New technologies in psychological intervention and assessment

When we talk about psychological therapy, we usually imagine a scenario in which the professional and the patient share the same stay and exchange experiences, feelings, concerns, knowledge … If necessary, the professional takes notes or provides advice. written material to the patient.

however, this version of therapy is quite reductive, especially today. Today, new technologies allow us to communicate in multiple ways and share data remotely and immediately pave the way for new forms of therapy.

The role of new technologies in psychotherapy

In 2011, American psychologists Alan Kazdin and Stacey Blase published their article Resumption of research and practice of psychotherapy to reduce the burden of mental illness. In this text, they argue that while the classic idea of ​​the therapist-patient day may be the most effective modality and the most accepted by patients, it is necessary to incorporate other modes of action in order to be able to achieve the people who don’t. have access to any type of psychotherapeutic treatment.

To achieve this, they talk about the potential of new technologies, relying mainly on mobile phones and the Internet. However, this is also a reductionist version in which the use of new technologies is considered for cases where face-to-face therapy is not possible.

Data collection in psychology is essential in interventions carried out from a cognitive-behavioral approach when records or self-records are used. In these it is necessary collect the moment (place, time, etc.) of the behavior and the sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with it, As well as other relevant information (what was going on, with whom the person was … etc) that allow to establish a pattern and / or a baseline in order to know more objectively the behavior.

The more immediate and precise this data collection, the better the results. This is what the term ecological momentary assessment, or EMA, refers to., (Shiffman, Stone and Hufford, 2008) and which can be translated as Momentary Ecological Assessment (EEM).

The difficulties generally encountered during the collection of this data are those of memorizing and recording emotions, cognitions and / or behaviors, because not having non-intrusive methods allowing the collection, it generally expands in the body. time. But the current use of smartphones allows people to collect data immediately upon the occurrence of the behavior and in the natural environment of the person, and even automate some of the data such as date, time and even the place.

Momentary ecological interventions

Studies conducted using electronic diaries (Palm or PDA) show that the use of EMA promotes data collection very different from traditional paper and pencil in many areas of psychology (Shiffman et al., 2008) . However, this technology had a number of limitations which, while facilitating the collection of ecological and momentary information, did not allow more complex features such as server synchronization or speech recognition.

Smartphones largely overcome these barriers, Establish itself as an ideal technology; not only for information gathering, but it can also be used to achieve what Runyan and colleagues (2013) called Momentary Ecological Intervention or, translated into Spanish, Momentary Ecological Interventions (EMI).

As its name suggests, the “momentary” and “ecological” intervention is associated with the possibility intervene with the person at the precise moment of the behavior and in a natural or minimally invasive manner, by making available to people, for example, self-instructions or guidelines which they can consult immediately and thus reduce anxiety levels.

In this way, new technologies do not replace face-to-face intervention, but complement it by making it more efficient.

Nowadays, and from a perspective of working with Big Data, the use of the smartphone dilutes the distinction between EMA and EMI, because it opens the possibility of an online intervention via a mobile application that connects to the devices and allow continuous feedback between the data collected during the assessment phase and during the intervention. Thus, we speak of momentary ecological evaluation / interventions of smartphones (Runyan et al., 2013).

The advantages of a register updated in real time

To be able to rely on devices that collect data and they have the possibility of sharing them in real time with professionals and researchers this meant a before and an after in the work carried out with the EMA and the EMI, especially in the latter allowing a level of personalization that had hitherto been impossible (Wangberg & Psychol, 2013).

this it can be of great importance in the field of psychological assessment and intervention, And more in the field of research, and can revolutionize the way theoretical models are developed.

In recent years, new technologies have appeared that make available to professionals to practice the concepts that have been discussed throughout the article.

One of the most relevant examples might be PsicoReg. This new platform makes available to professionals in psychology and psychiatry, among others, a management system, data collection and intervention via an APP addressed to the patient.

Bibliographical references:

  • Armayones-Ruiz, M., Gómez-Zúñiga, B., Hernández-Troba, I., & Pousada, M. (2015) Big Data and psychology: an opportunity for the Internet of peoples? Aloma, Journal of Psychology, Education and Sport Sciences, 33 (2), 21-29. ISSN: 1138-3194.
  • Kazdin, AE and Blase, SL (2011). Revive the research and practice of psychotherapy to reduce the burden of mental illness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6 (1), 21-37. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691610393527.
  • Shiffman, S., Stone, AA & Hufford, MR (2008). Momentary ecological assessment. Annual Journal of Clinical Psychology, 4, 1-32 https: // doi: 10.1146 / annurev.clinpsy.3.022806.091415
  • Runyan JD, Steenbergh TA, Bainbridge C, Daugherty DA, Oke L, Fry BN (2013) A momentary ecological assessment / intervention “app” for smartphones to collect real-time data and promote self-awareness. PLoS ONE 8 (8): e71325. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071325.
  • Wangberg, SC and Psychol, C. (2013). Personalized technology to support health behaviors. IEEE 4th International Conference on Cognitive Infocommunications (CogInfoCom) 339-344. doi: 10.1109 / CogInfoCom.2013.6719267.

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