With technological proliferation consuming every sphere of life, it comes as no surprise that psychological therapies have taken a leap into the cyber world.

The annual United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Government Organisations Conference held in Melbourne in 2010 marked Swinburne University among the leading innovators who have contributed towards developments in e-therapy. Swinburne’s Professor Michael Kyrios also the Chair of National e-therapy Executive committee stated We are interested in working with the UN to promote the advantages of e-therapies and the way in which they could help traumatised groups following natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as those groups in war or refugee zones”. The Internet can become the modern tool to access those mentally-ill patients restricted by geographical limitations in times of natural disasters or inadequate infrastructure development.

The main framework of the conference was to discuss psychological health with a global perspective aided with the medium of Internet. Swinburne University is acknowledged for being the brainchild of an e-therapy website that gained momentum among the local communities especially in the rural areas of Australia.

The website started off with treating anxiety disorders but is hoping to add treatment for more serious disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in the near future. More than 5000 anxiety disorder patients have been treated since the website’s launch in October 2010 by offering free self-help programs and online therapy and counselling sessions. Privacy is of course one of the patients’ highest concerns of online counselling as they conveniently avail various therapies in the form of interactive questionnaires, online forums and podcasts.

The Australian government was so overwhelmed with the response that online counselling received that it went as far as announcing that every rural community centre will be given free training in an online treatment program introduced by a Sydney mental health clinic.

Concerns regarding illiteracy rates of Australia are being raised with the advent of increasing number of virtual clinics. But such false alarms were eradicated with the development of sophisticated online therapy soft wares that allow more interactive and audiovisual online therapy sessions.

Swinburne University Professor Dr Michael Kyrios believes that through online counselling programs undeveloped countries like Pakistan can be given post-traumatic counselling after floods or earthquakes. He further went on quoting “Obviously a lot of people don’t have computer skills there either, but we have the capacity to be able to train people to use the computer in order to be able to get the information”. The Swinburne University seems in no mood to stagnate their progress and promises initiation of their online therapy programs worldwide with immediate plans of bounding into Greece.

Despite e-therapy and online counselling being psychological advancement’s claim to fame, many concerns are being raised by psychological associations like The Royal Australian, New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and the Australian Psychological Society. Worrisome queries are revolving around topic of e-therapy as to whether online therapy sessions really fill in the void of face-to-face sessions? Is suitable care provided by psychologists during the virtual therapy setting not leaving behind any expression of emotional distress?

Despite such fears more than 360 doctors all over Australia are implementing the usage of program developed by University of New South Wales and St Vincent’s Hospital’s Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression in Sydney. Such popular usage statistics cannot be ignored for in the near future cyber space clinic might be your stop for treating mental illness.

What are your thoughts about the use of online therapy or e-counselling in Australia? Leave your comments below.

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