Reviews

Episode 254 - Dr. Christopher Larrison: How the Use of Apps Helps People with Mental Illness Forge Relationships and Develop Social Networks

Monday, December 31, 2018, 7:41:08 AM

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In this episode, our guest Dr. Christopher Larrison describes his work utilizing smartphone technology to help people with mental illness connect, build relationships, and develop supportive networks. He discusses what he is learning about how smartphones can be used as a conduit to reduce clients' isolation and increase their access to useful information about themselves and their condition.

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Average Rating: 4.5 stars (15 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 4stars  cool perspective on apps!, Sunday, February 10, 2019

By Regan :


I enjoyed listening to this podcast and really appreciated Dr. Larrison’s unique approach to the use of technology in assisting those with mental health and other disorders. Most commonly, technology, smart phones and apps are often associated with their negative effects. Often, studies show the harmful effects advanced technology is having on its users. Dr. Larrison explains the positive benefits use of apps and technology can have, particularly those with mental health issues. I hadn’t given this much thought to this topic before listening to this podcast about and just assumed that mental health issues would likely only be worsened by technology and apps, so I appreciated a different perspective.
I appreciated Dr. Larrison’s work on understanding the capacities of smart phones and pairing those capacities with the strengths and capabilities of clients. It was neat to hear how apps like texting can be used in unique ways to decrease feelings of social isolation, partnership violence and fears of neighborhood violence in perinatal women. Exercise apps and virtual reality allow clients to re-engage socially and understand their situation in a new way. Texting allows users to have some control over social interaction, steering what is talked about, when and for how long. It allows the opportunity to connect without feeling overly vulnerable. This was a neat perspective and one that is probably over-looked in the mental health field.
It was really interesting to hear some of the ways phone use can benefit people with physical and mental health issues. This was a very neat podcast and brought a new perspective to how our ever-expanding technological capacities can be harnessed to benefit affected populations. Thank you!

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Average Rating: 4stars  smart phone technology, Sunday, February 10, 2019

By Amanda :

This podcast was very thought-provoking and insightful to the new technological advances and potential treatment options for individuals with mental illness. Dr. Larrison provides a multi-dimensional look at the benefits of cell phone usage and app usage for mental health clients. Dr. Larrison also touches on how this could benefit the clients and the practitioners as well. While living in a technological age, most of our clients are knowledgeable on utilizing their smart phones. There are many benefits for clients to be able to utilize their smart phone apps to access their mental health appointments, track their moods, and even see their clinicians and psychiatrist. Many of our clients lead busy lives and they might put themselves last, which means sacrificing their appointments. Apps on our smart phones would alleviate some of these stressors to our clients, furthermore, enabling them to utilize the services that they very much need.
This podcast also speaks to some of the barriers to fully implementing apps, such as accessibility to smart phones, clinicians' time to inform clientele and educate them. Dr. Larrison states that it is a learning curve. Once individuals are trained, it will make their jobs easier. I think it is important to not reinvent the wheel. The mental health clients that are discussed in this podcast can benefit from whatever services will make them more independent and in control of their care. If implementing services on a smart phone will do that, then lets empower our clients!


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Average Rating: 4stars  interesting information!, Sunday, February 10, 2019

By Amneris :

The work of Dr. Christopher Larrison in utilizing smartphone technology to help people with mental illness is very interesting! His suggestions in that technology could be a powerful tool for clinicians and social workers to enhance well-being, and how smartphones can become a partner in today’s mental health care is useful, especially in this generation. I think providing services and information to clients through smartphones can be cost-effective and can reach larger populations than we can ever serve on an individual basis. As he mentioned, many clinicians do not have enough time to explain and assess mental health side effects because of their primary role in prescribing medications to alleviate the symptoms. However, using a technology platform can help connect and communicate with clients who are underserved and who live in rural areas and have limited transportation accessibility to meet in person. On the other hand, while mental health researchers may use technology to improve mental health, there are still questions that continue to emerge. Research has indicated that technology can be linked to internet addiction, and mental health problems. The use of technology in general has been found to be connected to the development of mental health conditions in the younger population. Therefore, the use of technology as a therapeutic tool may as a consequence impact the developing brain of children and adolescents. In addition, will the use of smartphones for mental health treatments will impact all clients of all ages in the same way? Particularly, when we as a society are concerned about our children’s exposure to screen time. Also, I think a comprehensive understanding of how technology and mental health work together to meet every profession's ethical guidelines will be necessary for effective practice.


