Orygen's digital mental health division, eOrygen, is driven by a mission to transform youth mental health care through engaging, evidence-based apps and the application of computing and data technologies to the domain of clinical psychology. The eOrygen team consists of clinical psychologists and allied health professionals, computing and information systems researchers, software developers, illustrators and professional writers, youth engagement staff and trained peer workers. The origin of eOrygen is its moderated online social therapy (MOST) project, which began in 2010. Beyond the by now well-established MOST web platform, eOrygen has started to work on several new digital mental health projects incorporating tools and technologies from artificial intelligence, ubiquitous computing and virtual reality.
The moderated online social therapy (MOST) system integrates Facebook-style social networking, psychoeducational therapy units and a forum-like feature to talk about and crowdsource solutions to personal issues, all within a clinical and peer moderated environment. By tailoring therapy content to target the treatment of specific conditions and adding any required code customisations, the flexible MOST platform enables the setting up of individual sites for a variety of mental health cohorts. To date MOST has powered 14 trial interventions, for conditions including depression, psychosis and social anxiety in youth cohorts. MOST has also powered trials to support the carers of young people experiencing mental ill-health.
Harnessing smartphone technology to bridge the gap between therapy and real life, eOrygen is building a client-facing mobile app and a paired provider-facing web app, which will work together to augment face-to-face therapy. The client-facing mobile app will deliver personalised real-time recommendations of psychoeducational therapy exercises based on the passive sensing and ecological momentary assessment information captured from a user's smartphone. This mobile app will connect with our paired provider-facing web app, allowing young people, as they choose, to share information from their smartphone sensors with their therapist.
In collaboration with the University of Melbourne's School of Computing and Information Systems, eOrygen is working on a virtual reality application designed to transport young people into their own minds, to participate fully in their mind’s rumination, worry, positive emotions, upward and downward thought spirals, and cognitive biases (such as jumping to conclusions). They are also able to learn and apply evidence-based therapeutic techniques such as diffusion, mindfulness, and self-compassion.
Why is this research area important?
Long-term social and functional deficits are the most resistant to treatment, the most costly, and improvements in social and functional outcomes are the most valued by patients themselves.
- Can we extend the benefits of specialised early intervention services into the longer term through cutting edge social media and mobile technologies?
- Can we improve quality of life, social functioning and recovery in youth mental health through novel online social media and positive psychology interventions?
- Can we provide in real-time, tailored, context-sensitive and effective support to young people through advanced mobile applications?
The Australian Catholic University, The University of Melbourne, Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, headspace National, Deakin University, McGill University and the Telstra Foundation.