Apps are growing in importance: tool seen as adjunct to counseling.

Author:Greer, Kathleen
Position:Cover story

"Even with little science behind them, non-clinical apps can be extremely helpful. EAPs can't afford to wait for apps to be validated when Millennial and others want an app for everything in today's dynamic environment of personal devices."

Have you ever misplaced your smartphone? Panicking, you realize it's your lifeline to both your professional and personal lives. The anxiety involved in losing one's mobile device is intense because of its personalized nature. In addition to serving as one's calendar, email exchanges, and texts, each user's collection of multi-purpose apps makes the mobile device uniquely crafted for the individual. This reliance on smartphones is new to Baby Boomers, but younger generations do not know what it's like to not have one.

Mobile Devices are Dynamic

Each day new apps are introduced that relate to all aspects of life, learning, and connecting. If there is some part of your life not covered by an app, just wait because one will be coming. In the app world, there is never a dull moment or a chance for boredom. The dynamic nature of these devices is particularly important to the Millennials, who now make up the largest generation in the workplace (Pew Research Center, 2015).

Millennials like the convenience of having everything on their phones, which includes their apps. They can make a dinner reservation on Open Table, call for a ride on Uber, and then play games on the way to the restaurant. They exchange money with their friends with Venmo and self-diagnose their ailments on the WebMD app. "I can do it myself if you just hand me my phone, " is the mantra of these independent, convenience-seeking young people.

According to Smart Insights, the overall time spent on apps surpassed the time spent on desktops in 2014. Out of the 5.6 hours per day spent on digital media by American adults, 51% of that total is spent on apps, emphasizing the importance of their accessibility (Smart Insights, 2015). Eighty-five percent of people overall between the ages of 18 and 34 use smartphones or tablets for everything from uploading media content (an overwhelming 96%) to self-diagnosing medical illnesses--just under half of users (48%) do this online (Oracle, 2014).

Mental Health Apps--Clinical vs. Non-Clinical

There are thousands of interesting mental health apps designed to help with an individual's well-being. However, few are considered "clinical apps," which are the ones validated through research or clinical trials. That is because clinical apps are often stalled due to the time, money, and the government red tape necessary to validate their effectiveness. Some developers steer away from clinical apps entirely due to regulatory scrutiny (Forbes, 2015). There are exceptions, however, such as Orcas' well-researched Mood Hacker, which is now gaining popularity among EAPs. And popular Headspace programs are being evaluated for effectiveness through a variety of research partners, including Northeastern University and Stanford Health Care.

But what about "non-clinical apps?" Even with little science behind them, non-clinical apps can be extremely helpful. EAPs can't afford to...

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