Embracing Technology in Therapy

Working with patients with neurocognitive deficits demands flexibility, creativity and persistence on the part of the clinician. It’s the job of the clinician to understand each patient’s unique set of strengths and weaknesses in the development of a therapy program.

In the past, I’ve implemented many low-tech tools to help patients with neurocognitive deficits, such as reminder lists, self-assessments, and organizational tools. However, in the past year I’ve been blown away by the explosion of mobile apps that allow patients to have advanced psychological tools right on their phones. This has revolutionized the way that I provide care to patients and opened up a whole world of possibilities for the improvement of psychological health care.

Recently, I was providing therapy to a 25-year-old male with a severe social anxiety who had also suffered a prior brain injury affecting the Broca’s area, rendering him unable to speak. In order to communicate in session I used an iPad with a mobile app that allows the tablet to be used as an augmentative and alternative communication device. The app was easy for him to understand and he quickly began using it for communication not only in our therapy sessions, but also in his daily life.

Since this patient was so receptive to the use of the iPad during and between our sessions, I also used a cognitive behavioral app. Using this app, in combination with anxiety reduction exercises (breathing training and progressive muscle relaxation) enabled him to reduce his overall level of anxiety, and gave him tools for situations that were particularly anxiety provoking for him.

Although the use of mobile apps during therapy was not a part of my clinical training (since they weren’t available at the time), I’m impressed by the quality of some mHealth apps, such as T2 Mood Tracker and Breathe2Relax, as well as the way they have empowered my patients.

Christina Armstrong, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and subject matter expert at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). Dr. Armstrong has provided clinical services to children, adolescents, and adults for a broad range of conditions such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Read other posts by Dr. Christina Armstrong