Mobile App Integration Into Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Persons With Borderline Personality Disorder: Qualitative and Quantitative Study

JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Jun 11;7(6):e14913. doi: 10.2196/14913.


Background: The advancement of and access to technology such as smartphones has implications for psychotherapeutic health care and how interventions for a range of mental health disorders are provided.

Objective: The objective of this study was to describe the experiences of participants while using a mobile phone app that was designed to enhance and support dialectical behavior therapy for personality disorders.

Methods: A combination of in-depth interviews and questionnaires were used to capture the experiences of participants who used the app while undergoing dialectical behavior therapy treatment. A mixed methods approach was used; qualitative data from the interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis and were combined with quantitative data from the questionnaires.

Results: Participants (N=24) who were receiving dialectical behavior therapy used the trial app. Participants (n=20) completed an evaluation questionnaire and a subset of this group (n=8) participated in semistructured interviews. Major themes that were identified from the interviews were (1) an overall positive experience of using the app-participants perceived that the app facilitated access and implementation of dialectical behavior therapy strategies (to regulate mood and behavior in challenging situations)-and (2) that the app provided a common source of information for patient and therapist interactions-app-based interactions were perceived to facilitate therapeutic alliance. Qualitative themes from the interviews were largely congruent with the quantitative responses from the questionnaires.

Conclusions: Participants welcomed the integration of technology as a supplement to clinical treatment. The app was perceived to facilitate and support many of the therapeutic techniques associated with dialectical behavior therapy treatment. The incorporation of technology into psychotherapeutic interventions may facilitate the transfer of knowledge and strategies that are learned in therapy to use in real-world settings thereby promoting recovery from mental health problems.

Keywords: app; blended intervention; dialectical behavior therapy; mHealth; mobile application.