Published on June 25, 2009
CyberTherapy meets Facebook, Blogger & Second Life: an Italian Experience (14th Annual CyberTherapy & CyberPsychology Conference) Ignazio Graffeo – Student of Medicine Faculty of University of Palermo, Psychiatric Section Internal Daniele La Barbera - Chair of Psychiatry,Department of Neuroscience, University of Palermo
Our project is based on the study of Cybertherapy in the international sphere (USA, Northern Europe) and on the application of this discipline to the Italian psychiatric and psychological reality. CyberTherapy can be used as an “aim” , referring to it as real and proper therapy, which lives on personalized paths created by a qualified staff, conceived as ludic, recreational, psycotherapic and educational purpose.
Moreover Cybertherapy can be used as a “mean” ( and in this way we want to propose it ) with the aim of making the user, who feels a psychiatric or a psychological uneasiness, getting closer to qualified staff. A considerable advantage of this discipline is to reduce to a minimum the initial embarrassment which is created between the psychiatrist and the psychiatric patient , uneasiness stirred up and accentuated by the problem, unfortunately not resolved in the Italian sphere, of the Stigma .
We used: EMAIL-BASED THERAPY… which is based on an e-mail exchange between the service user and the operator . VOICE/VIDEO CONFERENCE THERAPY… where the communication takes place through programs like Windows Live Messenger or through portals like Facebook which assure an instant messaging service, without considering that the first program allows the use of a webcam or a microphone. AVATAR THERAPY… which makes use of a 3D virtual reality like that built in Second Life ; in this case the communication is more physical and material through an approach by means of an avatar, a figure with human appearance in most of cases, created by the user based on its personal taste.
Our approach tools: THE BLOG “Psichiatria e CyberTherapy” http://psichiatriaecybertherapy.blogspot.com
The heart push-button of all the project is a blog , an on-line diary, an extreme ductile and recognizable mean in the hand of the user, in continuous updating , which contains first of all the explanation of the project in the first pages, besides a series of contents daily updated which range from the contribution of the users themselves to congressional and cultural events, from the in-depth examination of important people in psychiatric history to the recommendation of web sites of relevant importance .
The idea is to build and constitute a headlight , a reference point in the web for all people affected by psychiatric disturbances or those that are in search for informations , discouraging at the same time from making self diagnosis, while trying making the profane reconsidering from a social point of view psychiatry , a scientific discipline yet today mistreated and seen suspiciously.
The blog is enriched with a series of widgets (internet features) that besides being of great help, allow the site gaining more “appeal” and notoriety… … there is a space for news of psychiatric interest … a logo properly designed which recalls the group founded on Second Life … a translator which allows the reading of blog in several languages, besides English also Japanese
… a chat box that offers the chance to the user to leave messages … a playlist with audio tracks updated frequently, chosen with the intention to create an agreeable psychological atmosphere … and also: a collection with monthly partition, a list of key words (labels and tags), a visitors’ counter, a tracker of web pages and an atlas. There is also a list of helpful links, a list of friend sites and finally a list of readers subscribed by the users themselves, as well as a list of banners at the bottom of the front page that allow the blog’s visibility through the exchange of links with other partner sites and several international search engines, tools that makes it possible the placement of the blog at the very first positions of Google.
The blog , besides encountering more of 1150 visits (55 daily visits from different IPs), has been taken as an example for other projects, it relies on 46 regular readers who have given support linking on our site in their blog’s homepage, it has been changed into a place/non place of cultural exchange and continuous learning …
We also created a series of contacs and accounts to make easier the contact from the user: On Messenger On Skype On Ning On Twitter … and then on : Friendfeed, Findasocialnetwork, Medicinrete, Unispace, DuepuntoZero, Hatebook, Linkedin, Xing, Ustation, Openzine, Earfl, Last.fm, Badoo, Meetsee, Agoravox, Weblin, Oknotizie, Badzu, Diggita, Anobii, Chandyd Social Network, YahooGruppi…
FACEBOOK ACCOUNT: CyberMaster FACEBOOK GROUP: Psichiatria e Cybertherapy
Users’ favourite tool is our Facebook profile , platform of great interest in Italy. CyberMaster’s profile created especially for the project relies on more than 1200 friends , people who autonomously reach CyberTherapy or is contacted by the staff, for information or association purpose. Moreover the mentioned Facebook account leans against one group: “ Psichiatria e CyberTherapy” ( 400 members ) which collect supporters, persons involved in the work, people that have experienced cybertherapic services and so on…
SECOND LIFE ACCOUNT: CyberMaster Quan SECOND LIFE GROUP: CyberTherapy Italia
Last but not least is another account in Second Life: it has been created an avatar , it has been subscribed a premium account which allows the avatar to possess a private property on the multimedia platform, on which it has been built a real private practice with furnitures and advertising; moreover the “ CyberMaster Quan ” avatar is chief of a big group of avatars called “ CyberTherapy Italia ”
Second Life’s Avatar: CyberMaster Quan Second Life’s Group Logo
The path is this: the user visits the blog, reads the presentation and the informative posts, takes knowledge of the identity of the staff members and if the services offered by the project suit its needs, he asks for a preliminary interview with CyberMaster, who, scheduled the consult, interviews the supposed patient through the explained tools in not more than an hour. The CyberMaster reports the consult in paper or computer format to the other members of the staff, who discuss the clinical case and express their opinions in terms of trying to find the correct dedicated treatment structures. The CyberMaster, conveyed the staff’s impressions, fixes another consult with the user, telling him the impressions of the staff. A very simple and effective mechanism, that has been successful in terms of approach and number of users that have used the service. The logic-scientific apparatus involve an approach path conceived to respect the standard of extreme transparency and simplicity towards the user who gets close to Cybertherapy.
Complementary goals , but at the same time of great relevance, have been the chance to collect and analyze the very first Italian record of occurences of users that approach CyberTherapy, using non psychiatric means like Facebook and Second Life . Another important goal , born during the experience and easily reached, has been the accomplishment and online promotion of Psychiatric Prevention , unfortunately an argument still today not treated with the proper coverage, and the struggle against Stigma. Different and various are the purposes that we have set at the start of this experience: first of all, as we stated before, to evaluate the feasibility of the “CyberTherapy” discipline in Italy, coming next to propose a theory both methodological and clinic.
The results obtained appear very positive : we have received almost 100 contacts from people asking for a consult, among which we have selected 40 people on the base of their needs, that have received a total of 80 interviews (some of them needed a deeper study). We consider ourselves satisfied and surprised for the results obtained in such a little time, for this reason we are encouraged to go on with the project and open new fields in the research area , so that much people can take advantage of the service we offer, in terms of personal interviews and in terms of cultural commitment as struggle against Stigma
Thank you for your attention! (template made by using photographs from Luciano D’Alessandro’s “Gli Esclusi”)
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