What is your name again? Telepathy?

Davor Mucić in the telepsychiatry session

Writing about telepsychiatry today, and not mentioning the pioneers, would be, above all, a reflection of the lack education, general culture and even the mandatory respect for the profession to which I belong. Just as our life stories are divided into time before and time after war, so the history of psychiatry is divided into time before and time after the discovery of telepsychiatry. Unfortunately, most therapists (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists) around the world discovered telepsychiatry only during the COVID19 pandemic. When I mentioned it in the late 1990s and early 2000s, my Danish colleagues always asked, partly joking partly serious: “Is it maybe telepathy? That’s how it sounds to me, at least ha, ha.” We pioneers, who have been practicing “distance therapy” for more than twenty years, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Thanks to the perseverance, enthusiasm, and dedication of the pioneers, telepsychiatry survived for six decades and finally entered the doors of our clinical everyday life only during the pandemic. But better late than never, a young and inexperienced optimist would say.

So, let’s start with the current definition.  “Current”, because the definition has changed over the decades of telepsychiatry. Today, it covers the use of real-time video link in the assessment and/or treatment of mental health conditions. Until the early 21st century, before we invented the term “e-mental health,” telepsychiatry also included the use of telephone and e-mail correspondence, and other forms of communication technologies, in providing mental health care. It is important to know this, because since COVID19 outbreak we have been witnessing the rapid use of technology and ”the invention of the wheel”, i.e. new names for something that has been known for over sixty years. So today we often read about digital-, online- or web-psychiatry and the like. Dear child has many names. But there is only one primordial name, given when it all started six decades ago. And it would be nice to know it, while we rightly use “nicknames”.

Telepsychiatry equipment, Davor Mucić on the screen

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