Technology-assisted peer therapy: a new way of delivering evidence-based psychological interventions

Source avec lien : BMC Health Services Research, 22(1). 10.1186/s12913-022-08233-6

En utilisant les principes de la conception centrée sur l’humain dans un environnement rural au Pakistan, nous avons travaillé avec des utilisateurs potentiels pour co-concevoir une application sur tablette ou smartphone qui peut aider un profane à mettre en œuvre le programme Thinking Healthy, une intervention fondée sur des preuves et approuvée par l’Organisation mondiale de la santé pour la dépression périnatale.

In low-income settings, ninety percent of individuals with clinical depression have no access to evidence-based psychological interventions. Reasons include lack of funds for specialist services, scarcity of trained mental health professionals, and the stigma attached to mental illness. In recent years there have been many studies demonstrating effective delivery of psychological interventions through a variety of non-specialists. While these interventions are cost-effective and less stigmatising, efforts to scale-up are hampered by issues of quality-control, and what has been described by implementation scientists as ‘voltage-drop’ and ‘programme-drift.’ Using principles of Human Centred Design in a rural setting in Pakistan, we worked with potential users to co-design a Tablet or Smartphone-based App that can assist a lay-person deliver the Thinking Healthy Programme, a World Health Organization-endorsed evidence-based intervention for perinatal depression. The active ingredients of this cognitive-therapy based intervention are delivered by a virtual ‘avatar’ therapist incorporated into the App which is operated by a ‘peer’ (a woman from the neighbourhood with no prior experience of healthcare delivery). Using automated cues from the App, the peer reinforces key therapeutic messages, helps with problem-solving and provides the non-specific but essential therapeutic elements of empathy and support. The peer and App therefore act as co-therapists in delivery of the intervention. The peer can deliver the intervention with good fidelity after brief automated in-built training. This approach has the potential to be applied to other areas of mental health and help bridge the treatment gap, especially in resource-poor settings. This paper describes the process of co-development with end-users and key features of the App.

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