There's an App for That! Developing an Accessible Cognitive Behavioral Therapy App

University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Computer SciencePsychology
DOI: 10.18258/9229
Raised of $1,500 Goal
Funded on 5/17/17
Successfully Funded
  • $1,605
  • 107%
  • Funded
    on 5/17/17

About This Project

In today’s technological society a person’s entire life can be managed on their smartphone, so why not their mental health? My goal is to determine if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy implemented via an app is more effective for patients than traditional pen-and-paper workbooks. If this is proved to be true, barriers to treatment, such as stigma and affordability, for those suffering from mental health conditions can be overcome by developing and releasing a free CBT app.

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What is the context of this research?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. It works by focusing on an individual’s cognitive process (thoughts, beliefs, etc.) and how it relates to their behavior in order to better manage their emotional difficulties. CBT employs a variety of tangible techniques to help a patient treat their symptoms, traditionally through the patient working through a workbook. The principles it introduces to patients can be applied whenever necessary and are techniques intended to last a lifetime, making it the best mental health treatment to be adapted into an app.

What is the significance of this project?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United states, affecting 40 million adults (18 or older). In 2015, the NIMH estimated that 16.1 million adults had at least one depressive episode in the past year. Normalizing and providing access to mental health treatment is the best way to reduce the prevalence of these and other mental health conditions in not only America, but the world. By creating an effective, free app featuring multiple CBT management techniques, the quality of life of the user can be increased at no cost to them and without the stigma associated with traditional therapy workbooks.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of this project is to ultimately develop and release a free and comprehensive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy app for managing anxiety and depression, assuming an app proves to be equally, if not more, effective than traditional CBT workbooks. I will be overseen by my mentor, Dr. Roger Newman-Norlund, throughout the prototype development. Once the prototype is complete I will be working with clinical psychologists and psychiatrists to ensure the quality of the app, confirm the app is true to CBT practices, and to test its effectiveness.


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The proposed budget is intended to cover the costs necessary to create the initial app prototype. Most importantly, I want the app to be as true to CBT and as beneficial to its users as possible. In order to do complete and thorough research, I will need academic books on mental illness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As I am a programmer and not an artist, I will need to purchase the graphic design elements necessary to produce a smooth, professional, eye-friendly app. Finally, conducting research and developing a good app takes a lot of time. Assuming a minimum of 100 hours spent on the project, a salary of $10/hr enables me to focus on my project.

Any additional funds will be used to incorporate more management techniques and a wider range of mental health conditions treatable with CBT, such as obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and anger management.

Endorsed by

I am really excited about this project! Rachel has strong internal motivation to complete this work and it will truly help make CBT more easily accessible to those who need it most. Having worked with Rachel for the past two semesters I can honestly say that she is a game changer. She has a knack for programming educational/therapeutic games, and a strong desire to use her skills for the benefit of others.

Project Timeline

Apr 17, 2017

Project Launched

May 31, 2017

Complete Research/Outline for App

Dec 31, 2017

Finish App Prototype

Jan 01, 2018

Begin Prototype Testing

Meet the Team

Rachel Rizzo
Rachel Rizzo

Rachel Rizzo

Hello! I am a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major in the Honors College at the University of South Carolina, and I am from Marlton, New Jersey.

I began working with my mentor Dr. Newman-Norlund the first semester of my freshman year, learning the development and programming skills necessary to make 2D video game apps. During the fall semester of 2016, I completed an independent study under his guidance in which the purpose was to create and distribute a 2D video game app designed to address social motor skills in children with Autism. It was eye opening to see such fun and accessible platforms utilized in a research setting, and it encouraged me to think of other ways video games and apps can be used to help people.

This past year I began treatment for Persistent Depressive Disorder after years of battling with internalized stigma of my mental illness, so this project is near and dear to my heart. I am fortunate enough to have access to the incredible mental health services available at USC, and I would love the opportunity to provide a resource that will help improve quality of life for those who do not have access to professional mental health treatment.

Besides school and research, I spend my time devouring novels, attempting to write my own, and petting as many dogs as possible. My favorite movie is The Incredibles, my favorite TV show is Stranger Things, and my favorite dessert is a good cannoli.

Email: Twitter: @RachelRizzo1

Project Backers

  • 25Backers
  • 107%Funded
  • $1,605Total Donations
  • $35.63Average Donation
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