Therapists are reluctant to reject Travis Scott’s BetterHelp offer

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Skeptics were quick to criticize rapper Travis Scott’s offer of a single month of virtual therapy to those who attended his fatal Astroworld concert last week, but psychology and trauma experts wavered to reject his approach.

Scott announced Monday that those who attended the concert, where nine people were killed, would be eligible for a free month of BetterHelp, an app that offers counseling via text, phone and video chats. Those who weren’t impressed with the offer likened it to a branding deal, noting that BetterHelp is frequently advertised by celebrities and influencers.

BetterHelp trended online Tuesday as Twitter users voiced their opinion that this was an inadequate offer, fearing that a month was not enough for the board and fearing that user data would be sold under BetterHelp’s privacy policy.

But mental health experts are reluctant to reject the offer without more information, noting that even a few counseling sessions could do a lot of good.

Few organizations can offer full-scale therapy and counseling to 50,000 people, some of whom could have made it to the event from other states, Dr Saumya Dave told NBC News.

“It’s also the licensing that tends to be tricky because, at least for me as a psychiatrist, I get a state license,” Dave said. “And so these qualifications and these things vary from state to state. In fact, I can’t see people, even in the neighboring state, unless I am allowed to get a license in their state.

As a practicing clinician, Dave understands concerns about inadequate duration. The first few sessions might just be about building a relationship with new clients, assessing their symptoms, and building their confidence.

“It’s really important for me to make sure that this person is comfortable with this date, that I also meet them where they are,” said Dave. “So a lot of times if someone isn’t ready to explore the nuances of what happened at that event, we won’t go on that first or second date. ”

BetterHelp will not charge users who sign up through Scott’s offer after one month, and will offer “extended therapy support” after that date, the company said in an update Thursday. He also clarified that Scott would not be paid for the partnership.

Neither Scott nor BetterHelp responded to NBC News requests for comment.

Of the 50,000 attendees at Astroworld, experts expect only a fraction of people to need long-term mental health care.

Research has repeatedly shown that the majority of people who experience trauma are resilient and may not develop greater mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, according to Anka. A. Vujanovic, Director of Trauma and Stress Studies. University of Houston Center.

“The distress that people would feel in these immediate consequences gradually dissipates, over the days and weeks following the trauma for most people,” Vujanovic said. “So usually a few days or weeks after a trauma most people recover; While symptoms typically persist for about a month or more after trauma, this is usually a good indicator of the need for professional support.

For those who need longer care, it is very important that they receive the appropriate evidence-based, trauma-specific care.

“Most of these evidence-based protocols, if we look at cognitive behavioral therapy, which tends to be the most effective type of treatment for any of these conditions, treatment programs typically include 12 to 16 sessions. with a licensed mental health professional who is trained in these approaches, ”said Vujanovic.

BetterHelp says it has over 20,000 vendors with different licenses and specialties, with weekly video sessions and unlimited access to text chats. It’s unclear how effective the additional text conversations could be, but Vujanovic encourages anyone who takes up the offer to ask questions about the type of care they are receiving.

Telehealth sessions have proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy sessions, but technology is changing faster than guidelines and regulations can keep up, said Lynn Bufka, senior director of transformation and quality of practice at the American Psychological Association.

“It’s a question we just don’t know, we don’t know, do we?” We haven’t had that kind of technology deployed in this way after a traumatic experience, ”Bufka said. “It could be that leveraging something like BetterHelp right now may offer enough experience for individuals that fewer people will develop long-term side effects.

Therapists must adhere to federal privacy regulations, such as the Medicare Portability and Liability Act, and that their platforms are secure, Bufka explained.

“It’s less clear when you use some of these text-based platforms whether or not they are considered healthcare, whether or not that product falls under federal regulation,” Bufka said. “That’s one of the questions, do they have to adhere to the same standards that your doctor has to meet, that your psychologist you see in his office has to adhere to? ”

BetterHelp has stated that the data it collects from users is not sold to advertising platforms or third parties, but its privacy policy also states that Internet services carry “inherent security risks which cannot be avoided by 100%.

“These are businesses … every business wants to make a profit. So what does it mean to make a profit? How do they manage the data? Said Bufka. “We know that most people using technology just click ‘I agree’ and don’t really read the fine print. This is an area where you should read the fine print.


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