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Smartphones Could Take the Place of Your Therapist

Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine believes that a phone is capable of monitoring your mood to help treat issues such as depression and keep an eye on your diligence to take medication. In psychology, a smartphone could, conceivably, replace weekly therapy sessions, and potentially even prevent depression by detecting symptoms and offering possible solutions.

The "virtual human therapist" would notice a tendency for depression by monitoring a person's location, activity level, social context and mood. If your usual frequency of phone calls and emails decreases, the "Mobilyze!" app would interpret such a circumstance as likely isolation and would prompt you to call or see friends.

"By prompting people to increase behaviors that are pleasurable or rewarding, we believe that Mobilyze! will improve mood," said David Mohr, director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at NU. "It creates a positive feedback loop. Someone is encouraged to see friends, then enjoys himself and wants to do it again. Ruminating alone at home has the opposite effect and causes a downward spiral."

In a similar way, there could be software that interacts with electronic prescription bottles and notify a user if the daily dose of an anti-depressant was not taken. The researchers also imagine virtual coaches to teach teenagers social skills in social applications and helping cancer survivors cope with stress.