I was in academia for 29 years, had five federal research awards, conducted several psychotherapy trials, published nearly 90 papers, was sort of famous in the trauma world, managed both adult and child outpatient clinics, and held an endowed chair that fully paid my salary. I voluntarily left all that to form a startup company with no salary in order to launch an app in an enormously crowded field.
What was I thinking?
The short version of my journey is that I spent years fleshing out my vision, and unsuccessfully pitched it to the National Institutes of Health and private investors. Then the funding became available through the endowed chair, and I spent two years getting the university to approve the project. Then another two years building the app with developers.
My thinking was that many therapists are amazing. They spend all day listening to other people, being empathic and sensitive, absorbing terrible stories, and creating solutions for complex issues. But those skills that make them great therapists are not always great for providing structure and tracking quantitative data.
I couldn’t do what they do. I’m a tolerable therapist only in short stretches, but I am great at providing structure and handling quantitative data.
There are over 700 apps labeled for mental health use. Most of those are relatively simple self-help and wellness apps. In my review, only 163 of those were appropriate for clinical care populations (Pacheco & Scheeringa, 2022). Surveys for assessing problems were nearly always brief and only for anxiety or depression. Very few of them could provide a structured, stepwise protocol for any technique, and none of them handled more than one technique. So, I created the Therapy Fidelity app to be the only one that can provide more comprehensive surveys for multiple syndromes plus functional impairment, and can provide stepwise protocols for multiple psychotherapeutic techniques. The number of protocols is limited at launch, but will grow as the user base grows.
I took a leap of faith that there were enough therapists and clients who wanted more structure and easy ways to manage data, and would be willing to incorporate an app into their treatments.
If only a couple hundred therapists or agencies join this journey, it will have been worth it. If thousands do, I may have to hire an assistant.
I hope you find the Therapy Fidelity app enlightening and helpful.
- Michael Scheeringa, MD
Pacheco CR, Scheeringa MS (online 8/19/22) Clinical wisdom in the age of computer apps: A systematic review of mental health apps. the Cognitive Behaviour Therapist 15:e40