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NEWSLETTER

Is a mobile app as effective as a therapist?

After two months of feeling down and out, you haven't been able to eat or sleep soundly because of your negative outlook. Your family is concerned because you have lost interest in cooking and reading, both of which you used to like. The pandemic's stress has altered your schedule, and you're juggling distant work, childcare responsibilities, household administration, and the care of your ailing father. You attempted to contact a therapist, but after conducting a long web search, you discovered that the first available appointment was months away. Apps for mobile therapy were recommended by a friend, but do they work?

 

What is the conclusion of the research?

 
An app claims to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses without having to see a doctor or talk with other people about them. There's no need to wait, and anyone with a smartphone may get started right away. Many apps are free, in addition to being convenient. You might be right if something sounds too wonderful to be true.
 
According to a study that looked at randomized controlled trials of mobile app mental health interventions with nearly 50,000 patients, there was no "convincing evidence" that any mobile app intervention greatly improved outcomes related to people's anxiety, depression, smoking or drinking, thoughts of suicide, or feelings of well-being. While this is regrettable, it is possible that this is due to the study procedures, in which researchers combined interventions that were fundamentally different together. When the results of a short trial with a good effect are coupled with less effective therapies, the results may appear unhelpful.
 
When we believe in treatments, they work. Headspace is a very popular app for meditation, as compared to a sham version of the app (which includes guided breathing but without the active component of mindfulness). Both the active and sham versions of the intervention increased outcomes (critical thinking and mindfulness), suggesting that the active element may not be in the intervention component itself.
 
What about depression-computerized cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) programs? Researchers from the United Kingdom investigated the impact of the most popular CBT programs (Beating the Blues and MoodGYM) and found no improvement when compared to standard basic care.

 

What are we to make of these findings?

 
The study of the mental health effects of mobile apps is still in its early stages, but we will have more information in the next few years. Low-touch interventions, such as mobile apps, may be able to help you get through a difficult moment or, at the very least, raise your symptom awareness. Is it going to help you with your depression? Probably not, but if you believe in it, it might help.

 
Therapy can be enhanced with the use of mobile apps.

 
When considering the various types of psychotherapy available, it's noteworthy to note that they all produce equal levels of symptom relief. The most important factor in assisting patients in making progress is the relationship with the therapist. Therapy includes having a safe place to talk about your problems, seeing your worries confirmed in the eyes of another person, and creating a trusting relationship. A smartphone app eliminates the human element of a therapeutic connection, which is known to be a key component of therapy success. Mobile apps, on the other hand, can supplement therapy by providing symptom monitors, reminders, skill reinforcement, and community elements for setting goals and sharing progress.
 

When mobile apps aren't sufficient

 
Although mobile apps appear to be safe, there are a few reasons why you should investigate a certain program or refrain from using it completely. The first is privacy concerns: many apps are opaque about their security features, and less than half of depression-related mobile apps include a privacy policy. The second is treatment lag. Although mobile apps are becoming more promising and data-driven, they cannot yet replace the services of a skilled mental health clinician. If you have serious symptoms, you'll probably need more than a mobile app can offer: a proper diagnosis, a human relationship, and a personalized discussion about your treatment options.
 

How do you pick a decent mobile application?

 
With thousands of mental health applications accessible online, it may take some trial and error to discover one that works for you. Based on their research foundation, usability, security features, and my professional expertise, I recommend the following apps:
 
Calm is the word for mindfulness.
 
CBT-i Coach can help with insomnia.
 
PTSD Coach. is needed for individuals suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder.
 
COVID-related stress can be helped with COVID-coach

A DBT coach is a good resource for learning distress tolerance strategies.
 
CBT Thought Diary: For Managing Your Mood and Anxiety
 
THINC-it is a tool for keeping track of your mood and memory while also keeping your mind sharp.


 

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No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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