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Average Rating: 5stars  thought-provoking episode, Thursday, February 07, 2019

By Caitlin R :

This podcast has given me an excitement about the future use of technology in social work! Dr. Larrison’s projects demonstrate innovation and new ideas surrounding the use of technology in the field. Using a smart phone to reduce isolation felt like an “ah ha” moment for me. We can absolutely use things like group messaging to create a safe place for people to express themselves as much or as little as they wish. This incorporates safety, peer support and collaboration, all of which are principals of trauma-informed care and can lead to empowerment. I can relate to this on a personal level from my own experience in feeling isolated in graduate school. After joining a group messaging app that several of my classmates were using, I suddenly had an instant support group. We can message each other if we want to but there is also no pressure to participate if we do not want to. Technology is amazing.
I do have some concerns that were mentioned in the podcast. Regarding accessibility- I am less concerned with the individuals I support not having a smart phone or knowing how to use it, but more concerned with the availability of their smart phone. Many of the folks I work with live in extreme poverty and it is not uncommon for their smartphones to be turned off because of their inability to pay the bill. I also worry about confidentiality issues that arise with the use of technology. What if their phone is stolen? What if when trying to communicate with a social worker, for example, they accidentally message someone else? As with all new things, the use of technology presents a host of new and great benefits and challenges at the same time.

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Average Rating: 4stars  a refreshing perspective, especially in the context of this population., Wednesday, February 06, 2019

By Whitney M. :

This reflects my experiences using tech to reach individuals who struggle to seek help for reasons ranging from rural living to social anxiety. I have volunteered with Crisis Text Line (CTL), through which users receive real-time crisis help via text, for 3 years. CTL’s algorithm also scours Facebook for SI/HI and offers a pop-up offering users help. The user base skews younger, augmenting the assertion that this modality is preferable to some as it hits the “sweet spot” of being personal yet impersonal, safe, familiar, and affords control as they can choose whether and when to respond. This is a burgeoning research area; experiences like mine as well as the online radicalization of vulnerable, isolated individuals show that people seek new ways to authentically connect. We must also recognize the pitfalls of not wisely wielding tech. My clients typically have faced lifelong poverty. Their schools lacked access to tech equipment and most never had personal access to computers, the Internet, or cell phones until recently, if at all. We must know clients’ familiarity with tech, reading comprehension levels, and English language skills or text messages/emails could be misconstrued. My clients also tend to lack experiential learning due to trauma, so modeling the appropriate use of technology as well as setting and enforcing boundaries is paramount. I made the error of putting pressure on myself to be “on call” for my clients via text. I quickly became overwhelmed, and I recognize now that conveying 24/7 accessibility—even with the best of intentions—can thwart problem solving and skill development journeys that are crucial to recovery and building resilience. There is also a new barrier to assuring client records and correspondence are kept confidential and privacy is protected, especially when we use our personal devices. Technology affords options that can enhance wellbeing, but just as in face-to-face practice, we must remain ethical and use any tools judiciously.

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Average Rating: 5stars  interesting take on tech , Monday, February 04, 2019

By Terese Caiazza :

I found Dr. Larrison’s podcast to be particularly interesting based on its connection to my work at my foundation year field placement. I am placed at Healthcare Workers Rising, a non-profit organization which seeks to improve the profession of home care work (such as that of personal care aides (PCAs), home health aides (HHAs), and even certified nursing assistants (CNAs). With HCWR, my main responsibility is with the Resume Assistance Program (RAP). We make intake appointments, schedule resume one-on-ones, and plan follow-up appointments with our workers in order to evaluate their career-based and personalized resume needs. Many of our clients are poor black women living in urban areas, and therefore technology is often a huge hit or miss topic of discussion. Dr. Larrison explains that much of his work with technology began out of a need to combat feelings of social isolation among particular groups of clients. What I often find at HCWR is that many of our clients are isolated from the job-hunting and communication world due to their lack of knowledge about the usefulness of their devices. Many of our clients are carrying around smartphones, yet years-old hard copies of their resumes at the same time. Because of this, one thing we prioritize among RAP is dedicating time to explaining how documents can be stored, edited, and sent via smartphones and Google drive technology. Like Dr. Larrison found with many of his clients, our clients are often fairly savvy with smartphone technology, yet haven’t bridged the gap between using that technology for their career-based benefit. It’s here that client self-sufficiency takes precedence, as we attempt to make our clients aware of the many possibilities they have, using skills that they have already harnessed. While I made this connection to my internship, I am also highly impressed with Dr. Larrison’s use of this technology in terms of mental illness, and I’d like to see more future studies and research like this one.

