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Digital Mental Health: What Do Clinicians Need to Know?

  • December 07, 2022

As we approach the end of 2022, many of us are thinking about what changes we want to make in the coming year. You may be looking to technology to enable those positive changes through guided meditation apps, digital activity tracking, or positive habit-forming through digital nudges. Many of us are also using our phones for clinical care, but the role of technology in mental health care goes beyond live telehealth visits.

Due to greater accessibility, flexibility, and convenience for patients than in-office care, mobile patient-driven mental health and wellness support and self-management tools are an appealing approach to mental health care. However, the rapid proliferation and minimal regulation of these solutions pose challenges to the appropriate clinical application of these tools. Balancing these risks and benefits requires clinical judgment and an understanding of the landscape of mental health technology.

Some considerations for clinicians include:


First, clinicians need to understand whether a patient has physical access to a mobile device with adequate connectivity, whether specific software will run on it, and if the software is culturally and linguistically accessible to the patient.

Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion means ensuring a person has the knowledge, confidence, and skills to engage with digital services across a variety of media and platforms. Clinicians and communities can support digital literacy through teaching basic technology functions, and can even train peer specialists as digital navigators to enable patients.

Reviewing App Options

APA’s App Evaluation Model provides guidance in selecting apps to recommend for patient use. Criteria includes: basic facts about the app and its developer; risks, privacy, and security; clinical evidence; ease of use; and interoperability.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

When in doubt, core medical ethical principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and autonomy can be used to guide decision-making.

For more information, take a look at our new Digital Mental Health 101: Clinician Quick-Start Brief (.pdf).

Stay tuned for a full resource guide on mobile apps in mental health.

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