Sue Wenze, Lafayette College – Addressing Mental Health Issues with Technology

Can technology help us with our mental health?

Sue Wenze, assistant professor of psychology at Lafayette College, describes how the internet can help remove barriers to treatment for some patients.

Susan Wenze is an assistant professor of psychology at Lafayette College. Her research interests center on cognitive and emotional processing in mood disorders, ecological momentary assessment paradigms, and the development of ecological momentary interventions to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and mood symptoms.

She holds a Ph.D. from American University.

Addressing Mental Health Issues with Technology

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Even if a person coping with a mental health issue recognizes that they need help, there might be something standing in the way of their getting treatment. They might not be able to travel or pay for in-person appointments, or they may be reluctant to seek treatment due to stigma or other concerns. Research suggests that technology can help extend and enhance the benefits of in-person therapy. Ecological momentary interventions – or EMIs – use smartphones and other technology to provide real-time, additional support. EMIs can prompt clients to practice new skills, provide tailored reminders and resources, and intervene before problematic behaviors occur.

Some of my earlier research shows that smartphone-assisted interventions may help encourage people with bipolar disorder to follow through with their treatment. People with bipolar disorder often don’t adhere to prescribed treatments and may miss taking medication and attending in-person sessions. Participants were very satisfied with the program. And several key outcomes occurred during the study period—for example: insight increased and missed medication doses decreased.

Internet interventions also have the potential to be useful in other populations. For example, they may be helpful for supporting the mental health of parents of twins and other multiples in the early postpartum period. This is a population with elevated mental health concerns and desire for treatment, but low levels of actually receiving care. This population also experiences some unique logistical barriers, such as serious time and financial strain, unpredictable schedules, and elevated levels of perinatal health complications. Coupled with the fact that parents of multiples express high interest in technology-assisted treatments, EMIs could be an effective way to support their mental health.

 

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