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Therapy apps have grown in popularity in recent years as a method for consumers to get inexpensive mental health support from the comfort of their own homes. However, according to a recent study by researchers Camacho, Cohen, and Torous, published in JAMA Network Open, many therapy apps provide nothing more than the basic functions of psychoeducation, goal monitoring, or mindfulness. Despite the growing number of companies making promises that their product is the best or one of the “best mental health apps,” few offer innovative solutions for those struggling with mental health conditions. 

Researchers assessed the quality and safety of treatment apps across six categories: app origin and accessibility, privacy and security, clinical foundation, features and engagement, inputs and outputs, and interoperability. For evaluation, apps were entered into the American Psychiatric Association’s app rating system called the M-Health Index and Navigation Database (MIND). The raters examined these criteria: the existence of a privacy policy, disclosing security measures in place, declaring data usage and purpose, permitting data deletion, and allowing users to opt out of data gathering. The researchers trained 10 raters who were college students, medical students, and research assistants. Raters underwent a 4-hour interrater reliability training and entered their answers to the 105 MIND questions for each app.

Understanding the Features of Therapy Apps

The study’s results give insight into the present status of some of the best therapy apps. These are the discrete functions identified:

  • 41% psychoeducation
  • 38% goal setting/habit 
  • 38% mindfulness 
  • 2% Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • 1% biofeedback and sensor data 

Common App Inputs

  • Surveys (45%)
  • Diary entries (34%)
  • Microphones (21%)

Common App Outputs

  • Notifications (68%)
  • Data summaries (61%)
  • References and information (50%)

Other findings of this study included the following:

  • Twenty-two unique features related to therapeutics were identified among the apps.
  • Additionally, only 30% of apps allowed users to email or export their data, and only 2%…

From Telebehavioral Health Institute – Read More

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