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  • Writer's pictureLauren Booker

The Future Is Skype

This week I’m reflecting on a project I’ve been working on for over two years - delivering therapeutic support via Skype.

It’s a project we began in 2017, made possible by a grant to the national charity, Alcohol Change, from the Maudsley Foundation. This year over 50 people reached out and signed up for some help to change their relationship with alcohol. We were able to offer four Skype sessions to help each of them get a grip on what they wanted to change about their drinking and how they could make that happen.

The idea originally came from a pilot that we conducted for HAGA in 2014. Personally, I wasn’t convinced that Skype was a suitable medium for helping people to change their drinking. I had concerns that it would be hard to build a therapeutic relationship over the internet and I was sceptical that people would want to access support in this way. Oh, how wrong I was – on both counts.

As a bit of a technophobe myself, I assumed that only the digital native generation would embrace the technology and sign up for support but I in practice I was struck by the diverse range of people who made contact – the age range was from early 20s to over 70. Men, women, professionals, students, parents, grandparents. Just ordinary people who had taken a look at their drinking and decided it was time for a change.

I was also amazed by how easy it is to connect with people using Skype. Maybe that’s because clients can access support in a familiar safe environment – their own home. Perhaps sipping a cuppa from their favourite mug; using their laptop or even their phone!

My clients have come from all over the UK and as far away as New York state and even Hong Kong. One client was working on a long-term project in Eastern Europe. Another moved to Australia half way through our sessions. That’s one of the huge benefits of making internet-based support available – wherever you are based you can speak to a practitioner.

The first cohort of clients, in 2017-18, inspired me to write Try Dry, I learnt so much from how my clients experimented with tools and ideas and tried unusual tactics to keep their focus on change and success.

The second cohort, starting last autumn trickled in at the rate of a couple a week until Christmas. Then, between December 25th and New Year, thirty-nine people emailed in for support. I was able to respond within a day or two. Had they been approaching traditional alcohol services, which of course they may not have done, they’d have had to wait until well into the new year just to book an initial appointment.

The charity is currently running an evaluation of the project and early signs are that this is a viable end effective form of support for clients who are not engaging with alcohol treatment agencies. At a time where alcohol treatment funding is under pressure, Skype sessions might well be the perfect solution to get more people the help they need in a way that they can engage with.

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