How to Use Apps in Psychotherapy
There are MANY uses for Apps, but if you are brand new to using Apps in therapy, start by considering what you already use and see if there is a cross over product. The best way to start using Apps in therapy is to find ways to use an App to do what you already recommend to clients. Make sure that the recommendation fits the therapeutic goals of the client and the client has a clear rational for using it. I tend to frame this as an “experiment” to gather more information for a few days. Clients, unless they are compulsive, usually wane in compliance after a few few days anyway, so suggest they collect for a few days and save the information for the next meeting.
Have you ever had a client that could use a little more self-awareness? Ever wish you could collect more information to understand the extent of the client’s issue or help the client identify patterns? Does your client wonder if the medication really making a difference? Of course, the answer is “Yes” to all of these. Collecting information is one of the most basic (and easy) uses for Apps. Asking your client to log the “moment,” or collect information at different prescribed intervals could bring in valuable data into therapy. Imagine a client brining in a completed chart of the targeted emotions or behaviors and corresponding notes for those times.
A cautionary note on intervention Apps. Make sure that you are comfortable with the developer and material in the App. The FDA is working on regulations to monitor and regulate Apps that are relied upon for clinical decision-making and interventions. Until Apps are regulated, counselors should treat Apps like they would a self-help book and ensure that the materials are sound and appropriate to the client. There are a lot of Apps on the market that are simply entertaining or poorly done. So take a moment and try out an App and test it before you recommend it.
Once you are ready to recommend an App for therapy, take a moment and walk through using the app in session. This will help the client clearly understand what is expected and help the therapist identify any client’s limitations. Be clear on the expectations for use and the worth of the material gathered. Focus on the material rather than the technology. Keep the time interval for the App use short. Make sure the client is comfortable with the user agreement for the App. Do not have them email the results or post them on social media sites that are not HIPAA compliant.
The App will not replace the therapist, as many in mental health fear. We are not working towards the counselor saying “Take two Apps and call me next week.” Apps, like assessments, self-help materials and worksheets, serve as enhancements to the therapy process. Uses of Apps in therapy are as individual as the therapy session. Experiment with some of the Apps and post some feedback on your experiences.