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Title: I Bet There's an App for That: Using Mental Health Apps for Reducing Anxiety and Depression
Contributor(s): Marshall, Jamie Martin (author); Bartik, Warren  (supervisor)orcid ; Dunstan, Debra  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2021-11-24
Copyright Date: 2021-05-01
Open Access: Yes
Handle Link:
Related DOI: 10.1177/0004867419876700
Related Publications:
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 100510 Wireless Communications
111714 Mental Health
170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 890201 Application Software Packages (excl. Computer Games)
920209 Mental Health Services
920410 Mental Health

Digital mental health resources have been expanding over the past 20 years in line with the increasing use of the Internet. In particular, websites that offer automated therapy for mental health issues, and telehealth services provided over the Internet by mental health practitioners, have evolved into commonplace usage. The increasing ownership of Internet-enabled smartphones throughout the world is giving rise to the opportunity for addressing the growing mental health needs that are not being met by in-person mental health services. This problem has been highlighted in the recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Smartphone applications (apps) are allowing automated therapy options to expand beyond the desktop or laptop computer, and large numbers of consumers are taking advantage of this. Although many thousands of mental health apps are available, the vast majority do not have evidence of their efficacy or effectiveness. Two key barriers to conducting research are the time and financial constraints associated with randomised controlled trials. This thesis focuses on the issue of evidence for mental health apps by shining a light on the current situation, and providing a possible solution to expanding the overall evidence base. It is proposed that a single-case design with multiple participants is able to feasibly and practically provide such information. The use of a single-case design in this research on five separate mental health apps successfully demonstrated how efficacious and effective these mental health apps can be, even during a rare time of heightened global distress, as posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outcomes of this research also provide ideas and guidance about how future studies can incorporate the participation of clinicians in private practice.

I bet there’s an app for that is a common statement made nowadays. It is reflective of the dominance that mobile Internet-enabled devices, particularly smartphones, have on our lives. While it is often lamented that such a large proportion of time is taken up with using these devices, the potential positive opportunities that massive smartphone ownership affords are exciting. Smartphone applications (apps) address a number of issues in a manner that has not previously been possible. For example, people can easily stay connected with friends and family when they are physically apart, people can be traced and contacted in the event that they have been in close proximity to a person who has coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and other health issues can be addressed in a timely fashion, such as taking a blood-sugar reading. With approximately 318,000 health apps publicly available (IQVIA, 2017) to over 5.2 billion smartphone owners worldwide (Barboutov et al., 2017), it is understandable that governments, researchers, and clinicians are looking at ways to incorporate the use of smartphones into healthcare.

As a clinical psychologist in private practice, the student researcher has attempted to incorporate the use of apps into his clinical work with clients. However, in doing so, came up against the obstacle of little evidence or potentially biased evidence for the vast majority of apps that were considered possibilities for inclusion into his clinical practice. This PhD research provided an opportunity to address this issue and to begin conversations in the literature on the many fronts facing the widespread acceptance of mental health apps.

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Appears in Collections:School of Psychology
Thesis Doctoral

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