New apps designed as therapy tools to help the mentally ill

Published by adviser, Author: Alyssa Cirincione - Rocket Contributor, Date: October 4, 2012
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In a world where there is an app for just about everything, it is not much of a surprise that there are many smart phone applications that are designed to help people with mental health disorders.

According to an article from CNN.com, the apps are designed to help people cope with different health disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, bi-polar, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to psychology professor Dr. Linda Veronie, these smart phone tools are a great way to help get therapy treatments outside of a therapist’s office, but not meant to replace therapy all together.

“The apps are great adjuncts to good therapy, but none of them sound sophisticated enough to replace good therapy,” Veronie said.

Veronie explained that a lot of therapists give their patients homework assignments to practice what they talked about in therapy, helping patients to always be aware of how they are feeling. She said these apps would be a great way to record and keep track of those homework assignments.

“A lot of people don’t want to sit in a meeting or in class and pull out a notebook to write down what they’re thinking,” she said. “I think using an app to complete homework assignments is more discrete, so more people would be inclined to use it. So, instead of carrying a notebook they can just activate this app and record it in the moment meaningfully.”
Anxiety is one of the mental health disorders that Veronie said would benefit most from the apps.

“There are people who say ‘I’m always anxious,’ so those people could put a timer on these programs, in which the timer will go off randomly and they can report what they’re doing and how they’re feeling at that exact moment,” she said. “When patients play back what they recorded, they hear themselves saying, ‘I’m doing okay’ or ‘I can do this,’ and it helps them more to hear their own voice.”
Veronie also gave an example about how the apps would not be a good idea for some patients.

“If someone has schizophrenia, they are seeing and hearing things that don’t exist in the world, so I don’t think having a device talk to them would be terribly soothing,” she said.

According to the CNN article, even if people aren’t diagnosed with a mental illness, the apps can still benefit them from recognizing what triggers their bad moods or helping them to think in a more positive way.

Debi Lyons-Genovesi, a licensed clinical social worker from Cranberry, Pa. has been a therapist for 20 years. Genovesi stressed that the apps could be a good idea for some patients, but not for all.

“I think that if patients use the app by itself, it would not be a good thing,” Genovesi said. “Therapy is mainly feedback, [and] using the app alone is just a way to get more ideas in the patients’ heads without any feedback or progress.”
Genovesi explained that she doesn’t even want her patients to get information on their mental health disorder online, because a lot of online information can be misleading.

“I always tell my clients, ‘please don’t go online and research,’ [because] it’s too much unfiltered information and it can lead to getting wrong ideas in people’s heads,” she said.

Genovesi then stressed that she wouldn’t recommend the use of the app to just any patient because the use of the app will not have the same effect on everyone.

“An app like that could actually make people worse,” she said. “I would really have to know the client to know if that would work or not. OCD usually has an isolation issue and I’m afraid that would ignite that issue and they would think that they could use it on their own. You don’t want to encourage isolation or more ways to hide with what’s going on with patients. It’s hard for most people to even step into a therapist’s office, and people might not go because of these apps.”

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