Dr Greg Cason talks about the impact of technology on mental health
Dr Greg Cason. Photo courtesy of Dr. Greg Cason
Dr Greg Cason spoke with Markos Papadatos of Digital Journal about the impact of technology on mental health and the evolution of the mental health profession.
Dr. Cason was on the Bravo LA Shrinks series. He has appeared regularly as a psychology expert on The Nancy Grace Show and has appeared on a variety of other television news programs as well.
He writes a column for Frontiers magazine and has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and People. Dr Cason currently teaches at UCLA and is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and LGBT issues for 23 years.
Whether it’s the internet, social media, or a 24-hour news cycle, today’s world is noisier and more frightening than ever. Some experts believe that we are too plugged into the constant barrage of negativity that is happening around the planet.
COVID-19 and lockdowns have only heightened our fears. There is conflicting information coming in from all directions, and so many battles over who is right and who is misinformed.
Combine all of this with an intense election year and you have the perfect storm for an increase in mental health issues both individually and collectively.
Fortunately, we have experts like Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Greg Cason who are here to be the voice of reason at a time when everyone seems so unreasonable. This reporter spoke with Dr Cason about the trends he sees in mental health.
Would you say the world is facing a mental health epidemic?
The pandemic, lockdowns, political conflicts, divisions and inequalities have led to a new mental health crisis in this country and around the world. But mental health refers to a variety of mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and various other conditions. The external stress and isolation we all experience brings what was already there to a boiling point.
Has there been a particular time in recent years when you have noticed a sharp increase in the number of customers?
It was halfway through the pandemic. At first, business dropped dramatically, but once people realized things weren’t getting back to normal, they started calling again. Most wanted to receive services virtually, but a few entered (observing all COVID precautions, of course).
Would you say technology has an impact on mental health? If so, in what ways?
Before the pandemic, I would say technology was the biggest modern factor affecting mental health in the world. This is because many forms of modern technology have created more divisions than forged connections – a necessary part of leading a mentally healthy life.
The Facebook Papers exemplify something we all already knew – that these social media apps create warring tribes, not connected communities. It’s not just algorithms, devices also create divisions. It’s so common now to walk past a group of people where each person is looking at their phone and seeming to ignore each other.
More and more people are desperate for taste and attention, but ignore the people right in front of them who could provide it in the most meaningful way.
What are the main mental health issues that people seem to be facing?
Anxiety and depression are always the big winners. But these two problems can take many forms such as OCD, generalized anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
The pandemic and the lockdowns have increased rates of depression, PTSD and substance abuse. But there are cultural wrinkles. Here in the US, we tend to have an individualistic society (eg, “Everybody’s for Himself”) as well as rampant disinformation, which has reworked us and extended and widened the issues.
Collectivist societies that emphasize the needs of the group rather than the wants of an individual (such as New Zealand or South Korea) have fared better.
How is the mental health profession evolving?
The biggest leap forward has been the proliferation of online psychological service offerings that were virtually banned by insurance companies before the pandemic, were first needed and have now become commonplace. I would say that nowadays more counseling services are offered online than in person.
What is also advancing is the proliferation of evidence-based approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy. When I was in school, it was the rare clinician who adopted these approaches, and now most communities use these approaches and most payers demand them.
What do most people not understand about your job as a psychologist?
Most people think of it as stress or “listening to problems all day”, but nothing could be further from the truth. What most people don’t understand is the 10 minutes between patients. Many clients do not realize that this 10 minutes is rushed enough for most therapists.
Although the therapist will only focus on you for 45-50 minutes, during this 10-minute interval the therapist should write the session note, review the upcoming session record, go back to SMS or e-mail. -mails that may be urgent, clean up the previous one. session and get ready for the next one, grab something to eat or drink and go to the bathroom.
People are often surprised when I can’t return their email or phone call until the next day, and a 10 minute window can be shortened when clients linger past the session end time.
How often do you recommend that patients disconnect from the internet for better mental health?
Because our lives are so connected to the Internet, it is more important than ever to â€œunplugâ€. First, a general rule of thumb: whenever you’re with another person, keep the screen turned off. The human in front of you should always come first, not your device. I would also recommend people to book the first 30 minutes after waking up and the last 30 minutes before going to bed to stay screen-free.
It can be difficult for a lot of people, but it will help clear your mind before bed and ground yourself in the real world before you start the day. And it’s most ideal if you can take one day a week, or at least one day a month, to completely unplug yourself.
Maximize this time by spending it in nature, such as going to a park, desert, mountains, or beach. Think of it this way, when we are connected to the internet or the phone, our energy is depleted. When we disconnect, we conserve this energy. When we spend time with people in real life and / or in nature, we strengthen our internal battery.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
I think it’s not about giving each person exactly what they want rather than helping them embrace what they need. For example, people who want to quit alcohol and other drugs often express a desire for a drug or a “quick fix” rather than the hard work and sacrifices that come with changing your life. for the best. I wish I could wave a magic wand and ease everyone’s suffering.
This is not how human beings (or human bodies) work. We are not meant to endure suffering or change alone. This is where a good therapeutic relationship can shine – by being there and helping guide someone to a better life.
To learn more about Dr Greg Cason, visit his official website and follow him on Instagram.