Mental Health Apps Help Bridge The Time Between Therapy Sessions.
Millions of Americans are in counseling for depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Usually, these patients are able to see their mental health professional once a week or a few times a month. To better assist patients in between their sessions, mental health professionals and tech gurus are pairing up to create mobile phone applications as an addition to one-on-one therapy.
Health-related applications and text message services have been available for years, providing users with exercise tips, reminders and much needed motivation. Some have been specifically designed for new parents, diabetes sufferers and those trying to quit smoking. At the same time, therapists and counselors providing cognitive behavioral therapy often assign “homework” to their patients during regular therapy sessions. These worksheets or suggested readings are time consuming and tedious for many dealing with mental health issues regardless of age or disorder.
Teenagers, especially, have traditionally ignored these assignments or lost them completely. Combining the convenience and comfort of mobile phones with simple exercises that can help to reduce triggers or symptoms, mental health professionals around the world are utilizing mobile applications in their patient’s treatment.
Many of these mobile apps are still in development, and aim to serve a variety of purposes, including mood tracking. This would involve an alarm going off at a certain time of the day, reminding the person to indicate their current mood levels from happy to sad or calm to anxious. A print out can be created each week and either brought to the appointment or sent directly to the mental health practitioner. Some of these apps also provide breathing exercises, guided meditations or even music to induce relaxation if these self-assessments show a high level of distress.
More traditional homework is also included in these programs. If, for instance, a patient is wracked with social anxiety, their homework for one week may be to meet three strangers. Once they have completed this task, the next assignment will be made available – allowing them to take the next step in their treatment. Initial studies have shown positive results for adults with anxiety and stress disorders and even for those with schizophrenia.
One of the most immediate benefits of these programs is the simple design and convenience. Most people check their cell phones during much of the day, and are able to access programs like this through smart phones or texting services with ease. Rather than providing a tracking sheet that will get crumpled in the bottom of a purse or backpack, these put help right where it’s needed – in the hands of patients.
Above all else though, the professionals in the field of psychiatry and mental health hope that these mobile apps for therapists can help patients develop a new level of awareness surrounding their emotions and triggers for their symptoms. In partnership with a therapy (and/or medication) program, these apps help patients to feel in control of their lives and their overall health.