Psychotherapeutic Applications of Mobile Phone-based Technologies: A Systematic Review of Current Research and Trends.

Peer-reviewed article
(2017 Jan) Indian J Psychol Med, 39 4-11


Menon V, Rajan TM, Sarkar S


There is a growing interest in using mobile phone technology to offer real-time psychological interventions and support. However, questions remain on the clinical effectiveness and feasibility of such approaches in psychiatric populations. Our aim was to systematically review the published literature on mobile phone apps and other mobile phone-based technology for psychotherapy in mental health disorders. To achieve this, electronic searches of PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar were carried out in January 2016. Generated abstracts were systematically screened for eligibility to be included in the review. Studies employing psychotherapy in any form, being delivered through mobile-based technology and reporting core mental health outcomes in mental illness were included in the study. We also included trials in progress with published protocols reporting at least some outcome measures of such interventions. From a total of 1563 search results, 24 eligible articles were identified and reviewed. These included trials in anxiety disorders (8), substance use disorders (5), depression (4), bipolar disorders (3), schizophrenia and psychotic disorders (3), and attempted suicide (1). Of these, eight studies involved the use of smartphone apps and others involved personalized text messages, automated programs, or delivered empirically supported treatments. Trial lengths varied from 6 weeks to 1 year. Good overall retention rates indicated that the treatments were feasible and largely acceptable. Benefits were reported on core outcomes in mental health illness indicating efficacy of such approaches though sample sizes were small. To conclude, mobile phone-based psychotherapies are a feasible and acceptable treatment option for patients with mental disorders. However, there remains a paucity of data on their effectiveness in real-world settings, especially from low- and middle-income countries.