Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online - Chapter 1

The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online

Chapter 1: Why and How to Look Online

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Chapter 1 | Book Home

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As a professional, you no doubt find the demands on your time are increasing. Managed care is loudly knocking on clinicians’ doors. Universities are demanding more of faculty but offering less. Grant funding through federal government agencies is drying up. You have probably never worked harder and longer for less money. So it’s no surprise that professionals are looking to maximize the value of the limited time they can spend online. There’s no time to become familiar with this new landscape and use it effectively in your day-to-day job. Furthermore, you’ve probably heard many different things about getting online, including: “I hear of people getting online and simply getting lost!”; “Why should I waste my time?”; “I’ve heard it can be frustrating and expensive.”

It is easy to get lost online if you don’t know where to look for information. In this book, I show you where to go to find what you need professionally. It takes an immense amount of time to discover what’s available and where to find it online. I have already done that—with you, the professional, in mind. Out of the myriad resources available online, how do you know what is good and worth your professional time? In this book, I give you my assessments of quality and rate each online resource. With these tools in hand, you can choose your best bet, rather than having to stumble upon it.


WHAT’S AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR YOU?

How can online resources help you, the mental health professional? Communication and convenience are two significant assets. Communication with other professionals—not just across the nation, but across the world—is quick, easy, and cheap online. E-mail (electronic mail) allows this, providing greater collaborative possibilities for research and clinical case consultation. For example, clinicians or researchers working alone or in remote or rural areas can now present difficult or challenging cases to their international colleagues to get useful feedback on treatment approaches. Questions about new medications coming on the market can be answered by experts within the psychopharmacology field who maintain Internet mailing lists. E-mail and mailing lists are described in greater depth later in this chapter.

While communication is the key to many professionals’ choosing to get online, increased convenience in accessing information resources is often the reason professionals stay. Most academics and clinicians cannot access databases such as MEDLINE or PsycINFO without making a trip to the university library. But such databases are easily accessible online and, in some cases, free. Not everyone has a copy of the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) ready to hand. Resources similar to the PDR are available online. Indepth clinical and research articles and references, which summarize the major treatment approaches and latest research developments for any given disorder, can be browsed online. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic codes and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) definitions of mental disorders are available at your fingertips online. Going online gives you access to all kinds of information easily and conveniently. How many libraries are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?

As a clinician online, you will be able to consult on difficult cases; learn about new theories, therapies, methods, and assessment measures; and talk to colleagues with similar therapeutic interests around the world. As a researcher, you can collaborate with other researchers on the same study much easier than in the past, with the use of e-mail and the World Wide Web. New information can often be obtained more easily online, through news resources, current tables of contents for relevant journals, and databases (see Chapters 3, 7, and 9). The Web offers connections to such information, research and medical databases, and many similar resources. And because the entire Web is searchable, finding all of this information is much easier than you might think. Journal articles will sometimesbe available by subscription, as well as news updates through a professional organization’s Web site. Continuing education calendars are available online, and some online continuing education courses allow you to take courses at your leisure, and at greatly reduced costs (Chapter 5). You can find professional employment opportunities online (Chapter 4), discover the wealth of psychological software available (Chapter 10), and obtain patient education resources and materials (Chapters 12, 13, and 14).

WHAT’S NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE (YET)

When I first wrote this book in 1996, a great deal of information was not yet available online. Much has changed since then, with some journal publishers embracing the Internet and allowing subscribers online access to articles. Although it is not clear that the vast majority of older journal articles will ever make it online, those published in the past few years and those published currently often have electronic versions available. Some journals provide online access to their articles as a part of their base subscription fee, and others charge extra for such access. Initiatives such as the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central provides an online, free public archive of life science journal articles, some dating back to 1994 (see http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/). Notably absent from this archive, however, are psychology, social work, and psychiatry journals.\However, such archives have the potential to provide a rich array of readily available, free scientific articles to consume. One of the world’s largest medical databases is freely available online (MEDLINE). What many mental health professionals don’t realize is that it includes most of the larger and better-known social science and psychological journal abstracts. So although proprietary, commercial databases such as the American Psychological Association’s PsycINFO are also available online for the right cost (if you cannot obtain access through a local university’s library), many times the free MEDLINE database will suffice forquick literature searches.


ABOUT THIS BOOK

Throughout this book I highlight not only the key resources but also some
of the lesser-known corners of the online world, to give you the insider’s
perspective to what is available online. The book is arranged into three major
parts. This first part orients you to the online world and shows you how
to make it work for you. It gives advice on formulating questions that get
useful results, and where best to look for the answers. I also offer a step-bystep
search strategy. The second part addresses the specific topics professionals
are likely to want more information about. These topics range from
how to find a job to where to look for cognitive therapy resources. If what
you are looking for is not specifically covered in Part II, the tools and resources
described in Part I and throughout the book should enable you to
find it. The third part helps clinicians help their clients find online resources
for patient education and self-help.

Appendix A offers a glossary of terms used throughout this book.
There are many books about the Internet that devote entire chapters to the
basics of getting online and the differences between online commercial service
providers. I believe these are useful things to know, but I do not spend a
lot of time covering them. For more information, I refer the reader to the
publications in Appendix B. See Appendix C for a brief guide to getting online.
Appendix D discusses how to create a simple World Wide Web page of
your own.


If you’re new to the whole online world, I suggest you read Appendix C
first, get online successfully, and then continue with the rest of this book.
Specific information about the minimal computer requirements for making
the most out of online resources is discussed in the accompanying box as
well as in Appendix C. The key to accessing online resources is not the computer
you use, but the speed of your connection to the online world. While
I try to be as non–computer specific and unbiased as possible throughout
the book, I conduct all of my work online with an IBM-PC compatible computer.
Where appropriate, I make reference to software that is computer spe-
cific. One of the nicest advantages to the online world, though, is that it really
doesn’t matter what kind of computer or operating system you use to access
it. The online resources will generally work and look the same. The next
part of this chapter gives a basic orientation to the important areas in the online
world: e-mail, newsgroups, the World Wide Web, and search engines.
If you already know about each of these, you might want to skip ahead. But
don’t skip the “Security Online” section that ends this chapter.


While I have gone to great pains to ensure the timeliness and accuracy
of all the resources listed throughout the book, electronic addresses do
change from time to time. Please check out the book’s Web site (http://
www.insidemh.com/) for updates.




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Last updated: 24 May 2005
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 May 2005
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.