Fordham GSS Associate Professor Lauri Goldkind, Ph.D., published an article discussing virtual therapy apps—who they benefit, who they don’t, and the privacy issues that come with digital mental health platforms.
Writing for The Conversation, Goldkind addressed the pandemic’s impact on the rise of global mental health issues.
“In the first year of the pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety increased by 25% worldwide,” Goldkind wrote. “In a June 2020 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, compared to only 19% in 2018.”
Goldkind noted that with stay-at-home orders in place and the rise of mental health issues due to the traumatic events of the pandemic, virtual mental health platforms addressed a growing need.
“The COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged both trends – the growing need for mental health care and using technology to access it,” Goldkind wrote. “For existing mental health clients, stay-at-home orders closed clinics and therapists’ offices to in-person visits, resulting in an unprecedented shift to online access to therapy.”
However, Goldkind pointed out that there are risks that come with these virtual solutions, most dealing with user privacy. These apps collect large amounts of data to help users find a licensed therapist that would be a good fit, which hopefully increases efficiency; however, what the companies are doing with that data, or what happens if the data gets into the wrong hands due to a leak, is still a concern.
“But no law or precedent protects consumers or clarifies app users’ rights,” Goldkind wrote. “This differs from face-to-face therapy, in which practitioners work under the oversight of state licensing boards and federal law. Some of the major therapy apps have been accused of mining client data and being at risk for data breaches.
Like other virtual spaces, online mental health service domains operate under ever-evolving and localized regulations.”