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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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New Therapy Apps Offer Psychological Help

New therapy apps for smartphones can help reduce anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems.

Researchers have developed new mobile phone applications to offer therapy for relieving common psychological problems. The new apps, referred to as Therapy Apps, offer psychotherapy on the go, making them accessible anytime and anywhere.

While the apps may not offer the same resources as traditional therapy, the well-designed ones could successfully reach a wide range of people who lack the means to attend a therapy session. They use an approach called cognitive bias modification, which seeks to remove bad habits by manipulating people's perceptions.

The apps help a variety of problems, including coping with anxiety, depression, managing stress, quitting smoking, detecting relapses in psychotic disorders, and improving overall mental health. The mobile technologies encourage users to keep track of their feelings and experiences, which could aid psychologists in diagnosing different psychological problems.

While the apps may not substitute a visit to a professional, they do help review emotional patterns. For example, one app asks people to input data about their mood throughout various times of the day, which can later be graphed, printed, and reviewed.

Some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of the new therapy apps. "That is what makes the idea so promising. But there are big questions about how it could work, and how robust the effect really is," Harvard psychologist Richard McNally said after conducting a study on the success of a therapeutic smartphone app.

Many similar studies have taken place at universities across the U.S., with highly mixed results. Some people showed a positive response to the mobile applications, while others were not affected.

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