We are using the technology that is already in your pocket to create a completely new medium for psychotherapeutic intervention. You can have therapy with you and accessible to you whenever and wherever you have the need, potentially anywhere in the world.”
Ben-Zeev hopes that four papers now available online will encourage further discussion and research into the potential role of smartphones and cell phones in mental health services. In tandem with the research, Ben-Zeev is working with community agencies, rehab centers, and with people who are currently receiving clinical services.
The future of psychotherapy is the center of attention at the new Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies. The center’s researchers are developing concepts that bypass traditional therapy sessions to help treat depression and other mood disorders. They hope that their visionary technologies, including a virtual “therapist in your pocket,” will provide instant and much more widely available support.
We’re inventing new ways technology can help people with mental health problems. The potential to reduce or even prevent depression is enormous. These new approaches could offer fundamentally new treatment options to people who are unable to access traditional services or who are uncomfortable with standard psychotherapy. They also can be offered at significantly lower costs, which makes them more viable in an era of limited resources.”
— David Mohr, director, Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the center also has plans for a virtual human therapist designed to help prevent depression in teens, a medicine bottle that tells people when to take their antidepressant medication and can help ensure they are getting the correct dosage, and an online social network for survivors of cancer. The researchers intend to make the center a national resource, complete with a library of intervention technologies available for use by other scientists.