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.
This computer game-like scenario enables users to understand the transient and temporary nature of paranoid thinking, while guiding them to apply and develop the skills learned in therapy. The visual feedback and interactivity makes the app more effective than simply writing thoughts down on paper, which many people may not feel willing or able to do, especially those with cognitive difficulties.
Ultimately, the app empowers people with psychosis to maintain connection with their therapist and the tools learned during sessions. Users continue to use the app after therapy has been completed, to remind them of the techniques they can apply to support them to cope in daily life.
The Science Behind SlowMo
Despite its game-like configuration, SlowMo is no gimmick. “It's a revolutionary shift in the way we access therapy,” Hardy said. Medication may be effective for some, but 40% of service users are medication resistant, and less than 10% have access to therapy. SlowMo strives to address these problems. It isn't just a coping tool either. Hardy says, “SlowMo is based on an interventionist causal model, in that it targets the psychological processes that research has shown to play a role in the development and maintenance of paranoia.”
SlowMo has been developed through five iterations over the past 10 years by the PRP, comprising of clinician academics from King's College, the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and Sussex, and University College London. The app has been tested in proof-of-concept studies, randomized controlled experiments, and case series. In their most recent 2014 study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, the intervention was shown to have a promising impact on thinking habits and paranoia, with a large proportion of participants saying they found the intervention effective.2
The Future of SlowMo
SlowMo seems to be here to stay, with the Wellcome Trust providing funding for the development of a wearable device that will make using the app even more convenient. The hope is to make the app more interactive and responsive — like a “friend in the pocket” that gives people the support they want, when they are most in need. Work is also underway to develop, Thoughtfull, a self-help version of the app, which will target well-being and stress management.