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Average Rating: 4stars  smartphone tools in mental healthcare, Monday, February 04, 2019

By Paul Carter :

The use of mobile technology is a fascinating topic in the quickly evolving realm of a technologically evolving society, and client access to access to care, environment. The days of only getting emotional and mental healthcare attention in scheduled visits with mental health professionals are falling away into collective memory as customized access points become more commonplace, and exponentially more advanced in nature. Dr. Christopher Larrison’s discussion of the utilization of smartphone technology to help those with mental illness was informative and valuable to me, as one who interacts with patient/clients in a clinical setting.
In my role I see clients in the ebb and flow of substance use disorder recovery and treatment. The portrait painted by Dr. Larrison is appealing. Patient/clients will often describe the loneliness of not having connection when they are challenged with the impulse to deviate from a path of sustained recovery into the chaos of a relapse event. Sadly, counselors are not available for immediate intervention at the moment of crisis, it’s a relative impossibility. However, the access to a peer group, recovery network, or a skilled clinician through a technology link may be, literally, the “voice in the dark” that offers an anchor of counsel in the lonely hours of isolation that so many substance users describe as their most vulnerable moments. For the individual in crisis an appointment “in a few days”, or “next week” is often described as an eternity, or even a gap in care that cannot be overcome.
The limitations described in the presentation are real. HIPPA issues, and privacy concerns, general, do cause concern, from my perspective. While they do offer food for concerned thought, I personally believe that the privacy concerns can be addressed efficiently, and ethically, to the satisfaction of both client using, and practitioner recommending, quality smartphone applications.

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Average Rating: 4stars  refreshing take on the value of social media for mental health, Monday, February 04, 2019

By Rave G :

As someone who has recently entered the social work field, it is encouraging to me to see a perspective that reflects on the benefits of social media. I am 25 years old and thus old enough to remember when smartphones were 1st released and the ways they have and continue to impact how society communicates. I frequently see, largely from older generations (but not exclusively so), a good deal of criticism regarding smartphone usage and social media more broadly. While there is some truth to some of these critiques, I often find that we aren't fairly listening to the dissenting opinion. I found the excitement about the potential of smartphone usage in social work to be a refreshing alternative to the staunch anti-smartphone perspectives I so often see.

My feelings about this podcast come from, in part, my own personal biases, as I absolutely have been the person struggling with their mental health and a need for connection, and finding that connection with my phone. I think there is a lot to be said about how smartphone tech can reduce isolation, rather than increase it, as is typically thought. For people who experience high levels of social anxiety, people who have endured trauma that may make it hard for them to engage in certain social events, and for disabled individuals who frequently find other modes of socialization inaccessible, smartphone technology is a blessing.

The example about perinatal mothers' desire for connection is such an important one. It's a group who is in great need of social supports, but is often lacking in avenues to gain such support. I thought it was poignant that this episode mentioned these mothers are maybe not interested in just sitting and talking about depression; they may be much more interested in building connections with others who are having similar experiences. In this way, communication through smartphones might be a more convenient and realistic version of a support group.

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Average Rating: 4stars  relation to my generation , Monday, February 04, 2019

By Eliza Wetherby :

As a millennial, I can more than likely speak for the rest of my generation when I say that this podcast and it's content is appreciated. Everything about it is fully relatable to my generation as a whole and in fact, needs to be spoken about more. Although I would like to remain a little bit of anonymity, at my current field placement right now, I work with the aging and elderly population in needs of services. Some of the participants in the program choose to not come into the center in which we won't see them for up to 6 months. In cases like these, it would be extremely beneficial to have a link with the client such as the smartphone in order to have better communication with them to generate updates on them. However, our older population right now is in the Baby Boomer generation. A very large amount of these baby boomer patients that we have would refuse such an idea as this due to feeling like they wouldn't know the first thing about it or what to do with it. With that being said, I'm in full agreement with what was stated in the podcast about educating both our colleagues and staff along with clients of the clinic in how to use a smartphone or device that would produce better communication and provide better services amongst us.

