Treating Depression with a Smartphone?

2015-0512 Smartphone apps 2

Excerpt of Article by Jessica Hullinger | The Week

In the U.S. alone, roughly 20 million people suffer from depression. Far too many of them don’t have access to proper mental health treatment.

Would it surprise you to know there’s an app for that? In fact, there are hundreds of apps aimed at helping people deal with depression and anxiety, and they’re being hailed by some mental health professionals as a way to spread otherwise-unavailable treatment to those in need. “There are a lot of problems with reaching people in rural and poor areas,” says Tchiki Davis, a PhD student studying psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Apps are a great way to reach people who aren’t currently getting services.”

Some “depression” apps are good, or at least mostly benign, offering guided meditation, tips for stress relief, and even uplifting daily quotes. But others dubiously claim to evaluate symptoms or provide advice on various depression medications. And as more of these tools flood the market, a question looms: Do they actually work? After all, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology or psychiatry to build and market a mobile app.

Researchers see an opportunity to create apps rooted in science, putting effective mobile therapy in the palms and pockets of the masses. Kathryn Noth is part of a team at Northwestern testing a new tool called IntelliCare, a suite of 12 apps, each focusing on a different skill or strategy proven effective for treating depression or anxiety in a therapy setting. For example, the “Daily Feats” app lets users track their daily achievements, while the “Worry Not” app uses worry management techniques to reduce anxiety. The suite comes with a ‘hub’ app that sends users encouragement and recommends specific apps based on a user’s symptoms and needs, just like a real therapist.”

To read the complete article written by Jessica Hullinger, click here.


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Thanks to Jessica Hullinger for writing the article; The Week for committing its resources to publishing the article; Google for helping me find the article, and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.


  1. I understand the devastation depression and/or anxiety can create in the lives of those suffering from it which is why I am curious and eager to learn about the apps created at North western that use strategies previously proven to be effective in combatting depression and anxiety.

    I agree that these apps could be an extra support, but definitely not a substitute for therapy. The more support we have, the more successful we are likely to be.

    1. When I want to try something different on the blog, I typically consult with a friend who knows considerably more about technology than I do. He tells me if I can think of a need, somebody has most likely already created a solution. The challenge is to find the existing solution rather than recreate one. My guess is that apps exist to do what you want. You simply need to find them. Even though solutions may exist, there is always an opportunity to make them better.

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