How can we empower people to take control of their mental health and wellbeing using responsive digital technology?
The Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at King’s College London trialled a cognitive behavioural therapy course for people who suffer from paranoid and suspicious thoughts in 2014. The results of the intervention, titled ‘Thinking Well’, led to the understanding that therapy needed to extend beyond the therapist’s room, into everyday life.
The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design was given a brief to find out how this could be done using a design-led solution. In response to this, the SlowMo app was developed by Research Associate Anna Wojdecka, which aims to allow people to access therapy on a more immediate level. Working in the field of mental health and trying to understand the needs of people who are in a different psychological state pushes inclusive design into a new area, meaning that the usual user experience (which typically looks for speed and efficiency in products such as mobile apps) might not be beneficial in the context of mental and emotional wellbeing.
People who suffer from paranoid and suspicious thoughts often have trouble regulating the speed at which these thoughts are processed. The aim of SlowMo is to help them slow their fast-paced thinking patterns using a series of coping strategies that are ‘unlocked’ as they progress through the app. These include logging upsetting thoughts, which would then appear as bubbles to be re-sized according to how distressed the user feels at the time, or spinning bubbles representing their emotional state that can be slowed down by tapping on them. The information gathered between the app and weekly therapy sessions is synchronised, allowing the user’s therapist to see how their patient copes on a day to day basis, and offer much more tailored game
The latest body of work has been under-taken by Research Associates Anna Wojdecka and Gabriele Meldaikyte and Research Fellow Jonathan West, creating a new commercial version of this ‘SlowMo’ platform: an app called ‘Mo’. Mo empowers a wider audience of people seeking to improve their overall wellbeing and support their thinking habits. The latest body of work has been undertaken by Research Associates Anna Wojdecka and Gabriele Meldaikyte and Research Fellow Jonathan West, creating a new commercial version of this ‘SlowMo’ platform: an app called ‘Mo’. Mo empowers a wider audience of people seeking to improve their overall wellbeing and support their thinking habits. Research Associate Anna has said: ‘Our aim is to develop a responsive, therapeutic technology, like a friend in your pocket that will know when you are upset and give you the support you need, at the right time.’
The team identified seven user profiles, representing real world users: teenagers, students, mothers and businessmen, who were recruited for user testing. The app introduces Mo – a chatbot present throughout all interactions with the app. Depending on user’s needs Mo will be a friend, therapist or a coach; users will be able to choose from a number of features and personalise their Mo.
The structure of the app consists of three elements: ‘FlowMo’, ‘Slowmo’ and ‘GoMo’. If the user feels anxious they will be able to use ‘FlowMo’ by breathing together with an animated bubble. ‘SlowMo’ allows the person to record their positive thoughts as colourful bubbles, and negative thoughts as grey bubbles. To associate the good thoughts with a particular memory, people will be able to upload images, videos, and make notes or voice messages. For negative messages, Mo will introduce six thinking habits to help to slow down thoughts. Wearable technology tracking the user’s breathing will notify them when they are tense and will advise them to enter any positive/negative thoughts. The ‘GoMo’ element is aimed at distraction, allowing the user to play a short game lasting for 120 seconds. The final working prototype will be completed by the end of September 2017.