Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Doctor creates iPhone app to treat OCD
Dr. Kristen Mulcahy, director at the Cognitive Behavioral Institute in Falmouth, has created an application to treat obsessive compulsive disorder.
Trained at the Behavioral Institute in New York, Mulcahy has been treating patients with OCD for 15 years using exposure and response prevention, and has applied that same treatment to a mobile app, Live OCD Free. Mulcahy launched Pocket Therapist LLC in Falmouth with funds she received from her mother Carolyn who passed away a little more than two years ago and support from six other people, including former actor Jim Frangione, who provides the voice of some of the characters in the app.
The treatment is a specific form of behavior therapy, and the only evidence-based treatment for OCD, according to Mulcahy. There is an estimated 4-7 million people in United States alone with OCD and many of them don’t receive treatment, she said.
“That was the huge reason why I thought about developing this app,” she told Mass High Tech. “There is such a huge need for those who don’t have access to a therapist.”
Mulcahy said the app was designed to work best in conjunction with therapy, but said it is the best alternative for those with no other resources.
Finding a talented and affordable developer was a challenge for Mulcahy, and she experienced several bumps in the road before finding the right person to develop the app. When she did find the right developer, Mulcahy said he took the project and ran with it. The company did extensive beta testing that took three to four months. Then, it took nearly two years to take the app from concept to completion. “It’s been a long road,” she said.
The $79.99 app available in the iTunes App Store enables users to set up exposure hierarchy (challenges), allows users to set times to practice and not give in to compulsion, allows users to rate their anxiety and features progress reports that can be emailed to therapists. The app also enables users to record messages.
The company is currently working with McLean Hospital in Belmont which will use the app for patients. First, however, the company needs to complete the Administration Review Board (ARB) process. “I’ve sat down with the directors and they have their iPod Touches all set to go.”
In the near future, Mulcahy plans to join forces with other larger institutes to test the app on an outpatient basis, and is also considering taking on a partner and creating other mental health-focused apps.