A Review of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Therapy App
Mobile applications have emerged as an effective method for providing mental health treatments. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) via mobile apps could increase access to care by supplementing in-person DBT sessions and improve outcomes by increasing client engagement and offering ongoing support.
DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is a psychological treatment created by Marsha Linehan that requires users to learn and practice specific skills. DBT has proven successful in treating anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders by teaching individuals how to recognize and alter problematic behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
DBT not only imparts skills training, but it also emphasizes interpersonal effectiveness through strong communication and accountability partnerships. Therapists can offer one-on-one or group support to clients while they practice DBT techniques. Plus, practicing these skills with others helps keep clients motivated and focused on their objectives.
Unfortunately, for some people DBT may not always be convenient or accessible and there may be a disconnect between treatment need and availability of this therapy. Therefore, this study seeks to review and assess the content, features, usability, and engagement levels of mobile applications based on DBT available on U.S. iTunes and Google Play stores.
This systematic search identified a range of mHealth apps, the majority based on DBT alone; however, some mixed in DBT components with other therapeutic techniques. Surprisingly, these mixed-DBT apps had higher usability scores and similar MARS overall ratings to DBT-only apps.
The most popular DBT-only app had tens of thousands of monthly active users, suggesting there is a large market for mHealth DBT apps.
There were various mHealth DBT apps available, some emphasizing individual skills while others included chain analysis – an integral element of DBT. Unfortunately, not all these applications were created equal and many lacked essential features necessary for making DBT successful for users.
These apps featured skill-based games that were highly engaging and designed to improve cognitive processing. These titles were usually easy to comprehend, offering an effective method for mastering new abilities.
Other apps focused on specific DBT skills and provided tutorials and exercises to practice them. These activities were similar to worksheets used during actual DBT skills training sessions and could be completed in various ways, from practicing one session at a time to finishing an exercise for the entire week.
For instance, the Daily DBT Diary app helps clients track their urges, emotions and use of DBT skills on a weekly basis. It provides default urges as well as the option to add custom target urges lists.
Another app that allows customization of DBT skills and targets is Mindfulness Diary Card. Practitioners and clients can add or delete skills under Mindfulness, Interpersonal Skills, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance as well as Feelings, Thoughts and Behaviors sections.
This app offers a daily log, coaching, customizing features, a DBT reference guide, graphics and logs – all free! Plus it provides in-app purchases for added convenience.