Technology and Recovery part 2 – guest blog by Glyn Davies

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Mobile Phone Technology and Recovery

GlynDaviesThe recovery-oriented techniques we learn online do of course need to be put into practice as this is where we see real behaviour change. And it’s great to see the shift towards health-focussed apps.

Over recent years there has been an acknowledgment that many who are digitally excluded from regularly accessing computers often still engage with smart phone technologies. The work undertaken by D2digital (www.d2digital.co.uk) in looking at text reminders has shown promise for people engaged with treatment services. Texting and creating a strong communication pathway between service user and service provider is crucial in helping people to progress through a treatment system.

The work of Professor James McKay at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates how powerful technology can be in making continuing care approaches effective.

Avatar Therapy

Utilising technologies for the delivery of interventions is an excellent way to overcome many barriers such as living in a rural community, transport issues, maintaining employment and childcare arrangements. But for many the issue of shame and stigma can still be a major concern – this has led to some work in the USA looking at an approach called ‘avatar therapy’ where online counselling takes place but both parties remain hidden behind a persona of their choosing.

This may sound a little strange, why would you want to receive counselling from a cartoon character? Well quite simply you are liberated to talk openly and honestly. This seminar delivered by Dick Dillon from Innovaision provides an interesting insight into this approach.

Technology Innovation in UK Substance Misuse Services


From the Strange Molecules website

Providing access to technology-based interventions is becoming the norm and the digital inclusion agenda is fast becoming an essential part of service delivery. Supporting individuals to access benefits online, being taught literacy and numeracy in prison through the virtual campus means technology is helping people learn life skills and benefit from living in the digital era.

Providing interventions is only part of the process – where we see technology-enhanced recovery at its best is where service providers are creative in adopting this approach. The creative work undertaken at Genie in the Gutter (www.genieinthegutter.co.uk) in Liverpool is about up-skilling people in recovery through embracing technology.

Looking at how CRI is adopting technology innovation across the organisation to support practitioners, peer mentors and service users is imaginative and well demonstrated by the recent launch of their Strange Molecules website (www.strangemolecules.org.uk).

Bringing recovery into the 21st century

The utility of virtual reality to assist with cue exposure therapy is being explored by Swanswell project (www.swanswell.org). Whilst the integration of online mobile technologies by CREW2000 (www.mycrew.org.uk) in Edinburgh highlights the fact that services are looking at the role of different technologies in engaging problem drug users into the treatment system and bringing treatment and recovery into the 21st century.

Prof. David Gustafson

Prof. David Gustafson

The UK substance misuse sector would further benefit from the progressive approach adopted by NIATx (the National Improving Access to Treatment) in the US, lead by Professor Dave Gustafson at Wisconsin University. The work at NIATx is exceptional with a recognition that technology is essential for broadening access to evidence based interventions. There are many great examples from NIATx which can be found on their website (www.niatx.net).

At Breaking Free we are continuously learning from all such areas of technology and its relationship with the recovery journey. To celebrate the emergence of these technological advances and the contribution they make to substance misuse and public health Breaking Free is hosting a number of conferences in Manchester (13/11/14), Birmingham (18/11/14), Bristol (21/11/14), London (26/11/14), Edinburgh (13/01/15). For more information please click here.


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