Smartphone apps serve as 'electronic therapist' for mental health patients

Mental health professionals are excited about a series of smartphone apps that can help them keep up with patients between therapy sessions and support patients when the therapist isn't around. "It gives me an additional source of rich information of what the patient's life is like between sessions," Dimitri Perivoliotis, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania who treats patients with schizophrenia, tells National Public Radio. "It's almost like an electronic therapist, in a way, or a therapist in your pocket."

One app, a product from Intel called Mobile Therapy, displays a "mood map" on the phone's screen several times a day. Users drag a red dot to show their current mood, and also can chart their energy level, sleep habits, diet and activities to provide a way of managing stress. Based on the information entered, the app can provide therapeutic exercises as a further antidote to stress.

The app's designer, clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret Morris, wrote in a recent issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research that test subjects were able to boost "self-awareness in moments of stress, develop insights about their emotional patterns and practice new strategies for modulating stress reactions."

Other apps have, at least in academic studies, shown promise in helping treat patients with severe depression and schizophrenia.

To learn more:
- check out this NPR story
- read Morris' paper in the Journal of Medical Internet Research

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