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Thresholds Successful in Clinical Trial Comparing Mobile Health and Traditional Mental Healthcare

Thresholds’ Research Department was instrumental in the execution of a randomized controlled mental health trial comparing mobile health (mHealth) treatment (FOCUS) to the traditional clinic-based approach (WRAP), in a first-of-its-kind study implemented with academic partners. The research project also included support from Thresholds clinical operations at the Peer Success and New Freedom Center programs, as well as trained WRAP facilitators within the Thresholds workforce. The results, recently published in the scientific journal, Psychiatric Services, showed that mobile health options are equally effective and offer convenience and increased access to live-saving treatment.

FOCUS is a phone app that allows individuals to participate in daily assessments and exclusive, 24-hour content, such as video and audio clips. It also allows individuals the option to receive support from an mHealth specialist. WRAP is a form of group therapy treatment led by a trained person with lived experience of mental illnesses, emphasizing self-management and wellness training.

The study, led by PI Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev, included a group of 163 individuals with a history of serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder, who were asked to participate in one of the two methods of intervention over a 12-week period. Assessments were completed before the trial, immediately following the trial, and six months post-intervention.

All participants showed improvements in their overall mental health. The WRAP group showed significant advancement in recovery in their post-intervention assessments, while the FOCUS users reported improvements in both recovery and quality of life.  One differential finding was the rate of activity and participation, which was significantly higher in the FOCUS group (90%) than the WRAP group (58%) through the first eight weeks of the trial.

“We are very excited about the results of this study. Findings support significant improvements in key areas related to members’ recovery using two unique intervention strategies,” said Thresholds Research Director, Dr. Lisa Razzano. “It also demonstrates the benefits of our clinical investment in evidence-informed practices and advances science.”

In keeping up with the modernization of healthcare in the 21st century, mobile health options are becoming increasingly popular and accessible. We hope the ease and convenience of using a smartphone to receive treatment services at any and all times will help to destigmatize mental health, and reach more individuals. Accessibility to technology is critical, since it advances healthcare and wellness overall.

Thresholds is so proud to have been part of this groundbreaking study. We are looking forward to the future of mental healthcare!

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