6 Ways Mental Healthcare Could Improve in the Near Future

Stephen Smith
people with smartphones standing together while waiting on a train
people with smartphones standing together while waiting on a train

As the founder and CEO of nOCD, a mobile app for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I’m often asked about the future of mental healthcare. Some of the most common questions are: Will mental health therapy one day become affordable for me? How do you think technology will change the delivery of mental health treatment? Does having a mental health issue mean I’ll never be successful? These are important questions, and by looking at certain trends in mental healthcare right now we can begin to get answers. While gaining invaluable experience scaling my mental health technology company and learning a lot about the industry, I developed the following beliefs about the future of mental health treatment:

1. People will be able to get clinically effective mental healthcare for free or nearly free, as a result of big data collection.

Clinically effective mental health treatment software now has the capability to collect massive amounts of anonymized big data on patient behavior, which is extremely valuable to companies looking to enhance mental health research in order to help patients long term. Software companies are thus incentivized to offer free or low-cost treatment solutions because they get better data when more people use their applications. It’s a win for the patient looking to improve, a win for the software company looking to grow and help patients improve in the short-term, and a win for the industry company looking to improve patient care for the long-term.

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2. Virtual Reality (VR) will help make teletherapy more productive.

Licensed mental health clinicians will be able to create VR environments particular to each of their patient’s needs. For example, a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or OCD could practice exposure therapy more effectively by putting on a VR headset in a therapy session (or in their living room between sessions) and exposing themselves to whatever causes them anxiety.

3. Licensed peer supporters will have greater utility.

To give effective care, mental health clinicians have to jump over many hurdles. For example, most clinicians can only treat patients within their own state, which makes teletherapy challenging. However, with the increase in nationally recognized licensed peer supporters, clinicians will be able to see more patients in less time because peer supporters can help their patients in-between therapy sessions.

4. Social media will destigmatize mental health.

As exponentially more information about mental health is disseminated through social media, people will naturally begin to understand it is “OK to not be OK.” Given that seemingly everyone is on social media today, people will be constantly exposed to vivid content that helps destigmatize mental healthcare. And more people who’ve managed a mental health condition while being successful will come forward to share their stories.

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5. Better medication will become available.

People will be able to get better medication with fewer side effects because pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations and academic institutions will be incentivized to do more research. The psychiatric pharmacology market is growing exponentially, and independent mental health data companies are quickly reducing the pharmaceutical industry’s research and development costs. So, in the future, this market will become more widely accessible.

6. Apps will be prescribed like medication by clinicians.

Given the utility of smartphones, many people now spend the majority of their free time online. As a result, many mental health treatment applications are being developed to help patients receive effective care on the go. Significant research is currently being conducted on the efficaciousness of mobile applications in treating mental health, and clinicians will soon have many reasons to incorporate them as tools in their treatment plans.

With all this in the works, don’t give up hope. The future is bright!

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