How Can Data Transform Therapy?

May 14, 2015

11:00 am

When people go into therapy, they mostly go in to talk about what has happened in their lives over the course of the past 12 hours, but that’s a very myopic point of view for the therapist. I mean, think about it: the clinician is limited by what the client is telling them in that specific session.

What if they had access to data about the client’s progress and setbacks outside of the session? What if there was a noninvasive way to bridge the gap between therapy sessions?

Mobile Therapy was built to be a platform that connects the clinical psychologist or mental health professional with their clients in between visits. Quite literally, it’s the exact answer to the aforementioned question.

Jacques Habra, Thought Leader and Executive Board Member at Mobile Therapy, brings up an interesting point: there are hundreds of undocumented hours in between therapy visits. Not only that, people, places, and activities – aka, real world data – impacts patients outside of their sessions.

In response Mobile Therapy taps into the power of the smartphone to capture that data through sample surveys and linguistic analysis. The clinician can then review the data through a web dashboard to actually track the ups and downs of their client between visits. That is, they know the touch and trigger points that have occurred since their last session.

“The original idea came from a notion that the most important aspect of entrepreneurship and living well is to know yourself,” says Habra. “What better way to know yourself than the ubiquitous smartphone in terms of the data footprint it creates? If we can consolidate the data that’s created through every day smartphone use – who we’re with, what we do, how we feel – then we can really know ourselves on a deeper level.”

And it doesn’t wholly depend the end-user to check in. Mobile Therapy’s tech has the exclusive license on LIWC – a linguistic inquiry word count – for psychotherapy until 2019 as well as a linguistic psychology system created by James Pennebaker, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin.

This technology actually extracts emotional sentiment based on the words you’re using to communicate. When a client sets themselves up, they give permissions to the system to score their outbound emails, which is what gives therapists the sentiment of what’s going on even when they’re not checking in.

One of the original cofounders of Mobile Therapy, DJ Wetmore, realized at the beginning that the average patient didn’t know what to do with this kind of data: it was interesting to them but not actionable. That’s when the team realized they needed to pivot to target the platform towards the expert clinicians who could then advise their patients.

“We really believe that the mental health problem is going to continue to grow and that there aren’t enough clinicians available for the issues that are popping up,” says Habra. “It’s becoming a little more accepted and encouraged to seek professional help. Your average person who hasn’t even considered talking to a counselor or psychologist is now going to do that more in the next few years.”

As Habra says, there’s certainly nothing broken in the mental health market, but the reality is that it takes a long time to reach a breakthrough with the current model. In that regard the body of data that Mobile Therapy provides is a disruptive offering – the platform figures things out much more quickly and allows clinicians to have more meaningful sessions.

“Clients feel more invested in their treatment, and it makes sense. You’re much more likely to go to the gym if you’ve got a trainer or somebody guiding you from one exercise to another,” says Habra. “Mobile Therapy reminds you to be mindful and be aware of how you’re feeling. When you go through the check in process you are exercising mindfulness which is its own psychological benefit.”

As they look towards the future, the entire Mobile Therapy team is choosing to employ the “sky is the limit” mentality with regard to how they can adapt the tech. Some of the potential future markets they’re considering are physical therapy and something called ‘intervention’.

In essence, people can choose to be notified when somebody’s anxiety or mood is triggered at a certain level. At that point the clinician can choose to adjust and take proactive action.

“We’re definitely on the precipice of a game changing opportunity, and with our science team leading the way we’re confident we’ll be main players in this field,” Habra finishes.

Image Credit: Flickr / I M A U-M-N-B-N’s page / cropped, resized 

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Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America’s Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He’s the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he’s off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing…or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach.

Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988

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