Pocket cognitive therapy for anxiety in the works

June 5, 2019

Internet-based cognitive bias modification (CBM-I) is a private, non-pharmaceutical approach to depression, anxiety or addiction. It can be done via a laptop and does not require professional involvement, thus it is more accessible for many people who need care. A recent American CBM-I study in a hospital programme has shown the effectiveness of CBM-I when combined with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in an acute psychiatric setting.

Courtney Beard, PhD, Director of McLean’s Cognition and Affect Research and Education (CARE) Laboratory in Belmont, Massachusetts, explained that CBM-I addresses interpretation bias, a mental habit implicated in many mental disorders, and shifts them to a more positive/negative outcome.

In the study, patients were presented with a series of word-sentence associations that address everyday situations, i.e. the CBM-I task may showa person yawning and asks whether that person is “tired” or “bored.” The patient who answers accordingly is either correct or incorrect.With repetition, this type of CBM-I therapy helps the patient reassess the interpretation.

The word-sentence association exercises were successful in helping reframe potentially negative situations. Study results showed that CBM-I was practical and acceptable to acute psychiatric patients and many reiterated that CBM-I bolstered their primary CBT-based care.

Beard has pointed out that negative conclusions to these daily ambiguous situations can greatly impact feelings and reactions in a cycle of anxiety or depression, and so must be handled carefully.

There are plans to develop a smartphone version of CBM-I. The app could be helpful to many, particularly newly-discharged patients during the transition period after they leave the hospital. Beard sees great promise for app-based CBM-I therapy, “People who need it can practice new skills, create healthy mental habits, and stop automatically jumping to negative conclusions – a little differently and a lot faster.”


Category: Features

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