Cell phone text messages can have a surprising upside for people with depression, helping them feel connected and nurtured, a new psychological study has found.
What’s more, the University of California-Berkeley research indicates even an automated communication – such as “uok?” – can make a difference in helping isolated patients feel better.
Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist who treats many low-income Latinos for depression and other mental disorders, said his patients report feeling more cared for when they receive text messages asking them to track their moods, reflect on positive interactions, and take their prescribed medications.
The findings stem from a project started in 2010, when Aguilera developed a customized "Short Message Service (SMS)" program, in which patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.
The results of the project were published in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
"We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities," said Aguilera. "The people I wanted to impact directly didn't have as much access to computers and the Internet. So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions."