There’s An App for That Too!

I recently read an interesting article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor magazine and was intrigued to learn that of the more than 13,600 iPhone health and fitness apps currently on the market, approximately 5% of those are mental health-related with the majority of them pertaining to stress, sleep, and smoking cessation.   These apps appear to be evolving to a point that they might enhance clinical practice to help bridge the time in between counseling sessions and to assist clients with taking increased action in improving their own mental health.

Most of these apps seem to work from a positive psychology perspective.  For example, the popular Live Happy app was inspired by Sonja Lyubormirsky’s research conducted in 2008.  Without endorsing any particular app, I find it a “cutting edge” phenomenon to have these apps available when engaging in therapy with students.  Although I have not yet utilized apps in my practice, I could see where a student might benefit from mood monitoring on his or her phone or tracking sleep hygiene practices or being guided through a breathing technique at a particularly stressful or anxious moment.  While these certainly will not take the place of a therapeutic relationship, I can appreciate how an app could augment the counseling experience.

If you find yourself with some down time this fall break and are interested in looking into a few counseling and psychology apps that are in the news, check these out—

  • The 3D Brain is a free iPhone and Droid app developed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Dolan DNA Learning Center. The app is an offshoot of the center’s website, “Genes to Cognition Online,” which promotes education around the genetic aspects of psychological disorders. In one of 9,000 reviews on iTunes, one psychologist wrote that he had used the app to show his client with post-traumatic stress disorder where his stress symptoms are coming from, commenting that the patient now “can see it instead of just hear it.”
  • Encyclopedia of Psychology is an educational guide to the basics of psychology, including pictures of the brain. It includes topics ranging from Freud to modern psychology. Developed by MedicMake, a medical development company, it complements the company’s other apps, such as the Human Muscle Encyclopedia and 3D apps of the brain, heart, digestive system, skeletal system and lungs. Available for $0.99 download from  iTunes.
  • iCounselor Anxiety, developed by Dustin Swede and social worker Barbara Lester, promotes cognitive behavioral therapy, with users rating their level of anxiety. The user then follows instructions for a calming activity and finding a way to change his or her thoughts. Also available for anger, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders. Available through iTunes for $0.99.



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