Predicting the Future

It is, as they say, hard to predict, especially the future. But letís try.

Michaele P. Dunlap, Psy.D.

Article (revised) from AMHA-OR Member Newsletter, January 2003

The trends

In June,1993, there were only 123 academic and government sites on the Internet, the Internet was a bright new idea. The electronic transmission of information on line was a fuzzy concept to nearly everyone. People said, "Iíll never understand it. It has nothing to do with me." Now, a decade later, there are millions of web sites, most people understand how to use the language of Internet domains, and the pattern of peopleís daily use of the Internet includes e-mail, on-line news, fourth graders homework, play and chit-chat, the habit of buying movie tickets on line, getting a map to a new dentist, or the quick click into a favorite shopping site to purchase and send a gift, a book, a new cartridge for the printer.

Another trend

Internet listings for mental health professionals are being promoted by professional organizations, for-profit companies and the publishers of mental health magazines, insurance companies and local professional groups post lists of members names and addresses on line. One organization, the American Mental Health Alliance - USA (AMHA-USA) has created and is developing a unique professional resource, available to all licensed professionals who value integrity, client privacy and professional collaboration. The development of Internet presence for AMHA-USA began in 1998 with the work of Dr. Michael Conner, an AMHA Oregon member who created the site http://www.OregonCounseling.org for Mentor Research Institute. That site lists Oregon AMHA members, each on their own page, and links their pages to articles they have written. Dr. Connerís research with creating interlocking sets of domain names and sites helped choose the design protocols for the more elaborate site which was launched in 2000 at http://www.AmericanMentalHealth.com created by Mike Davis and Warren Dexter for AMHA-USA.

A unique resource

On http://www.AmericanMentalHealth.com, AMHA-USA member professionals each have web listings that allow their skills, professional focus and location to be searched by more than two hundred terms pertaining to types of problems, theories, types of interventions, location, professional training and specialized skills. AMHA-USA members, uniquely have access to their own professional information data bases, the capability to administer, change, improve, revise and update their listings at will from their own home or office computers. Does the process of managing a professional data page on www.AmericanMentalHealth.com require a bit of persistence to learn? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Yes. And, in the near future it will become an essential of professional practice development and maintenance to be "findable" on the Internet.

In some communities more than 70% of the households and 80% of the businesses use the Internet to find information and make purchasing choices every week. Mental health professionals who do not present their practices on the Internet will miss the opportunity to serve large numbers of clients, businesses and organizations. Well, you say, I can get a free listing, or a free web site. And, yes, you can. But ... how will you advertise it? The Internet is crowded to bursting with individual and small group web sites. Those sites however have little more drawing power for your practice in New York or Oregon than a billboard in Colorado. That is ... the process of promoting and pulling web searchers to web sites is now a vitally important a part of visibility on the Internet. By creating a national site, with, with every enhanced page and every article and every discrete page posting and enhanced page posting individually searchable on the web by its own search terms, by developing sub-sites for chapter activities and by advertising the sites and several different and attractive domain names nationally on Internet yellow pages and with Internet search engine placement marketing, AMHA-USA is creating dozens, soon hundreds, then thousands of layers of "searchablity" to pull client searches to membersí practices.

And, then there are enhanced pages!

AMHA chapter members and AMHA-USA national members can have enhanced pages that take the capabilities for control over how much and what sorts of professional information one presents on line to deeper and more useful levels. With an enhanced page, and the time it takes to master the relatively simple steps of enhanced page management, the AMHA-USA member professional can add her own articles, her new groups and workshops, the marketing of her pamphlet or book, a demonstration of his skill as a public speaker, a sample of his new education tape on parenting skill, a copy of the electronic map to her office, a link to the best new article on the internet about improving a marriage .... to his/her very own personal page, all embedded within the network of interlocked sites and listings advertised nationally by AMHA-USA. And, the AMHA member can purchase and point a unique personal domain name to the enhanced page, allowing personalized local marketing in addition to the national, regional and chapter marketing efforts. For samples of what some members are beginning to do with their enhanced pages go to www.AmericanMentalHealth.com, click on the Therapist Locator button or links, look at the enhanced page for Charles Zadikow Psy.D. in New Jersey, or for Mary Kilburn Ph.D. in North Carolina, or find Mary Kilburn by entering http://drmarykilburn.com or http://www.psychologicalservices.info (these are two domain names she has purchased and pointed to her new page which she is learning to manage.

Look at: http://www.MichaeleDunlap.info and observe the numbers of different page features that I have created on my own enhanced page. Features pre-set to turn themselves on and off at certain dates. Including this article. Does it take a while to learn how to manage an enhanced web page on www.AmericanMentalHealth.com ? Yes. It it worth it? Yes.

But, what about the future?

Oh, yes, hereís my prediction. Not many years from now, youíll find a great quotation, or youíll plan a new group, or youíll read or write a good book, or make a new relaxation tape, or write a thoughtful paper, or change your office furniture, and, as casually as today you might call a colleague and share the information, you will post the quotation, information about the group, an e-mail form to register for it, the link to buy your book, the link to buy the other authorís book, a sample of the audio tape and a payment link to purchase copies, or the new interior picture of your office on your professional web page, which will be advertised on your business card, your office wall, at your professional listing on your professional associationís page, in the local Internet yellow pages, and on the Intranet of seventeen local businesses. And, then, of course, youíll want your own web site within www.AmericanMentalHealth.com so you have the flexibility to create a practice presence as multi-layered as http://or.americanmentalhealth.com.