How effective and safe are mental health apps for my clients?

There are 1000s of mental health apps. Because of massive online advertising campaigns, your clients are likely already exposed to apps. Thus it is important to be able to discuss their risks and benefits, even if you do not intend to recommend them.

A new study in JAMA Network Open in December 2022 assessed 578 mental health apps and found that most apps offer only basic psychoeducation, goal tracking, and mindfulness. Fewer offered innovative features such as biofeedback or specialized therapies like CBT for psychosis or others tailored for SMI. Of concern, only 15% provided any clinical evidence and most had privacy concerns about how they handled patient data.

In discussing apps with your clients, it can be useful to consider the APA app evaluation framework which offers free resources to frame a discussion around apps. You can also search for apps with which is what was used in the recent study and is based on the same APA framework.



Camacho E, Cohen A, Torous J. Assessment of Mental Health Services Available Through Smartphone Apps. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Dec 1;5(12):e2248784-. 

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