to "interaction" or "Sanity Services through the Internet".
These terms are pretty lax, but we'll have to make do with them till the
therapists involved in it make up their minds on a different terminology"
How then is online psychiatry accomplished? Here's an example:
You log on the address http://www.mentalhealth.com.
You select the "Disorders" menu. A list of fifty-two mental illnesses
is displayed right in front of you: Agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress, anorexia
nervosa, bulimia, not to mention paranoia and schizophrenia. You normally select
the one that… suits you and the computer displays the symptoms. Are
they the ones manifested in your own behavioral pattern? Then, you are on the
right track. You move on to the next display in which the machine asks whether
you are a physician or a patient. If you are a patient you have to fill in
your sex and age. As soon as you are through with submitting that sort of information,
the questioning process commences: How often these symptoms appear, when they
appeared for the last time and so on. You fill in your answers and come up
with a diagnosis.