Mobile “mHealth” Interventions in Mental Health Care

Published October 2021

The Psychiatric Services Editor’s Choice provides essential curated collections from recent issues of Psychiatric Services.  Each month, Editor Lisa Dixon and the Early Career Psychiatrist Advisory Committee offer a curated collection from the rich resource of articles published in the journal. Updates will focus on one area, summarizing for the researcher, clinician, and policy analyst the latest information and seminal research with links to specific content from Psychiatric Services.

Mobile health or “mHealth” interventions using text messaging, apps, and websites have the potential to reduce barriers to mental health care, including difficulties navigating, accessing, and engaging in services. While evidence supports the feasibility and acceptability of these interventions in mental health treatment, continued research is needed to evaluate their efficacy and implementation, both as stand-alone interventions and to augment traditional services. There is a risk that mHealth innovation could inadvertently marginalize vulnerable populations that already face difficulties accessing needed treatment, including people experiencing poverty or lacking digital literacy skills. Codesign of interventions with people with lived experience can help ensure that mHealth interventions meet the needs of the populations they intend to support.

This collection examines innovative mHealth interventions that are changing mental health care. The first section highlights some of the latest mobile apps that have been evaluated in the journal. The next section presents articles that describe challenges that may arise in mHealth intervention implementation. The final section discusses the future of mHealth interventions, their efficacy, and their anticipated role in enhancing accessibility to mental health services.

Please note that not all articles in this curated collection are available without a subscription. For access, learn about subscribing to Psychiatric Services.


Mobile Health (mHealth) Versus Clinic-Based Group Intervention for People With Serious Mental Illness: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Rachel M. Brian, M.P.H., Geneva Jonathan, B.A., Lisa Razzano, Ph.D., C.P.R.P., Nicole Pashka, M.S., Elizabeth Carpenter-Song, Ph.D., Robert E. Drake, M.D., Ph.D., Emily A. Scherer, Ph.D.
2018; Volume 69, Issue 9, pp. 978–985

Augmenting Evidence-Based Care With a Texting Mobile Interventionist: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Benjamin Buck, Ph.D., Suzanne Meller, M.P.H., M.S.W., William J. Hudenko, Ph.D., Kevin A. Hallgren, Ph.D.
2020; Volume 71, Issue 12, pp. 1218–1224

Virtual Hope Box: Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone App for Emotional Regulation and Coping With Distress
Nigel E. Bush, Ph.D., Derek J. Smolenski, Ph.D., Lauren M. Denneson, Ph.D., Holly B. Williams, B.A., Elissa K. Thomas, L.P.N., C.C.R.C., Steven K. Dobscha, M.D.
2016; Volume 68, Issue 4, pp. 330–336

Randomized Trial of a Mobile Personal Health Record for Behavioral Health Homes
Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H., Jianheng Li, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Stephanie Tapscott, M.S.W., Cathy A. Lally, M.S.P.H.
2020; Volume 71, Issue 8, pp. 803–809

Mobile Behavioral Sensing for Outpatients and Inpatients With Schizophrenia
Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Rui Wang, M.Sc., Saeed Abdullah, M.Sc., Rachel Brian, M.P.H., Emily A. Scherer, Ph.D., Lisa A. Mistler, M.D., Marta Hauser, Ph.D., John M. Kane, M.D., Andrew Campbell, Ph.D., Tanzeem Choudhury, Ph.D.
2015; Volume 67, Issue 5, pp. 558–561

A Hierarchical Framework for Evaluation and Informed Decision Making Regarding Smartphone Apps for Clinical Care
John Blake Torous, M.D., Steven Richard Chan, M.D., M.B.A., Shih Yee-Marie Tan Gipson, M.D., Jung Won Kim, M.D., Thuc-Quyen Nguyen, M.D., John Luo, M.D., Philip Wang, M.D.
2018; Volume 69, Issue 5, pp. 498–500

Mental Health App Evaluation: Updating the American Psychiatric Association’s Framework Through a Stakeholder-Engaged Workshop
Sarah Lagan, B.S., Margaret R. Emerson, D.N.P., A.P.R.N., Darlene King, M.D., Sonia Matwin, Ph.D., Steven R. Chan, M.D., M.B.A., Stephon Proctor, Ph.D., Julia Tartaglia, M.D., Karen L. Fortuna, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., Patrick Aquino, M.D., Robert Walker, M.S., C.O.A.P.S., Michelle Dirst, M.P.P., Nicole Benson, M.D., Keris Jan Myrick, M.B.A., M.S., Nathan Tatro, M.A., David Gratzer, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C.), John Torous, M.D.
2021; Volume 73, Issue 9, pp. 1095–1098

Three Problems With Current Digital Mental Health Research . . . and Three Things We Can Do About Them
David C. Mohr, Ph.D., Ken R. Weingardt, Ph.D., Madhu Reddy, Ph.D., Stephen M. Schueller, Ph.D.
2017; Volume 68, Issue 5, pp. 427–429

Smartphone Apps for College Mental Health: A Concern for Privacy and Quality of Current Offerings
Jennifer Melcher, B.A., and John Torous, M.D., M.B.I.
2020; Volume 71, Issue 11, pp. 1114–1119

Curating the Digital Mental Health Landscape With a Guide to Behavioral Health Apps: A County-Driven Resource
Robert M. Montgomery, M.A., Lamar Brandysky, L.M.F.T., Martha Neary, M.Sc., Elizabeth Eikey, Ph.D., Gloria Mark, Ph.D., Margaret Schneider, Ph.D., Nicole A. Stadnick, Ph.D., M.P.H., Kai Zheng, Ph.D., Dana B. Mukamel, Ph.D., Dara H. Sorkin, Ph.D., Stephen M. Schueller, Ph.D.
2021; Epub ahead of print

User Engagement in Mental Health Apps: A Review of Measurement, Reporting, and Validity
Michelle M. Ng, B.A., Joseph Firth, Ph.D., Mia Minen, M.D., John Torous, M.D.
2019; Volume 70, Issue 7, pp. 538–544

Focusing on the Future of Mobile Mental Health and Smartphone Interventions
John B. Torous, M.D.
2018; Volume 69, Issue 9, p. 945

Banbury Forum Consensus Statement on the Path Forward for Digital Mental Health Treatment
David C. Mohr, Ph.D., Francisca Azocar, Ph.D., Andrew Bertagnolli, Ph.D., Tanzeem Choudhury, Ph.D., Paul Chrisp, Ph.D., Richard Frank, Ph.D., Henry Harbin, M.D., Trina Histon, Ph.D., Debra Kaysen, Ph.D., Camille Nebeker, Ed.D., M.S., Derek Richards, Ph.D., Stephen M. Schueller, Ph.D., Nickolai Titov, Ph.D., John Torous, M.D., Patricia A. Areán, Ph.D.
2021; Volume 72, Issue 6, pp. 677–683

Technology in Mental Health: Creating New Knowledge and Inventing the Future of Services
Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D.
2017; Volume 68, Issue 2, pp. 107–108

Enhancing Standards and Principles in Digital Mental Health With Recovery-Focused Guidelines for Mobile, Online, and Remote Monitoring Technologies
Karen L. Fortuna, Ph.D., M.S.W., Robert Walker, M.S., C.O.A.P.S., Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., George Mois, L.M.S.W., Stephanie Allan, M.A., Patricia E. Deegan, Ph.D.
2019; Volume 70, Issue 12, pp. 1080–1081

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