Psychology: Online treatment is the future

For the first time ever, the University of Bergen offers an introduction to digital health as part of its vocational studies in psychology.

DIGITAL TREATMENT: Psychology students learn about online treatment as part of the eHelse, or eHealth, course, which is a pioneering project at the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Elin Espe Stensvand, University of Bergen

“You are not becoming psychologists because you want to sit online and talk to people, but this is a role you might face in the future,” Associate Professor Tine Nordgreen said to the students at the eHelse (literally eHealth) course, which launched on 22 September 2015.

Nordgreen works at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Bergen (UiB). She is also employed at Haukeland University Hospital, as a project manager for Norway's first clinic for internet treatment, www.emeistring.no.

As part of their clinical practice, the students in the fourth year of the vocational studies in psychology at UiB are introduced to Internet-based treatment of mental disorders.


eHealth enters the education system

Concurrently as people are getting higher and higher expectations about health care being available, also online, an introduction to eHelse in the vocational studies is a natural step, Nordgreen says.

“Last week I gave a lecture at the Ministry of Health, and it was pointed out that training in digital health is not currently part of health education. Fortunately, I could tell them that it is now, with our eHealth course,” she said.


Treatment on the internet

The introduction to eHealth includes a visit to Bjørgvin District Psychiatric Centre (BDPS) in Bergen. Psychologist Reidar Nævdal completed his vocational studies in psychology at UiB six months ago, and now works with online treatment at BDPS.

“When I was a student, I did not imagine myself working with digital health. But actually, we are performing the exact same kind of treatment here, only that it is now carried out online. And it is really exciting,” Nævdal says.

Altogether 270 patients have been treated at the eMeistring Internet Clinic, and as of today there are 61 active users on the eMeistring.no website.


Challenging scepticism

“Online treatment is a completely different communication situation. It is great to learn how to relate to it,” psychology student Anette Bøe said.

She considers eHelse an exciting platform to explore.

After establishing a year-long education for web based treatment in 2013, there has been a desire to introduce eHealth to the vocational study programme. And in connection with some changes in the curriculum, it was now possible to implement this.

“I think the concept of what constitutes “a good therapist” needs to be broadened to apply also outside the standard face-to-face treatment. By introducing students to this kind of treatment as part of their education, we can hopefully challenge the scepticism that exists to digital health treatment in some quarters,” says Tine Nordgreen.