On a personal note, in which is related to some of the work that Dr. Larrison is doing right now, a good amount of my personal friends and close colleagues have agreed during conversating that they would prefer to use a smartphone to receive mental health services instead of via face-to-face. Some of them said that they favored receiving such services this way because they felt face-to-face analyzation would produce too many uncomfortable feelings. With this goes along with the fact that my generation and the ones after the millennial generation is very connected to their phones, which does not have to be a bad thing and in fact, could lead to such positive effects and aftermath from mental health services via apps.

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Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review, Monday, February 04, 2019

By Amelia S :

In my opinion, the use of smartphones in order to combat certain mental health issues such as feelings of isolation and depression is invaluable. Channeling efforts into building upon the strengths given by the use of a smartphone for mental health services seems like a smart move. If there is no need to reinvent the wheel, why bother? Also, the idea of pairing together communities or groups who have similar mental health issues in order to treat the underlying problem instead of just one cause is clever. This would enable mental health providers to cast a wider net and treat more clients. We are living in a very technology-centric time and smartphones are most people’s main form of communication. Although I agree that there is a sort of ‘impersonal’ aspect to this form of an idea, that may work better with certain patients. Additionally, Dr. Larrison raises a good point that HIPAA would likely be a difficult barrier with this form of personal information being stored on an application for a smartphone. More and more companies are selling personal information about their clients and confidentiality can be difficult to maintain. The idea of potentially working with Computer Science majors in order to custom-make an application for this kind of idea, I believe, would have a lot of success. Overall, both Dr. Keefe and Dr. Larrison provide an excellent podcast in which the conversation flowed naturally and was very informative.

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Average Rating: 5stars  implementing technology into social work practice, Sunday, February 03, 2019

By Amanda Augustine :

I found this podcast to be very thought-provoking and fascinating. I noticed that Dr. Larrison made a lot of very strong points about the potential benefits of implementing technology into the field of social work. I think that it’s very important that the time was taken to address the possible barriers or problems that may arise from the use of text-based apps and other technology-based programs to offer support to those struggling with their mental health, primarily lack of access and lack of familiarity to these types of programs. Dr. Larrison’s point about focusing on helping people build connections to reduce social isolation before just jumping into the topic of mental health made a lot of sense to me. I believe that this encourages the concept of creating support systems among clients, which I could see having a strong positive effect especially on clients who struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It was interesting to hear Dr. Larrison’s thoughts on how the use of technology may result in a need for a redefinition of confidentiality. Social media is more prevalent than ever in today’s society, so Dr. Larrison’s comment about confidentiality in today’s “new world” really got me thinking.

I would be interested to know more about how effective this is for the older population, as they are generally a lot less tech-savvy than younger generations. It was right at the time I began thinking this that Dr. Larrison began to mention the need for training of both mental health professionals and clients about how to use the technology in order for it to be more effective and for clients to be more willing to use it. It will definitely be interesting to see how technology-based programs continue to evolve in the future. I believe that this will be a very fascinating time for social work (and various other fields) as we figure out how to best implement one of the most commonly used items, cell phones, into practice.

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Average Rating: 4stars  social work & being smart about smartphones, Thursday, January 31, 2019

By Rebecca :

Years ago I accepted a job that involved working in a desktop design program called Quark. Before taking the job, I took a brief one-day Quark class. I quickly learned that there were a million things that I could do with this program. And frankly, I panicked—what if I failed at the job because I didn’t know the program well enough? That first week on the job, however, I realized I was going to be ok. I had only one task to do. Lay out a page of type. That’s it.

I think sometimes technology is intimidating because it is so vast. There are endless apps and endless things you can do with them. So I appreciate it when Dr. Larrison begins with a very simple question: What was the smartphone designed to do? He is not asking us to consider all of the things that can be done with a smartphone, but rather what is the purpose of a smartphone. Let’s start there. (And this is me now: Let’s stick to possibilities that relate to social work.)

As a communication device, it makes sense that a smartphone might be a good tool for combating isolation. What I hadn’t considered before, which was raised by Dr. Larrison, was how texting lends itself to that “sweet spot” between isolation and over-sharing. A person in a therapy group or health-related group might want to keep connected with other group members, but without having to share a lot of information about themselves. Texting is perfect for that.

