Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Is it a Vocation if a machine can do it?

That was my reaction to this article from the BBC claiming that a new computerized intervention was as effective as face-to-face counseling in alleviating depression. Except that the journal article that they are talking about doesn't actually say that. The abstact is here. It actually says that the computerized self-help with online self-help group was more effective than an online self-help group alone, and that changes were similar to previous face-to-face therapy findings (probably based on a calculated effect size). Well good. A lot of the psychoeducational stuff that I do is available from books (though I keep a closer eye to real science than do some popular authors), and that isn't shutting down the mental health field. The drop-out rate of 37% in this study is troubling to me. Part of the reason that counseling works is that you come in and have to tell me that you haven't done your homework.

Really though, what if part of my job could be done by a computer. Good! I've been reading a lot of Solution Focused counseling stuff recently and one of the points that the authors make is that we aren't in the "psychotherapy" business, but rather in the "change" business. I want to be a change agent in people's lives, and I'm not wedded to one way of doing that. Is part of our vocation to help define our occupations?


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