Psychologists are developing digital
applications to help patients and colleagues.
BY ANNA MILLER • Monitor staff
Just four hours after the PTSD Coach app was released to the public, a distressed veteran called the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ crisis line
because, he said, “my phone told me to call.” The call
led to an appointment, and the next day, the vet received
mental health care at his local VA.
The app has the potential “to really change the course
of someone’s day or life,” says Julia Hoffman, PsyD, a
clinical psychologist and mobile applications lead at the
VA’s National Center for PTSD, where it was developed
in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s
National Center for Telehealth and Technology.
Hoffman is one of many psychologists developing
apps as a way to circumvent barriers to mental health
care, and bridge gaps in it, by putting psychology directly
into people’s palms.
PTSD Coach, for example, targets an important
audience because stigma and logistical issues often
prevent veterans, service people and civilians dealing
with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from
receiving care, Hoffman says. The free app was launched
in 2011 and as of January, had been downloaded 135,000
times in 78 countries. It also provides educational
resources about PTSD, tools to assess symptoms and
hundreds of “bite-sized” evidence-based cognitive
and behavioral interventions, such as deep-breathing
exercises and guidance on positive self-talk, to help users
manage their symptoms.
“We don’t see apps as a way to replace treatment,
but for those who may be reluctant consumers, this
may provide a step into care and something in place of
nothing,” Hoffman says.
Here’s a look at five other smartphone applications
that can help you and your clients.
CBT*ABC way: Cognitive-behavioral
therapy apps in Spanish and English
Available on i Tunes, $6.99
San Jose, Calif., clinical psychologist Yvette Tazeau,
PhD, designed her app, CBT*ABC way, after noticing
parents and children tapping on iPhones and tablets in
her waiting room but putting them away as soon as they
entered the therapy room.
“I was plugging away using traditional books,
workbooks and thought records, and it dawned on me …
why don’t we put those two things together?” Tazeau says.
So, Tazeau teamed with a computer programmer and
a graphic designer to create a series of apps for children