Taking Psychosis Therapy Into the Digital Age

SlowMo, a new digital platform for patients to use outside therapy session, targets the psychological processes that play a role in paranoia.

The digital age has provided tools for practitioners of various professions, and psychiatry is no exception. At the second Behaviour Change Conference in London, held on Feb. 24, a session presented by research clinical psychologist Amy Hardy, PhD, and innovation design engineer Anna Wojdecka showcased SlowMo, a digital platform designed to take therapy beyond the consulting room.

“This is the first digital therapy platform that supports people by helping them to visualize the invisible — their thoughts and thinking habits,” Hardy said. The digital platform, based on a research program by the Psychosis Research Partnership (PRP),1 and developed in collaboration with healthcare designers from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art, addresses the problematic thinking habits that contribute to paranoid thinking, which include reduced information gathering, high conviction, and a lack of alternative explanations. True to its name, SlowMo encourages people to slow down and think of alternatives to paranoid interpretations.


How Does SlowMo Work?

The platform consists of an interactive, digital interface to support the delivery of face-to-face therapy sessions, which are synchronized with an app for use in daily life. Based on the principles of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), the in-session digital interface supports the therapist to guide users on a virtual journey in which they meet characters with similar experiences, who share their coping tips for dealing with paranoia. In addition to imparting useful information, these characters reduce feelings of isolation and provide hope for recovery.

When users find themselves experiencing distressing thoughts, they are able to input these thoughts into the app, where they are represented visually. The thought appears as a thought bubble, which varies by speed, size, and color. Users indicate how upsetting the thought is by changing the size of the bubble. Furthermore, less helpful thinking habits are shown by increasing the speed the bubble spins. The app next prompts an interaction from the user to slow down their thought, providing suggestions and alternatives for reframing it.

When a more adaptive response has been identified, the bubble changes to the color of the corresponding tip, giving instant visual feedback for the user. Each thought has its own profile page where it can easily be added again if it recurs, and which allows users to review previous instances of the thought, track how it has changed and what has helped them cope with it.