How viable are digital therapies in treating mental health issues

As treatment methods for mental health illness are evolving by the day, the foray of digital technology in this direction isn’t surprising. Currently, there are many apps such as Code Blue, Breathe2Relax and Lantern, which use the easy accessibility of the mobile platform to help people find a solution for their mental health issues. Some of these apps, such as the PTSD Coach, also provides the facility to store contacts, find treatment programs in the vicinity and contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in case there is an urgency.

There has been an upsurge of mental health issues in people in recent times, particularly anxiety and depression, the two most predominant mental health disorders. Unfortunately, the number of people seeking help for their psychological ailments has remained stagnant. Despite numerous public awareness campaigns about mental illness and substance abuse—highlighting the need for treatment for them— many people are still ashamed of opening up about their mental health problems. It is for the same reason that patients are unwilling to approach a psychiatrist. Moreover, the burden of a mental health illness is such that one could find it difficult to get out of bed each morning, leave alone approach a psychiatrist.

Woebot is the latest in the line of digital tools for tackling mental health issues such as depression. Developed by Alison Darcy, clinical psychologist, Stanford University, this app is based on the premise of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which encourages people to examine how they are reacting to situations and whether their reactions are maladaptive or not. However, Darcy cautions that Woebot is not a substitute for clinical help and unlike other apps such as PTSD Coach will not help the user find psychological help in his vicinity.

How the app works

The app tackles distorted thinking such as “my life is senseless”, by encouraging the user to rewrite the text in a way so as to make it more objective. This is also the main purpose of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is to provide feedback about the form of thinking.

For an isolated individual, this app could be a delight, as it gives the feeling of chatting with someone on a lonely day, when all the roads seem closed. The app relieves the user of his anxiety or depression in sessions that resemble games. As a user expressed, “it felt more like a game in which each interaction provided a small kernel of wisdom that Woebot remembered and stored for later.”

Another advantage of Woebot is that it can be used at any given time. While one could be wary of approaching their therapist at odd hours, there is no such problem with Woebot. In case one feels the need for some sound advice, they could simply tap into their smartphone.

Although, Woebot and other such apps may have many advantages, yet these cannot replace the personal interactions with a psychiatrist, who can easily keep track of each emotion or facial twitch of a patient. In an app, the text a patient keys in might belie what the person could be feeling or stating. In addition, intimate therapies help in uprooting deep traumatic secrets that could be the cause of the mental ailment.

Road ahead

Depression is one of the most disabling mental health disorders prevalent in the world today. Several lives are lost, as diagnosis and action do not happen on a timely basis.

It must be kept in mind that depression is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a mental instability. It is an illness that can be treated through timely intervention. Thus, it is important to identify the symptoms and take action accordingly. At the Depression Treatment Helpline, we can help you find depression treatment centers and residential programs for depression that are instrumental in providing treatment plans for depression. If you or someone you know is grappling with depression and is in need of effective treatment plan for depression, call our 24/7 helpline (866) 619-7729 or chat online for the best advice.