TODAY

TODAY   |  April 30, 2013

App-ily ever after: Therapy goes digital

From monitoring moods to repairing relationships, there’s probably an app for that. Psychiatrist and TODAY contributor Dr. Gail Saltz and technology reporter Natali Morris share some of the best apps to help with mental health.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a recent new york times article highlighted the growing trend of digital shrinks. there are apps for repairing relationships to improving mood. do they work? gail saltz and technology reporter natalie morris. good to see you.

>> good morning.

>> let me start with you, kbgail. do these work? and if so for what problems.

>> they raise awareness of symptoms. that's mostly what you will find. that works for people with mild conditions. for people who are more moderately having problems or certainly severely it doesn't replace professional care. it is not like professional care. but it may serve as an adjunct professional care. doctors use this with patients to help them get from appointment to appointment to keep them engaged with the treatment, to keep them aware of symptoms. that can help in actual therapy.

>> on their own, not a way to treat a psychiatric illness .

>> it's not treatment for a psychiatric illness . it raises awareness and may be helpful for people mildly feeling certain things.

>> we call this a growing trend. how popular are the apps?

>> we call it the quantified self. this movement to quantify or track your personal behavior and habits. we see it with health. we see people using heart rate monitors, calorie counters to monitor the physical self. when you use things like this to monitor your emotional state that's another side of that coin. the idea is the more you track your behaviors the more likely you are to commit to positive habits.

>> let's check these out. mood monitoring is big. how am i doing today? helpful?

>> it is. people walking around, feeling badly and they are not in touch with or aware of specific feelings they are having. they can't address them. we used this technique in therapy. we tell people to write down what is their mood at different times of day to reflect back and see, i wasn't sad all day, only part of the day. that can improve your mood. in that sense it can be helpful. not if you are severely depressed or anxious.

>> you have one called mood panda, very popular.

>> right. you just go into our app and click update mood. it gives you a little slider. you slide toward the happy face if you are happy, toward the sad face if you are not so happy. you can give a reason. when you feel yourself in a bad mood, you can slide down and say, why am i in a bad mood? somebody cut me off at starbucks? maybe you could change that behavior. also you can share it with your social network on facebook or twitter which might be helpful for people who follow you on your social networks . if you see, my gosh, my boss is really at a 3 today. i will steer clear today.

>> good advice. i will show more. not a lot of time. let's jump ahead to relationships. tell me about relationship apps.

>> communication is everything in relationships. learning some basic tools for, you know, i said this and it didn't work. or i might say this instead could be helpful. by the time people feel they have a relationship problem usually it's worse than that. this is not a divorce fixer.

>> how does it work?

>> go into fix a fight and choose repair. the language is constructive. you choose a repair that maybe you are working on a lot. put two people in here. i have chore division that my husband and i work on. surely that's something no one can relate to, right? you both tend to use the language in order to fix that. i felt bad when you didn't put your dishes in the sink. i felt like you thought i was your maid or something like -- not that i feel that way. you use language that's not extreme. you say this hurt mes me and you hand it to them.

>> that can be helpful.

>> helpful with the day to