Published: 24 June 2020

Preparing the next generation of clinical psychologists to deliver digital healthcare

Finding creative ways to support people with mental health difficulties has come sharply into focus, with the Department of Health calling for more digital-ready clinicians and NHS England committing to a digitised mental healthcare provision by 2024. To meet this new approach, we’re training our students to deliver online therapies.

On 15 June 2020, over 30 students from our PsychD Clinical Psychology course took part in our third annual Digital Mental Health Day at the University of Surrey, in partnership with ProReal, an industry leader in the world of virtual reality (VR) therapy technologies.

Accessing the training remotely, students got to test out the latest online therapy tools, transporting themselves into a virtual world, using an avatar to represent their experiences, feelings and relationships. They also saw these experiences from the viewpoints of others, expressed themselves using speech and thought bubbles, and visualised themselves differently by manipulating their avatar’s posture.

Students also learned how to deliver psychological therapy by video call by Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Dr Alesia Moulton-Perkins, and were introduced to the professional and ethical issues surrounding the use of digital tools and examined the quality of the therapeutic relationship when using these.

By integrating these tools into everyday practice, our students will be able to deliver the next phase of mental health support. Benefits include:

  • Increasing the reach of services, especially amongst individuals who find it more difficult to see a therapist face-to-face
  • Giving patients a greater choice of support
  • Making services more accessible through a 24-hour model.

Organiser of the event, Dr Hannah Frith commented: “The delivery of mental health services is changing, especially with the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Our trainees need to be digitally confident so that they can shape the innovative healthcare services of the future.”

Mary John
Mary John

Head of the School of Psychology, Mary John added: “Current evidence suggests that professionals often hold back from adopting digital tools through lack of confidence and concerns about their efficacy and safety. So, raising awareness of the different digital tools available to support mental wellbeing and ensuring that clinical psychologists feel competent to use them in their practice, are extremely important.”

Our Digital Mental Health Day is an ongoing programme of events that aims to develop our students’ skills in remote delivery of therapy via telephone or videocall, as well as to introduce them to new tools, such as mobile apps, VR and avatar-based software.


Find out more about our PsychD Clinical Psychology course.

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