Do Mental Health Apps Really Work?
Therapists with open appointments have become scarce with the emergence of COVID-19; on the other hand, mental health applications are on the rise. During the pandemic, ORCHA, the Organization for the Review of Care and Health Apps, witnessed a 6,500% rise in healthcare professionals suggesting health technology to their patients. I'm sure you've seen commercials for iOS and Android apps like Headspace and Moodfit when scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, but what exactly are these applications? Is it true that they are effective in the treatment of mental illnesses?
Liying Wang, a clinical psychology graduate student at UW, has conducted extensive research on the topic.
“I would say the answer would differ depending on what kind of disorder this app is aiming to treat, and also the quality of the app, of course,” Wang said. “Right now, evidence is mixed.”
Current studies that focus on mental health apps are preliminary, Wang explained, and data on the long-term effects of supplementing in-person therapy with mobile applications, especially for severe mental health issues such as schizophrenia and psychosis, are still up in the air.
However, there are large amounts of promising data available.
“There are very promising results when it comes to using apps to treat just mood disorders like anxiety, depression, [and other] less severe ones,” Wang said.
It is also extremely important to consider the accessibility of therapy. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over 70 percent of people globally own smartphones. Mental health apps, which are available through a simple download, can close the gap between providers and those who are in need.
ORCHA’s CEO Liz Ashall-Payne believes there will be a great calling for mental health apps and other health technologies in the future.
“Today, there are nearly 400,000 digital health technologies. I think we're going to see a huge cull down to about 40/50,000. That will be driven by compliance so that high-quality technologies will be able to get to people easier than unsafe ones.”
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