Digital mental health apps and the therapeutic alliance: Initial review
Hollis, Chris P.
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Background As mental healthcare expands to smartphone apps and other technologies that may offer therapeutic interventions without therapist involved, it is important to assess the impact of non-traditional therapeutic relationships. Aims To determine if there were any meaningful data regarding the digital therapeutic alliance in smartphone interventions for serious mental illnesses. Method A literature search was conducted in four databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase and Web of Science). Results There were five studies that discuss the therapeutic alliance when a mobile application intervention is involved in therapy. However, in none of the studies was the digital therapeutic alliance the primary outcome. The studies looked at different mental health conditions, had different duration of technology use and used different methods for assessing the therapeutic alliance. Conclusions Assessing and optimising the digital therapeutic alliance holds the potential to make tools such as smartphone apps more effective and improve adherence to their use. However, the heterogeneous nature of the five studies we identified make it challenging to draw conclusions at this time. A measure is required to evaluate the digital therapeutic alliance.<br/>Copyright © The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2019.