Video consultations are helping people with mental health problems from the comfort of their own home

New technology launched by a York mental health charity is helping people with mental health problems get their lives back on track.

A fully encrypted and secure ‘Virtual Consultation’ system set up at The Retreat in York is linking staff with the people in the community to provide therapy by video link within a purpose-built room. The Retreat, which provides mental health care to people across the UK, has developed a dedicated, sound-proofed consultation room, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology for virtual consultations.

The Retreat is a mental health provider with 200-years’ experience, but this is the first time it has had a dedicated, sound-proofed area to use its secure virtual consultation system.

Using technology for consultations and therapy is vital for today’s mental health services, says The Retreat’s Senior Clinical psychologist Dr Katja Osswald.

Dr Osswald recently carried out a lengthy family interview over the internet as part of an assessment for autism.

“I think this technology will be a great help for people who use our services and their families, going forward. It gives them more flexibility and, once we have established a relationship with them, they are more than happy to talk to us online,” said Dr Osswald.

The virtual consultation system is fully encrypted and secure and assures confidentiality.

James’ story

The new technology is already helping people, such as James, who managed to keep his job after seeking support and engaging in virtual consultations with his clinical psychologist from The Retreat.

Following a particularly stressful family event, James went into a downward spiral and became very dependent on alcohol, with severe episodes of anxiety.

James’ job meant he couldn’t continue on his prescribed medication and soon his job was at risk.

He explained: “I was caught in a cycle of self-loathing and depression which hit me like a steam train. I was now being threatened with losing my house and being medically discharged from my job. It was infuriating because I felt there was nothing I could do.”

Following support from The Retreat, James was able to turn his situation around. A personalised course of therapy helped take him off medication and he was even able to continue with therapy via Video Consultations with his psychologist.

He said: “I had a complete reversal of fortune. Earlier this year I was due to be medically discharged but I was able to put the brakes on this as I was starting to show clear signs of progression.

“At The Retreat I was given individualised care – they really understood me and the nature of my job. I was often able to do it via Video Consultation to minimise the impact on my work which helped with my ability to recover.

James’ life has changed – he is now at the top of his profession and his outlook is mainly positive. From being on the Army’s “vulnerable at-risk register” he is now up for promotion and his wife is expecting their first child later this year.

Dr Osswald, explained how James had turned his life around:

“James worked hard at implementing lifestyle changes to manage his symptoms of ADHD, which included regular physical exercise, but also a range of exercises for the mind. His engagement with mindfulness practice over time allowed him to understand more how his mind works, to spot patterns and ways of getting stuck, and how to become un-stuck. Being able to have regular sessions online, when James had to be away for work, was key.”

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