|"Apps are increasingly being used to support CBT-based interventions for mental health problems. Phil Topham describes the first steps in a project to develop an app to provide self-help for social anxiety"|
Personally, I hope that the future is not ‘appy’ but I can appreciate that mental health apps might have their uses: for one thing, they save money and people want the flexibility of having access to help anywhere and any time. In the States, where the term ‘therappy’ has been coined, mental health apps are also known as ‘therapist extensions’!
Phil Topham describes his involvement in the development of an app to help students with social anxiety in learning situations. In this design, the app would complement face-to-face work, although it could also be used for students who might not choose to access counselling anyway. But Phil stresses that, while we know that the therapist/client relationship is a crucial part of effective therapy, we don’t yet know enough about what happens to people psychologically when they switch on their computer or mobile phone to access an app. While apps are well suited to task-based therapy, he suggests, they don’t have the capacity to recreate the interpersonal elements of counselling or psychotherapy.
We also report on the much criticised draft of DSM-5, due to be published by the American Psychiatric Association next year. Nearly 13,000 people have signed an online petition arguing that the latest revision applies psychiatric diagnoses to an even greater number of what could be considered normal human behaviours and emotions. For example, the draft DSM-5 includes ‘arguing with adults’ and being ‘spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past six months’ among the symptoms for the new diagnosis of ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’. Child psychiatrist Sami Timimi calls these diagnoses ‘iatrogenic abuse’ because of the absence of any scientific basis for the highly toxic treatments that a psychiatric diagnosis permits doctors to prescribe to young children. He has launched a campaign against all such ‘psychiatric labels’ on grounds that: ‘The idea that we can come up with technical solutions to people’s problems is crazy. The problems we deal with are relational, not technical. That is where the solution lies.’