Using technology to enhance counselling services at VVCS

VVCS wants to make sure that the needs of current and former serving personnel and their families are at the centre of decisions regarding how technology could be used to support face-to-face counselling.

Synergy is a new online technology developed through a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. It is an online system that can be tailored to an individual’s needs and connects them to a range of complementary apps and web-based interventions to support mental health and wellbeing.

VVCS is seeking community involvement in workshops designed to consider if this technology could be useful in supporting our clients in their recovery. It’s not designed to replace existing VVCS services, but for clients who enjoy using online technology, Synergy may offer access to useful, tailored online support that they can use with their VVCS counsellor as part of their treatment.

This new technology may provide an additional option for how our clients can interact with their counsellors and how they engage with their mental health treatments. The first step is to see if the technology is useful in the VVCS context, through a trial in our NSW region.

The first step - Participatory design workshops

To start the design process off, VVCS and the University of Sydney held a number of participatory design workshops with current and former serving personnel, their families, VVCS counsellors, ex-service organisation representatives and advocates, to help us explore ways of incorporating technology into VVCS’ services in a way that works for them. A big thank you to all who were involved in these workshops! VVCS wants to ensure that the needs of current and former serving personnel and their families are at the centre of decision making regarding how the Synergy technology could be used to support our service delivery, and you have contributed to this! By bringing together the voices of our clients, our counsellors and all of the people who will be potentially using our services, we will be in the best possible position to find ways that technology can support the counselling work we do with in the current and ex-service community.

This technology is not about replacing or reducing people’s access to direct counselling or face-to-face contact with our counsellors. Rather, it is about working with our current and former service personnel and their families to learn how to better reach and support them.

The participatory design workshops enabled VVCS to actively engage with our community to determine what online services are useful and could meet recovery needs.

Next steps

The participatory design workshops are just the beginning of exploring how we can use technology to support our face-to-face counselling work. There are multiple phases and many opportunities for getting involved and for making sure your voice is heard and represented. Please keep an eye on our social media pages over the coming months for more opportunities to participate.

FAQ

What exactly is Synergy?

Synergy is the name of a new online technology developed through a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. Its ongoing development and trialling in new cohorts is supported by the Australian Government.

The technology was developed and trialled for over three years with young people experiencing mental health issues, and is now being trialled in a range of other populations, including with current and former serving personnel and their families, through VVCS.

Synergy is an online system that connects to a range of complementary apps and web-based interventions that individuals and counsellors can use to support mental health and wellbeing.

Why is VVCS trying to use this new technology?

VVCS is always looking to improve the way that we deliver services to meet the diverse needs of our clients, and to promote the best possible outcomes from our counselling services. We are open to learning about the way that our clients use technology, and seeing if this technology can support good mental health and wellbeing. This trial is a good opportunity to see how technology might be incorporated meaningfully into our services.

This technology is not designed to replace our clients’ direct contact with counsellors, but to provide options for how our clients want to interact with their counsellors and how they want to engage with their mental health treatments.