The Case for Decentralized Psychology – DePsy

One of my many interests in life is the world of finance. While many people’s eyes gloss over as soon the talk of money comes up, I love personal finance, economics, and understanding the complex and creative ways in which money makes the world go around. 

One of the biggest disruptions in the finance world in recent years has been the concept of DeFi, decentralized finance. Powered by blockchain technology, which underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, decentralized finance is based around the idea of not depending on a specific bank or central institution to conduct transactions. 

In DeFi, it’s the multiplicity of players in the system that provide the security necessary to complete financial transactions –  instead of a record of how much money you have in your bank account being stored in an underground vault, it’s publicly shared on multiple computers, which prevents someone from just editing a new number in there: it won’t match the record on all the other computers, and the attempt will fail. 

The benefits of DeFi are actually somewhat controversial and not clear-cut, but at their root a key theme is democratization. Giving people access to financial resources they didn’t have before, whether that’s access to banking for rural villages, or investment opportunities previously only available for the rich kids. 

Many proponents of DeFi are idealistic, wresting power from a few key players at the top of the food chain and restoring it to the common man. Along the way, they hope to reduce costs, increase yields, and benefit society as a whole. 

Decentralization is not without its challenges – there are issues with privacy, as the data is not kept locked away. And various vulnerabilities have been exploited to allow hackers to make away with large some of other people’s money. These issues are at the forefront of concern as the fledgling Web3 industry, as it’s called, continues to innovate in the space.

From DeFi to DePsy

I propose we borrow some of these concepts from the world of DeFi, and bring it to the world of mental health. I’m calling it DePsy, decentralized psychology. 

Similar to finance, accessibility to mental health resources is a huge issue for many people. In the US, there’s a good chance you have a bank account (although 14 million people don’t), but you may very well not be able to afford regular therapy. 

A key part of the solution, I believe, is decentralization. No longer can we rely on centralized therapists who have years of training, and fees to match. Many of them are good, but there aren’t enough of them, and too many people can’t afford them. 

I propose a network of people, each able to provide emotional support to each other. This is literally a Peer to Peer network, to borrow another technology term. People helping each other in a mutually beneficial way, which would reduce costs almost to zero. 

Of course, there would need to be some training involved, to allow the peers to do a decent job. This is akin to installing a torrent client or mining software, if we’d continue with our metaphor. There are hoops to jump through, technical requirements to put into place. 

A Peer to Peer Vision

Imagine a three part course where like-minded people learn the basics of hypnotherapy, actively practicing with each other, gaining practical experience as both facilitators and clients. As usual, if we focus on the 80/20 principle, you can bring people to 80% effectiveness in a fraction of the time. 

Then, they self-organize into self-sustaining support groups, using discord for example, to stay organized. Buddhist Geeks has a similar structure for individuals to organize meditation meetups. Imagine meeting weekly with a peer to process the emotional challenges that have come up that week, or to systemically tackle a bigger issue you’re facing. Later that same week, you switch roles, taking on the role of facilitator for that same friend or someone else in the network. 

Over time, you gain more experience. You see what works and what doesn’t work. You reach out to an experienced mentor if you have questions. Feedback is collected and bad actors are filtered out. And the community lifts itself. 

Embracing “Good Enough”

It won’t be perfect, I can tell you that now. Some people will be better facilitators than others. Issues and individuals will emerge that are beyond the scope of a layperson. Similar to the challenges posed by DeFi, there may be issues regarding confidentiality, and people gaining access, in this case emotional and behavioral access, to people they shouldn’t. 

But overall, I believe it will result in a net-benefit for humanity. More good than harm will come of it, and just as the DeFi world continues to innovate better solutions, often through hard earned-lessons, the same can, and will, occur here. 

Let’s welcome in the age of DePsy. Because mental health is too important to be limited to experts, and as humans we are social animals that have always relied on the collective to support our physical and emotional wellbeing. 

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