The telephone, Internet, and mobile devices have opened up new possibilities for providing interventions that can reach people in areas where mental health professionals may be not be easily available, and can be at hand 24/7. Some of these approaches involve a therapist providing help at a distance, but others—such as web-based programs and cell phone apps— are designed to provide information and feedback in the absence of a therapist. For an overview, see our fact sheet on Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment.
Some approaches that use electronic media to provide help for mental health-related conditions have been shown by research to be helpful in some situations, others not as yet. The American Psychological Association has information to consider before choosing online therapy.
It is important to note that, as with all care for conditions affecting mental health, the treatment needs to be appropriate for the condition and the individual. eHealth approaches may be helpful in some situations, including as a support with other in-person treatment, but may not be appropriate or effective as a substitute for in-person care.
There is as yet no central resource for information on the effectiveness of health apps. The following links have information on health information technology in general:
- Health IT: How to Keep Your Health Information Private and Secure from the Department of Health and Human Services
- Understanding Mobile Apps from OnGuardOnline.gov
- Information on mobile medical applications from the Food and Drug Administration
If you are interested in using a mobile app, read the accompanying information, including whether and how the app has been tested. If you are working with a therapist, consult with him or her for help in evaluating the app.