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Local psychologist uses new, high-tech gadgets to help patients in therapy


In questo articolo di Sylvie Belmond  su vediamo un esempio di come nuovi gadget tecnologici possono essere usati per aiutare i pazienti ad alleviare i disturbi di ansia e depressione.

A new patient sits anxiously in the office of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Jr., a Thousand Oaks-based clinical psychologist.

Uneasy about meeting the doctor for the first time, the woman’s eyes remain locked on the floor. She has an anxiety disorder that makes it hard for her to speak or even move sometimes, and she’s tuned out the world around her.

But Nicolosi has something to show the woman.

“Do you want to try it on?” he asks.

He’s referring to a Thync, a wearable device activated by a smartphone app that has the ability to lower a patient’s anxiety.

Although the sensation is unfamiliar, it’s not unwelcome.

The woman smiles, staring outside and noticing for the first time what a beautiful day it is. After 10 minutes of treatment, the doctor asks her how she feels.

“Better,” she says.

Nicolosi said new technology is changing the face of psychotherapy.

Virtual-reality goggles, wearable mood-altering technology and other high-tech gadgets can help patients cope with anxiety, depression and trauma, he says.

The 34-year-old doctor is a Westlake High School graduate who earned his master’s degree from California Lutheran University and attended the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Westwood. He earned his doctorate in 2009.

Nicolosi, who also practices in Encino, said the new technology helps his patients get the most out of their therapy sessions.

“I just love psychotherapy and integrating the technology,” he said. “I have a passion for helping people discover their potential and overcome difficulties that they weren’t able to overcome before.”

Anxiety and depression are leading psychoses, Nicolosi said.

People who are apprehensive about psychotherapy and looking for a different approach may find the high-tech methods intriguing and helpful.

Nicolosi said men, unlike women, are often opposed to receiving therapy. “But men like gizmos,” he said, “so the new technology may encourage them to give it a shot.”

Nicolosi Jr.’s specialty is trauma therapy, far different than his father, Joseph Nicolosi, who is a leader in the field of reparative therapy, the psychology of treating men who want to distance themselves from homosexual tendencies.

Nicolosi Jr. said his goal is not to change sexual tendency, but to help people work through the issues that trouble them.

Immersive therapy

Unlike his father, Nicolosi Jr. believes technology represents the new wave in psychotherapy.

A virtual-reality device called the Oculus Rift immerses patients in a simulated environment fraught with anxiety but without the risks.

“The perceived danger can be adjusted, allowing the patient to be exposed to a given situation in the safety of the therapist’s office,” Nicolosi said.

The Oculus Rift is primarily used in the gaming industry. The company that created it was recently acquired by Facebook. In psychotherapy, the device is used to mimic real-life situations confronted by patients.

Playing with brainwaves

Using an electromagnetic module attached to the forehead and connected to a smartphone, the Thync wearable mood-altering device emits neurosignals to help the wearer feel either calm or energetic, depending on their need.

The device is available to consumers, but Nicolosi is using an adaptation that makes the technology applicable to psychotherapy.

He said the device helps put patients at ease, allowing his therapy to delve deeper.

“Some people feel embarrassed to talk about certain things, but if they are in a calm state induced by Thync, that helps them to communicate more,” he said.

If a person is depressed or sad, the device’s electromagnetic impulses stimulate neural pathways that can assist mood elevation.

One of the doctor’s patients said he values the therapist’s approach to innovative treatment.

“I think it (technology) can’t replace talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. But it defi- nitely can assist as a tool to bring calming effects to clients and to help them achieve healing,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.

At first, the Thync device created a “weird sensation,” he said, “but overall it calmed down my inner distress.”

Changing minds

In addition to Thync, Nicolosi has employed an eye movement desensitization and reprocessing device in some sessions.

The therapy can help people overcome the effects of psychological trauma by changing the image associated with it, and bringing new emotions to light, he said.

The procedure replicates what happens when people are in deep sleep by allowing the subconscious to re-categorize bad memories so they no longer have a debilitating effect.

While other therapists move their fingers back and forth in front of a patient’s face and ask them to follow the hand gestures with their eyes as they recall a disturbing event, Nicolosi uses tactile stimulation with a handheld device to achieve the same effect.

While tech tools are useful, Nicolosi said, they should not replace traditional psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals.

To ensure the best possible outcome for patients with emotional and other psychosomatic conditions, the new devices should be used as an adjunct, not a substitute, he said.


Founded in 2011, Thync developed a wearable moodaltering device intended to enhance the lives of its users by optimizing their mental state.

The technology integrates neuroscience and consumer electronics and can improve one’s mental well-being without the need for chemicals or supplements, the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company says.

“We wanted to commercialize that so everyone can benefit,” said Jamie Tyler, the co-founder of Thync and an associate professor of biological and health systems engineering at Arizona State University.

Worn on the head for sessions up to 20 minutes and controlled by a smartphone app, Thync emits neurosignals to shift a person’s state of mind and foment energy, calm or focus.

It can help people cope with stress and stimulate energy. Like music or a coffee, it can lift a person’s mood.

It is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or medical condition, but about 80 percent of people tested responded positively to the vibe, Tyler said.

Thync uses energy levels within the normal range of brain activity and is approved by the FDA.

Think of it as a Bluetooth for the mind, Tyler said.

According to Scientific American magazine, transcranial stimulation has been shown to accelerate learning in military and civilian subjects, although researchers are wary of drawing larger conclusions.

The product went on the market in June and costs $300.

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Stefano Capasso

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