For the first time, an iphone app is being used in clinical research to investigate the efficacy of using it to treat depression. A study approved by the Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institutional Review Board is currently being conducted with the assistance of a network of therapists. These therapists are monitoring daily use of the Live Happy iPhone app in addition to their therapuetic treatment and medication management.
Live Happy is a positive psychology iPhone app based on the happiness research of University of California psychology professor and author of The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. In my review of this app, I suggested that it would be helpful for there to be an option for push reminders to remind users to use the app each day. A Fairleigh Dickinson University psychology professor, Robert McGrath, concurs that “for it to be most effective it takes dedication and a conscious decision to work at it on a daily basis. This isn’t always easy, especially for people battling depression, so it will be interesting to learn the results and see how effectively Live Happy works in improving symptoms of depression.”
The participants in this study likely have the assistance of their therapist to remind them to log on daily. However, my experience has been that clients are not likely to do homework consistently, even when motivated for life improvement. It takes time and some reward to develop a habit. It will be interesting to see the results of this study and if this commitment is discussed.
Live Happy is not a free app; it costs $9.99, which is less than a self-help book and much less than any single therapeutic appointment. Will the price increase if they can show a correlation between improved mood and use of the Live Happy app? Will the cost be covered by insurance? Will they integrate an option to connect to a counselor? Will people not seek the assistance of a therapist that they need because they believe an app is enough?
I do not believe the Live Happy app can substitute counseling in the case of diagnosable depression. Rather, it can be a tool to train people to focus on positive activities on a regular basis.
Try the Live Happy iPhone app for yourself.
March 19th, 2010