App toolbox to enhance anxiety disorder therapy

Help is literally at hand for people beset with severe anxiety disorders.

Griffith Health Institute researcher Bonnie Clough has developed a new iPhone app to make life easier for sufferers of anxiety disorders and depression.

Taking the latest in electronic technology into the sphere of psychology, the mobile therapeutic program called PsycAssist will provide coping strategies at difficult times.

It will also give patients greater capacity to complete exercises between therapy sessions.

“Compliance is a huge problem in psychology,” Ms Clough, a PhD candidate at the School of Applied Psychology at Mt Gravatt said.

“Getting patients to regularly complete the exercises asked of them before their next session is one of the major impediments to successful treatment.”

The app contains a suite of techniques developed with the patient’s therapist to act as a kind of toolbox. Use of these techniques becomes the homework assigned by the therapist or the emergency aid strategies developed and practised together.

“Having the exercises on the phone makes cognitive behaviour therapy more easily accessible and usable,” Ms Clough says.

“It also allows us to send out a little prompt to the patient if homework is not being done between face-to-face sessions.

“There’s also an audio file that can take them through the breathing exercises and help them get through the panic or the depression.”

The technology also provides strategies for people with serious anxiety disorders to cope during moments of heightened stress in between visits to the therapist.

“When the sufferer uses the app the data is recorded and sent to the therapist so they can analyse the relative success of the techniques.”

Collecting data in real time means the therapist has actual information in front of them when the patient next arrives for their appointment.

The mobile therapeutic program will be accessible through a smart phone application and available through Apple’s App Store once successful trials are completed.

Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology is seeking volunteers to take part in the trial, called ‘Facing the Fear’, which is supervised by Dr Leanne Casey.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of anxiety/depression and who is interested in taking part can find out more by emailing Bonnie Clough at [email protected]