… A lot of altruism, free giving, plenty of warnings. Isn’t there any digital snake oil here? No fake therapists?
One in-world psychologist, Dr. Craig Kerley from Georgia, who was profiled on CBS’s “Early Show,” has hung his shingle for “cybertherapy” at $90 per hour. This work, he says, “can be valuable for those who have limited choices in their geographical region, have limited time to drive to regular in-person appointments, have limited mobility, and have limitations in their lifestyle that make traveling to a brick and mortar office difficult.”
Still, Dr. Peter Yellowlees, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UC Davis and a specialist in virtual worlds, cautions about therapy in Second Life, even with professionals. He advises using it only as “a potential adjunct to face-to-face therapy,” and to “use passwords or other cues in Second Life to make sure you’re talking to the right person” - the real therapist, not scammers posing as one.
Yellowlees uses Second Life as a teaching tool, not for therapy. His Virtual Hallucinations sim gives “the lived experience of schizophrenia - to hear voices and see visions” so his students (and the rest of us) can “get inside the head, just a bit, of someone who’s psychotic.”
It certainly sparked empathy in me, much more richly than a mere clinical description of the disorder would have done.
Empathy: There’s that word again, an odd one to associate with impersonal bytes and modems, but the right one. Second Life is a hot, humming thing of wire and light, a “server” - spiritual teachers would like the metaphor - that can carry community and genuine human sympathy…
Cherilyn Parsons is a freelance writer and fundraising consultant to journalism organizations. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Sunday, July 13, 2008