Designing Mobile Applications to Support Mental Health Interventions

Designing Mobile Applications to Support Mental Health Interventions

Mark Matthews, Gavin Doherty, David Coyle, John Sharry
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-871-0.ch038
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The advent of mobile technology has brought computing to a wide range of new contexts, some of which are highly sensitive and place new constraints on the designer. In this chapter we discuss issues related to the design and evaluation of mobile software for sensitive situations, where access to the end user is extremely restricted. We focus on the specific example of technological interventions that support adolescents in mental health care settings. We examine the practical and ethical constraints placed on access to end users and contexts of use, and how this may affect approaches to design and evaluation. General design recommendations for this area are described. We consider approaches to iterative design with mental health care professionals, and how research on technological and therapeutic aspects may proceed in tandem. We identify methods that can be used when conducting evaluation in these limited situations and describe a methodology for maximising the value of such evaluation. By way of illustration, we present the design and evaluation of a mobile phone-based “mood diary” application designed for use in clinical situations by adolescents undergoing mental health interventions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mental Illness: can be defined as the experience of psychological symptoms that are severe enough that normal functioning is impaired and help is needed to recover.

JavaME: The microedition of java programming language used for developing software on mobile phones.

Sensitive Situation: A situation where poor-quality solutions may have a highly negative impact, and where the introduction of not just the technology, but also the designer, could be detrimental to the environment that is the target of the technological intervention.

Mood Charting: A form of diary study that is used in some therapeutic practices to monitor changes in mood.

CBT: Cognitive behavioural therapy is a highly structured psychotherapeutic method used to alter distorted attitudes in order to change behaviour and emotional state.

Multistage Prototyping: This is a process the authors have applied to the evaluation of mobile software to be used in mental health situations with adolescents.

Mental Health Care (MHC): Aims to help people improve their psychological well-being.

Psychotherapy: The treatment of a behaviour disorder, mental illness, or any other condition by psychological means.

Mental Health: Can be defined as successful performance of mental function that results in productive activities, fulfilling relationships, the ability to adapt to change, and the ability to cope with adversity.

Client: The person undergoing therapy. Therapists typically differentiate between three types of clients: adults, adolescents, and children. In this chapter, client generally refers to an adolescent client.

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