Social Media and PsychotherapyPosted by admin on 10/28/11 • Categorized as Fall/Winter 2011
Understanding youth culture is part of the job for psychotherapist Tom Hurster’74.
By Lynn Vollbrecht’06
Imagine two college roommates, ensconced in their shared dorm room on a typical weeknight. One is on her laptop, checking a grade she got on a biology quiz that morning while emailing a late paper to her English professor. While toggling between screens, she’s also instant-messaging her friends and texting her boyfriend while simultaneously chatting with her roommate, who is busy downloading photos from her cell phone onto her Facebook account while glancing over a reading assignment and composing an email to her mother. A TV quietly plays in the background, turned down so a newly created iTunes playlist can be heard.
As Tom Hurster’74 recounted a version of this fictional scene last April in Beloit, the audience of mostly college students laughed appreciatively—they recognized themselves.
Hurster was on campus to deliver a lecture on “Psychotherapy in the Age of Facebook: Some Ethical Implications.” If there was any doubt that he’d related to his listeners, it was erased when he mingled with them after the talk.
“A young man came up to me afterwards, and said how impressed he was: ‘I’m just amazed that someone as old as you gets us as well as you do,’” he recalls, a touch of wry humor in his voice.
Keeping a finger on the pulse of youth culture is a skill Hurster has honed over more than three decades working as a psychotherapist and clinical social worker with children, teenagers, and young adults. Exploring the increasingly prevalent role of social media platforms in his clients’ lives, however, is a much more recent undertaking.
“It was a gradual encroachment as I stayed in touch with the world of kids—but the world of kids changed. Their world is increasingly electronic,” he says.
Five or six years ago, he was running a group therapy session for teenagers when it came to light that two group members were texting one another about other people in the group, outside communication that was forbidden as part of the therapy. “That’s when I really began to think about this in a very different way,” Hurster says. “But at the same time, I had already begun to be aware of the way technology was encroaching on the therapeutic endeavor. I was already playing video games with the kids on the computer because board games didn’t cut it for them.”
Technology’s role in children’s interpersonal interactions has gained increasing attention over the last few years. “This research is very relevant, and seems to become more relevant each year as technology continues to grow,” says Adam Lemisch, head of admissions at Benchmark School in Media, Penn., where he and Hurster work together. “I think the power (both positive and negative) of social media is a little frightening to many people.”
Pages: 1 2