A friend sent me a link to an article in the Globe and Mail titled “Relief from anxiety may be as close as your BlackBerry.” http://tinyurl.com/4yerbpg Researchers have been experimenting with computer based “attention retraining” as a means of reducing anxiety. The results so far have been quite interesting. What they are doing now is even more interesting – running a trial to see if this treatment can work using an iPhone, iPod Touch or Android smartphone (http://www.handheldtrainingstudy.com/). Yes, you heard me correctly. Use your phone to reduce your anxiety. Anywhere, anytime.
I decided to do some further reading and research on this anxiety study. What I read indicated that these researchers are being conscientious and cautious [two thumbs up] which means it’s not on the market yet. If the results using the smartphones are as positive as earlier results it could be a boon to anxiety sufferers.
Spurred on by this research into the creation of a new therapy app I started to investigate smartphone apps designed for therapeutic use that are already on the market.
In amongst all the games, entertainment, education, music, podcasts and business apps you will find hundreds of ‘therapeutic’ applications. Apps topics include: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, mood logs, sleep disorders, anxiety, stress management, worry, smoking cessation, positive thinking, affirmations, relationship problems, and mental health self-diagnosis. Ranging from the highly questionable [which I won’t name!] to the highly reputable – for example, PTSD Coach (put out by the National Center for PTSD).
I could see that some of the apps would be useful adjuncts to therapy. Sorting through which ones might actually have merit is not an easy task. However, I think applying an ethical framework would help. Do the creators of the app provide enough information to fit the criteria of “informed consent”? Do they address the issues of confidentiality? What about the author’s competence in this area? Have they addressed risk management? I could go on about beneficence, fidelity, nonmaleficence, autonomy, justice, and societal interest but I think you get the idea.
This quotation from Goss & Anthony seems appropriate. “The question that remains to be addressed, of course, is of where these possibilities will take us next and what we all – practitioners and clients alike – should do about them once they are there”. 
In the meantime I had recommended an app to a client in need of anger management. Wait, what’s that you said? Angry Birds is not an anger management app? Hmmm, guess I should take a closer look next time.
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC is an affiliate of Therapy Online www.therapyonline.ca
The opinions expressed in this blog post are personal.
 Goss, S. & Anthony, K. (2009). Developments in the use of technology in counselling and psychotherapy. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 37:3, 223-230.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA