Cryptography and smart contracts will give counselors and other mental health professionals freedom to choose how they conduct business, and ethical regulations will be imposed in a decentralized and peaceful fashion based on network consensus. This privatization of counseling will ensure fairness as well as punish shoddy therapists. It will also abolish bureaucracy that stifles innovation and creativity.
The first incarnation of crypto-counseling will not be wholly based on smart contracts. The technology has not matured to the point where adequate programs are currently available. That means other options must be considered first. Luckily, there are resources that can make cryptological counseling an instant reality.
A burgeoning new economy is springing up. Only a handful of people have had the insight to acknowledge its potential and see where it is heading. This new sector of economic growth is referred to as the sharing economy.
The sharing economy denotes collaborative consumption of services and goods, and decentralized access to resources. Sharing economy applications are information rich software platforms that connect service providers and consumers while removing redundant intermediaries and middlemen.
Rachel Botsman, a leading authority on global collaboration expertly defined the sharing economy:
“The Sharing Economy is an economic system based on sharing underused assets or services, for free or for a fee, directly from individuals. It is largely based on peer-to-peer marketplaces that depend on the social glue of trust between strangers. The ‘providers’ in these marketplaces are often referred to as micro-entrepreneurs.”
But so far, only a handful of collaborative consumption platforms exist. Some of them have gained widespread prominence. AirBnB and Uber are considered businesses that exemplify typical sharing economy platforms. They are built on applications that decentralize services and goods, and work via peer-to-peer transactions.
For instance, people do not have to rely on renting hotel rooms if they use AirBnB. The company puts people with extra housing and resources into connection with those who need a rental. It also disrupts government and centralized corporations through encouraging individuals to host their own spaces.
Cryptological Counseling in the Sharing Economy
The sharing economy is where crypto-counseling can gain a practical foothold (prior to smart contracts) and escape thuggish bureaucracy. Like AirBnB, crypto-counseling has to start with an application, then expand and diversify. However, it is going to take a developer and entrepreneur with vision to set this idea into motion.
The application could be developed similarly to AirBnb. It should be able to connect client and counselor, and allow arrangements to take place where either the counselor or patient can decide where to meet for session. The system should have a powerful reputation system, so that the client knows past history of the counselors, and counselor has knowledge of the patient. However, some clients might want to remain anonymous, so the system should be structured to allow for anonymity, yet maintain efficacy and utility of the reputation system.
The application should also be user friendly, graphically sleek, and elegant. If constructed properly, it should function by geographical location and display available counselors, all with listed information on their particular niches, credentials, and hours of operation. Of course, each counselor would have to set up a profile and input basic information regarding their services; and in today’s regulated environment, they would have to demonstrate that they have proper licenses and government mandated credentials.
There are already some quasi crypto-counseling platforms emerging in the tech space. They primarily take advantage of online therapy, but I envision an application that moves beyond mere online therapy, and includes cryptography and collaborative consumption in its functionality.
Joyable is one example of a current disruptive platform. The mission of the company is to cure depression. It runs without a human therapist at all, but its possibilities have yet to be realized. Robinson Meyer writing for the Atlantic interviewed the CEO of Joyable, Peter Shalek. This is what he said:
“I believe mental health is the single biggest waste of human potential in the developed world, and there’s quite a bit of statistics, unfortunately, to back that up.”
If clients had better access to reputations of their therapists, perhaps the field would not be such a waste of human potential.
Referral Systems, Threatening the Orthodoxy & Other Concerns
Finding good providers with “referrals” and recommendations is tremendously important, and it is a problem that entrepreneurs should seek to remedy immediately. It is difficult for clients to obtain good recommendations for therapists because the current industry has monopolized the referral system. Official recommendations are handed down by other professionals, which mitigates market forces in determining who is the best person for the job (although psychologytoday.com does offer a small number of listings).
With the appropriate platform, consumers and clients should be able to leave their feedback and criticisms of various providers. This will be a better system for finding skilled and quality therapists.
If the referral problem and other issues can be solved with technology, the crypto-counseling movement will threaten brick-and-mortar institutions and allow for an economy of roving helpers. It will be versatile and cost effective in the current fast-paced, high-communication world. The model could work in a similar manner as the Uber cab service, where counselors work in a quasi-decentralized manner and make money off of Bitcoin micro-payments, or through direct payment with the application.
There are problems with this idea, though. The obvious issue is that counseling outside the scope of the State for licensed counselors is a ticket to legal problems, including revocation of licenses, and possible criminal chargers. However, if people get the hint that they can receive the help they need in a simple and cheaper fashion, even if it is through a form of cryptological counseling, this may replace the institutions of medical authority as we see them.
The Smart Contract, Helping Revolution
When smart contracts become operational for use by the counseling and medical professions, there will be massive changes for these industries. And if the sharing economy is in full swing, smart contracts will greatly enhance the practicality and innovative nature of these fields.
Counselors may start to work from home more often. More online therapy may be conducted, less medications may be prescribed, prices for treatment may drop substantially, and counselors would not be as tied down by bureaucracy. Of course, again, this is wishful thinking if technological advancement is not met with social and political change.
Still, the future of crypto-counseling is incredibly bright. The advances that are taking place in the tech world are about to take the helping professions by storm, and there is not going to be much to stop the mass disruption. Indeed, the practical application of crypto-counseling can begin now.
Do decentralized apps with smart contracting seem viable for counseling psychology and therapy?
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