“I do almost everything from my phone,” says Molly “Mo” Deslandes, PsyD, referring to her transition from a computer to using a mobile device for keeping up with many day-to-day work activities while on the go in a busy life. Deslandes joined The Juniper Center in 2017. A millennial by birth year (born 1982 to 2004, or 1989 to 1992 or somewhere thereabouts, depending on whom you ask), Deslandes does exhibit some of the trademark millennial characteristics: she’s connected to technology, adept at multi-tasking and always wants to learn more to best serve her clients.
Just from a “life management” point of view, Deslandes sees technology as a benefit. “Many professionals today, including millennials, basically work off of our phone so that we can do things while we are moving. It’s a necessity in a busy, fast world where there is limited free time, and I don’t always have my computer.” Deslandes also uses technology to enhance communication and connection in real life. “I FaceTime (the iPhone’s video chat function) with my mom. Or, I might send videos to people to visually explain what I’m talking about,” says Deslandes.
And if you think millennials are tech savvy…just imagine work with iGen clients (born after 2000), aka today’s youth and adolescents.
Technology in Therapy
“Technology inside of a session can be really useful and helpful,” says Deslandes. “If I’m working with a child who doesn’t like the learning activity we are doing, we can choose one together using my iPad. It allows me to create an activity on the spot that is individually suited to their needs and interest,” says Deslandes. “There may be times when a mobile game is the right fit for a client.” There is benefit for clients of all ages. “Sometimes a client gets stuck trying to remember a song from forever ago during a session. We can look up the song on the spot, listen and discuss it while we are together.”
Molly certainly is not alone in applying the advantages of technology to counseling and therapy. While the APA does not endorse any specific apps, they do acknowledge there are plenty out there and that with evaluation, there can be a benefit to bringing them into your practice. And they have quite a few apps of their own, to allow ease of access to APA materials and social media. NAMI, the National Association of Mental Illness had an app for about two years, NAMI Air, that allowed people to connect and inspire one another by sharing their mental health experiences. They discontinued it in February of this year, when they upgraded the mobile experience for their discussion boards. Which is another way of saying that as technology continues to evolve it is more readily integrated into people’s daily lives.
Deslandes says that in the therapeutic realm technology has its advantages and challenges. “In today’s era of immediate access, people expect answers right away.” In an emergency, 911 is still the right number to call. Boundaries are a discussion that therapists from earlier generations might have navigated differently. “Clients may contact me by email and text. But those means of communication are for a quick connection and cannot replace what happens in a full session.”
Taking on Challenges and Making a Difference
Millennials are also known to value knowing they have made a difference. For Deslandes, that relates to her ability to connect with people with severe mental illness. “Maybe it has to do with being open to taking on new challenges,” says Deslandes. “There is risk, but also rewards, when you can help someone who has not found help in the past.”
“I have a big personality myself,” says Deslandes, “so I have worked with people who usually have a bigger personality. Yes, it’s a clinical setting, and the therapist-client relationship is still personal, and people want to find someone with whom they can relate, but who will challenge them also.” Deslandes has worked with clients with severe mental illness, with eating disorders, those who need a therapist who is LGBTQ sensitive or kink aware. Whatever your generation, “clients are looking for a therapist who meets them where they are. Someone may come in because of depression or anxiety or something else. There is often an underlying issue. My goal is to bring relief to them.”
“There is no shaming in therapy,” says Deslandes. “Often clients look for commonalities with their therapist. Whether that is age or gender or just that I am able to understand their issue, I am trained to help.”
“Technology gives me the ability to shift in the moment,” says Deslandes. “I may be working on a coping skills exercise that is not connecting to the client. So we can go online and find something suited to them. Or there are mindfulness apps that I can recommend to clients to use between sessions.”
“Millennials want to know that their perspective matters and that they can make a difference. I want to foster that space for others to feel that way as well,” says Deslandes. Generational shifts can take generations to notice. But, today, “I can tailor something to let that younger client know she or he has been heard. I can see the big picture and where we are heading in a session. Technology, in the moment, can help us get there together.”