Social networks such as Facebook have revolutionized how people from around the world let their family and friends know what they have been up to. And now, a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD grad has developed a social network for people suffering from anxiety and depression that allows them to share their feelings and get feedback from others going through the same experiences.
Robert Morris began developing Panoply, dubbed a “crowdsourcing application for mental health and emotional well-being,” as part of his senior thesis. In the program, users log in and record a triggering event and then their response to it. Other Panoply members then vote on the kind of thought pattern represented and offer ways of reinterpreting it.
And as users show they are successfully using cognitive reappraisal techniques, they move onto offering their own appraisals of other people’s though patterns and suggesting reinterpretations. Cognitive reappraisal involves identifying maladaptive thought patterns, and then looking at the events that led to those thoughts in a different light.
“There’s a lot of great work in building web apps and mobile apps to provide psychotherapy without a therapist in the loop — it’s these self-guided programs,” Morris told MIT News. “The problem is that, once you release them out into the wild, people just don’t use them. The way we designed our platform was to really mimic some of the interaction paradigms that underlie very engaging social programs.”
In a study1 of 166 people who had depression symptoms, Morris and colleagues compared Panoply with another technique known as expressive writing, in which a patient writes about traumatic, stressful or emotional events over several occasions. Results of the study, which recently appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that those who used Panoply wrote more often and received feedback from others compared to those who wrote in journals but weren’t given any feedback.
Morris is now trying to commercialize Panoply by developing an app based on it called Koko, which is currently in beta testing.
- Morris RR,et al. Efficacy of a Web-Based, Crowdsourced Peer-To-Peer Cognitive Reappraisal Platform for Depression: Randomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015; 17(3):e72.