Keywords: Digital mental health, teletherapy, two-way messaging therapy, virtual therapy, telehealth
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a dramatic shift of mental health treatment toward digital delivery. Growing adoption rates suggest that this change could be permanent, backed by research showing that digital mental health is beneficial and increases access to care. This symposium focuses on a new, scalable, form of digital treatment: messaging therapy. Message-based psychotherapy is a novel delivery method that has the potential to solve problems of access and scale while preserving the benefits of individualized treatment and the therapy relationship. Research on this delivery method is rapidly growing and has focused on outcomes among particular diagnostic groups, treatment modalities, and demographic categories. How well does this data live up to the promise? We will examine: 1) how messaging therapy was used by essential healthcare workers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) how messaging therapy was used as primary public health intervention in Reno, USA; 3) what we know about messaging based therapy to date; and 4) how this digital mental health post-COVID growth suggests therapy in writing is not just a 'crisis time' intervention. Taken together, these findings suggest that digital mental health is beneficial, and when delivered in one particular form, messaging therapy, increases access and scalability of provider/therapist time to achieve impacts more akin to a public health intervention.