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Technology: How It Can Hurt and Help

By Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS-S
“This is the first generation for whom technology is pervasive, making today’s youth unwitting subjects in this vast social experiment. While the literature and anecdotal evidence suggests technology has given rise to an epidemic of cyberbullying, suicide, depression, anxiety and isolation, it can also bring enormous value when used responsibly in recovery. Clinicians must carefully evaluate technology use in children and teens—across all mediums—and collaborate with families to implement reasonable, life-enriching limitations." -Dr. Allison Chase

While technology can certainly contribute to the development and maintenance of an eating, mood or anxiety disorder, technology can also be harnessed to engage young tech-savvy patients in treatment and foster lasting recovery.

  • For individuals struggling with interpersonal skills, social media can be a great place to start generating peer-support, relationships and connections. While pro-eating disorder content is increasingly common, so too is meaningful recovery-focused content, communities, groups and blogs.
  • Body movement sensors, also known as “body bugs,” can assess sleep and exercise patterns, including the frequency, volume or intensity of the movement. Body movement sensors are particularly helpful with eating disorder patients inclined to over-exercise, as well as a tool for when individuals struggling with exercise and body issues are challenged with being able to reliably self-report to their treatment team.
  • Anxiety management tools include video game-like biofeedback and MP3s preloaded with material to support relaxation and mood and anxiety regulation.
  • Multimedia art therapy projects foster healing through the intersection of creativity, artistic expression and technology.
  • Mobile apps can reduce the actual and perceived gaps between outpatient treatment sessions, track treatment progress, enhance patient-provider communication and prompt skill use in individuals’ daily lives.

There are both practical and clinical considerations as the treatment community adopts technology in recovery environments. Providers must continue to review the existing evidence base regarding their efficacy, evaluate their limitations and develop best practices accordingly.

ASSESSMENT: IS TECHNOLOGY USE HELPING OR HURTING?

Compulsive and excessive technology use in young patients can impair productivity and challenge meaningful engagement with the self and others. Responses children and teens give to these assessment questions can reveal much about their world and how they approach their lives:

  • How much time do you spend using the internet each day (i.e. news websites, social media, discussion forums, blogs)?
  • What are your favorite sites?
  • Do you use mobile apps or other devices to track fitness and/or eating? If so, which ones?
  • How would you feel if you couldn’t use the internet/social media/apps?
  • What is your preferred means of communication with friends and loved ones?
  • Do you have concerns about your use of technology and social media?
  • How has your use of technology and social media impacted your life and relationships?
Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS
Written by

Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS-S

Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS, has been working in the field of eating disorder treatment for over 20 years. Prior to joining Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center, Austin, Dr. Chase was the Principal and Founder of AK Chase & Associates, which she established in Austin in 2003. Dr. Chase’s areas of specialization include child and adolescent mental health issues, the treatment of eating disorders, parental training and education, and family- or team-based therapy.

In addition to serving her patients, Dr. Chase enjoys helping others on a mass scale through presentations and media interviews. She offers training and ongoing education for other professionals across the U.S., as well as workshops for schools and community organizations. Dr. Chase has also taught undergraduate psychology courses at The University of Texas at Austin since 2001. Dr. Chase earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California at San Diego. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and completed residency training in Chicago at Rush University Medical Center, in both the departments of psychology and pediatrics. Dr. Chase completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Austin Child Guidance Center as well.

Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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