Innovation in Technology-Aided Psychotherapy Through Human Factors/Ergonomics: Toward a Collaborative Approach
Technologies are being used increasingly to aid psychotherapy and are becoming an integral part of mental health treatment. Although prior studies compared technology-aided psychotherapy (TAP) to traditional treatments, there are insufficient studies of the impact that specific design parameters and use of the technologies may have on the client and therapist, and treatment outcomes. This requires an understanding of human–technology interaction, which is the focus of the field of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HF/E). The goal of this article is to raise awareness of the importance of the human–technology interaction in TAP, and to foster collaborations between psychotherapists and HF/E professionals. Toward these aims, this article examines the implications of findings in HF/E for the use of technologies (videoconferencing, text-based communication, and virtual environments) in psychotherapy. It is suggested that the manner in which technologies are designed and used may have important effects on the therapeutic alliance and treatment outcomes, and in some cases (side effects of virtual reality) the health and safety of the client. Future research should examine effects of specific design factors on treatment including variables such as the visibility of gestures and degree of eye contact during videoconferencing, response delays during text-messaging, and presence and adverse effects when using virtual environments. Studies that compare TAP to traditional methods should report as much detail as possible about the human–technology interaction. It is essential that psychotherapists and HF/E professionals conduct research collaboratively to develop effective and innovative technologies and, ultimately, design principles for TAP.