Should you trust therapy apps? | The Tylt

Should you trust therapy apps?

Most therapy apps have two goals: to increase access to qualified mental care and to reverse the stigma surrounding mental illness. If you have the opportunity to keep your therapist in your pocket, why wouldn't you? The opportunity for effective mental health apps is huge, but some worry the virtual nature of the apps could prevent worthwhile treatment. Would you trust a therapy app?

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According to Forbes' Ruth Umoh, therapy apps are posed to create a revolution in mental care:

The ubiquity of smartphones, coupled with the lessening of the stigma associated with mental health treatment have played a large role in the growing demand for virtual therapy. 

The convenience of therapy apps decreases the cost of care while also increasing access, a groundbreaking change for many patients:

“Each generation is getting progressively more mobile-native,” says John Prendergass, an associate director at Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ healthcare investment group, “so I think we’re going to see people become increasingly more accustomed, or predisposed, to a higher level of comfort in seeking care online.”

In conclusion, Umoh writes:

Virtual therapy apps can still be beneficial for people with low-level anxiety, stress or insomnia, and they can also help users become aware of harmful behaviors and obtain a higher sense of well-being. 
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Although therapy apps hold a lot of potential, critics say the apps could do more harm than good in life-threatening situations. One of the most popular therapy apps, TalkSpace , has been criticized for its patient-therapist anonymity policy, which can ultimately put patients and others in harms way. The Cut's Drake Baer reports: 

...Talkspace is anonymous; users have to volunteer emergency-contact info for therapists to be able to act on it. 

Baer paints a picture of what patient anonymity looks like in practice: 

...when clients would muse about committing suicide — “suicidal ideation” in the literature — the only instructions therapists reportedly received was to tell the client to call the suicide hotline, phone 911, or head to the hospital.

Having a credible virtual therapist can be life-changing for some, but the help offered by apps has an end-point that comes sooner than that of in-person care. In an app setting, most patients will find anonymity to be essential in order to protect their privacy, but when a patient puts themselves or others in danger, a therapist with no contact information for the patient cannot hope to be of service. As Baer puts it: "...it in the face of mortal danger, can a text message provide the care needed to help people through a crisis?"

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Although not all therapy apps are created equal, a report from the National Institute of Health shows mental health apps can help with a broad range of psychological disorders.

After seeking answers to the value and efficacy of therapy apps, NIH concludes they have "significant potential to deliver high-efficacy mental health interventions." 

Given the global shortage of psychiatrists and the lack of mental health care access in rural regions, apps have emerged as a viable tool to bridge the mental health treatment gap. Technology is well-poised to transform how mental health treatment is delivered and accessed, but this transformation requires the combined mobilization of science, regulation, and design.
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Although therapy apps can provide value in certain situations, some argue they should be used as a supplement to in-person care, rather than a replacement. 

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Should you trust therapy apps?
#LoveTherapyApps
A festive crown for the winner
#DontTrustTherapyApps