- Rise of Digital Mental Health Interventions
- Promising Solution for OCD Treatment
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD
- Challenges in Accessing In-Person Treatment
- Importance of Digital Interventions During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Effectiveness of Internet- and App-Based Treatments
- Empirically Supported OCD Apps
- Proceed with Caution
- Promising Future for Digital Interventions in Mental Health Care
Rise of Digital Mental Health Interventions
We’ve all wished at times that we could have a therapist in our pockets. Digital mental health interventions are bringing us closer to making this a reality. The development of digital health interventions— that is, psychotherapeutic interventions that are delivered over the Internet or with a smartphone app, with or without human support and guidance— has risen dramatically over the past few years.
Promising Solution for OCD Treatment
Digital programs are publicly available to help users cope with a wide range of mental and behavioral health issues, from depression to insomnia to work-related stress. Digital interventions show particular promise for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder characterized by repetitive, distressing intrusive thoughts (i.e., obsessions) that prompt physical or mental behaviors (i.e., compulsions) intended to alleviate that distress.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard psychotherapy for OCD, has been shown to be highly effective in clinical trials. CBT for OCD consists of psychoeducation, exposure and response prevention (ERP, where the patient is encouraged to face situations that trigger their obsessions while refraining from performing their compulsions), and relapse prevention.
Challenges in Accessing In-Person Treatment
However, not all individuals with OCD receive treatment from trained mental health care providers, and even when they do, not all patients respond to treatment. High-quality in-person treatment can also be complicated by high cost, limited insurance coverage, stigma, and logistical difficulties (e.g., transportation). Therefore, digital mental health interventions can be a promising solution to help make treatment more easily accessible.
Importance of Digital Interventions During COVID-19 Pandemic
Digital interventions have become especially critical after the COVID-19 pandemic, during which access to in-person therapy became more challenging while the severity of mental health symptoms worsened. Since 2020, teletherapy has risen in popularity and helped to reduce clinician burden while increasing patient access to care.
Effectiveness of Internet- and App-Based Treatments
Internet- and app-based treatments have the potential to address a higher number of treatment barriers and can be used with limited clinician support. Internet-based CBT (iCBT) has been supported in multiple studies as an effective and practical alternative to face-to-face therapy. Similarly, there have been app-based digital interventions for OCD that show exciting results.
Empirically Supported OCD Apps
There are numerous OCD apps that are available for download from both Apple and Android app stores. Some options that have been shown through empirical research studies to be helpful in reducing OCD symptoms include LiveOCDFree, OCFree, and GGtude.
Proceed with Caution
Of note, it is important to proceed with caution when recommending specific apps to your patients, as many available apps have little or no empirical support (even some that profess to be CBT-based).
Promising Future for Digital Interventions in Mental Health Care
Overall, although there is still a long way to go in terms of development, research, and dissemination of empirically supported digital interventions, there is increased hope that they will be an integral part of mental health care in the near future.