It’s an exciting time to be a social worker student, as so many social work educators are asking big questions and exploring how best to use technology, specifically social media. We need to be creative as we look at what’s worked in the past — for instance, how we have approached client confidentiality — and what needs to change in this age of digital communication.


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Average Rating: 5stars  review, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By Emily Schaffstall :

I really enjoyed your podcast on the benefits of using apps on smart phones aiming towards working with mental illness. Technology is evolving and can be beneficial in the mental health field.
I think getting clients to engage in treatment through the use of their phone helps to increase self-sufficiency and will give them the power to guide their own treatment using an application. It opens the door for options. Using their smart phone has a high chance of success because it is something that is already incorporated in their everyday life and is in their comfort zone. From my experience, individuals are more willing to do things that they are already familiar with. This is also a great alternative for someone who is not willing to come in for treatment and will help to prevent clients from quitting treatment. I agree that providing a client with a smart phone will give that client a sense of respect and commitment to treatment. It makes them feel that they can be trusted with it and trust is something that needs to be established between a worker and their client. I think it is important that clients have the ability to interact with other clients going through the same thing if they want and the smart phone and text-based apps can make that possible without letting everyone know that person’s business. It gives the client control to seek support without worrying about their business getting out to the world. It is a safe space. I am excited to see how smart phone apps continue to grow and become implemented in more treatment plans in the future. The one thing that was mentioned with using smart phones is making sure to set clear boundaries. That is crucial for both parties involved. I look forward to hearing what is next.




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Average Rating: 5stars  mental health and technology , Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By Danielle Hoare :

Dr. Larrison makes a great point when he mentions how smart phones are able to help eliminate social isolation between individuals. He touches on the fact that smart phones make communication with others just a hand movement away. I liked when Dr. Larrison mentions how people may become suspicious about technology due to confidentially reasons as well as individual’s misinterpreting HIPAA. I am currently employed at a psychiatric hospital where you see workers being very lenient with HIPAA and protecting client’s confidentiality. When Dr. Larrison mentions the fact that we should start teaching social worker’s how to use technology properly and help them to properly work apps, I think this was a great point. If the workers are fully aware of how to use a smart phone as well as the apps that can be used, they can teach their clients who may not have access to the proper health care. A lot of individuals with mental illness find themselves having serve health issues and not having the proper funds to treat it. By social workers doing research to find which apps can be most helpful for specific kinds of diseases, may increase the likelihood that someone will receive help. This can also build a way for individuals to connect with others about similar issues and build that sense of community they were once lacking. As I mentioned before, I work in a psychiatric hospital and a lot that I can take away from my job is that people with mental illness find themselves more comfortable with other individuals struggling with the same sorts of issues. Exploring apps and finding an online community may help these individuals tremendously. It is not easy for someone to share their personal thoughts and feelings, but we tend to feel more comfortable when we are sharing with someone who can relate to us in some way or another. I think if we educate social workers on specific apps and relay this information to clients, we will see less clients becoming socially isolated.

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Average Rating: 5stars  great uses for technology!, Tuesday, January 29, 2019

By Zachary Bodack :

I believe that Dr. Larrison makes a great point early in the interview is that many people who have mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and such have either a difficult time talking about them or simply are tired of talking about them. From my own experience when I was in therapy there were days where I wouldn’t want to talk about my depression or my issues, I simply wanted to someone to talk to about my stress, but it seemed like it always circled back around to an overarching issue. This can sometimes feel overwhelming and even draining during the therapy process.
I think this new use smartphones, simply connecting people who have similar problems such as issues in their neighborhood, or feelings of constant isolation can really be changed with this technology. This technology can get people through the difficult times of their life can really make an impact on what they do moving forward with their own mental illness. I also agree with Dr. Keefe’s point that we grossly underestimate people who we perceive to have a lacking skill in the use of technology and are Dr. Larrsion said they are much more technology friendly then we even are!
I believe that Dr. Larrison is doing amazing work in creating new environments and opening new avenues for people with not only mental illnesses, but also people who are simply looking to improve themselves. By looking for that personal connection it allows us to see the world more clearly and we can look past those around us. His work with these women and these people is critical for the future of the mental health and understanding future generations needs.

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DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.