Behavioral Health

New Technologies Addressing Mental Health

September 16, 2016

Man eye goggles for virtual reality therapy, one example of emerging mental health tech.

Mental health encompasses factors such as mood swings, stress management and more serious issues like mental illness. A 2014 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 43.6 million Americans over age 18 experienced some type of mental illness. This isn't a small or insignificant problem. Individuals suffering from poor mental health, whether due to a diagnosable illness or a lack of coping skills, need access to treatment to improve their well-being.

In the past, seeing a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist could be difficult for both financial and practical reasons. But today technology is playing a role in removing treatment hurdles by providing additional access and more cost-effective treatment options.

Web-Based Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy benefits millions of people every year, from individuals who want to break unhealthy habits to others who seek treatment for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. However, in some cases, patients lack access to treatment. For instance, many people live in rural areas that make consistently going to a therapist burdensome. There may not be the mental health care they need within a reasonable distance. Others can't afford to see a mental health professional on a regular basis.  Now, people who want help can get it through online cognitive behavioral therapy programs like those provided by Lantern and MoodGYM. Through various interfaces such as an app, phone calls and video, people work through programs backed by coaches.

Telehealth and Medicine

When the patient can't make it to the physician, technology allows the physician to come to the patient. Doctor on Demand and MDLIVE are two examples of health care organizations providing psychiatric care to patients through teleconferencing – like virtual home visits.  This Internet-based method of delivering care is particularly beneficial to individuals in rural areas. These patients may not have access to the mental health services they need or can't leave home due to mental or physical illness. Patients can schedule one-on-one Internet sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist, and receive treatment without having to travel to and from a doctor's office.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality for video games and other types of entertainment is quickly coming to every home in America. While many companies are developing their own systems, Oculus has made headlines and is changing the game for many by making virtual reality increasingly accessible. Today people aren't interested in VR just for fun. They're also interested in how it can treat mental disorders and improve mental health.

Using VR for mental health treatments such as exposure therapy isn't a new idea, Tech Insider reported. It's been around for decades and is one of the best methods for treating PTSD and certain anxiety disorders. But now the technology is more widely available to practitioners, making it a realistic treatment option for patients. Virtual technology enables doctors to guide patients through difficult situations and experiences in a safe environment.

Wearable Technology 

It's not only Internet-based solutions and VR providing patients with new treatment options. Wearable technology is also addressing this market. An example is the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Individuals use the device once or twice a day for 20 minutes, and the device stimulates the brain's neurochemicals to improve their mood and overall mental health.

At Advanced Medical Reviews, we expect that we will continue to see technology companies’ focus on products and devices that improve access to care and provide specific treatments for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

New Technologies Addressing Mental Health