DSM Reference

DSM Reference : Android (free)

http://www.kiddiecatpsych.com/

I’ll have to admit – I haven’t seen my full-length DSM in years. I may have left it behind a couple of states ago.  When I need to review diagnostic criteria, I most often use the BehaveNet site (although they’ve recently redesigned their menus in a way that’s annoying to me). I have yet to find an error in over five years of using it regularly. I have always wanted something like that reference for my phone – I find that checking a reference on my phone during therapy is much less intrusive than turning around to the computer, and more convenient at many other times.

If you’ve ever wanted a pocket replacement for your “pocket” spiral-bound DSM, this is about as close as it gets; at least for free. This app looks like a good replacement for BehaveNet and/or your spiral-bound baby DSM.  It looks like a complete, searchable list of codes and titles as well as a mini-guide to the five axis model and a GAF reference. I discovered that it does include lists of criteria as well when I accidentally tapped on a particular diagnosis. I did not do an exhaustive comparison, so I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate.  It’s also searchable, although you need to use the specific name of a disorder (e.g., use “depressive” instead of “depression”). Note that I usually double-check things with a DSM the first time I use a particular diagnosis with a reference tool like this – it’s good policy to assume that it’s not always accurate.

There are no specific issues regarding personal data for this app, as it keeps none.

The UI is clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate. It’s much more intuitive and easier to use than other DSM references I’ve looked at (like this one). The user experience continues to be a problem with some Android apps, and it’s nice to not see that here. The search page has a bug – if you search for a term like “depression” which doesn’t technically exist as a proper name for a disorder, it will give you no results (which is right) and the keyboard will re-enter your term with every key press (which I assume is not the developer’s intention). The back button takes you out of the app instead of to your previous page. Having some in-app navigation buttons would be of help. Finally, the listings do not have any formatting, which makes them a little more difficult to read.

A side note: the developer’s page looks kind of abandoned and doesn’t mention the app at all. I don’t know when or if it will get updates, which means that it might never be updated to DSM-5 when it comes out.

Content – 5/5 – I’ve wanted a usable pocket DSM on my phone for ages.

UI – 3/5 – Pretty intuitive to use, with a couple of frustrating bugs as noted.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.

Story Dice

Story Dice: iOS iPhone/iPod/iPad ($1.99); Android (including Kindle Fire) ($1.99); Nook ($1.99)

http://thinkamingo.com/story-dice/

In addition to things that make good reference or education tools for you and your clients, I’m also interested in the use of what some might consider “softer” apps in therapy. Story Dice is one of those apps – something that you might see in a family game night, or as something that you can play with your kids in the car. It certainly doesn’t smell of the “science” of therapy. But this app, and others like it, can be very helpful if used properly.  I think that this will turn out to be especially true of children – give most children the choice between a board game and the same task on an iPad, and I would wager that a majority would choose the iPad. (I think that this may have some positive impact on homework for adults, too, but that’s a different topic for a different day).

My students, my colleagues, and I are constantly searching for tools or games that I can use to help introduce children and adolescents to the realm of therapy. One of my favorites involved passing a ball around a group of children while the person holding the ball answers progressively harder questions, starting from “My favorite food is…” and moving on towards “I notice …. when I get angry,” or “I worry about…” I see an app like Story Dice being useful in a similar manner – starting with a basic storytelling exercise, or thinking of a song that has the picture in it, and moving up to something like a story about school, or about home, or anything else that might have been identified as a problem area.

Home screen

The app is pretty much what it sounds like – a set of virtual “dice” that have different pictures on them. One benefit of app over a set of “real” story dice that you might get is the library – over 100 pictures, according to the developer. All options are accessed via the small “i” at the top right of the screen. You can use between one and ten dice per roll; you could pick based on the amount of story that you might expect to get out of a child of a particular age. If you use this, I would attend to the “helpful tips” section. It has some good ideas for structuring an exercise using this tool. I’m partial to the “my perfect day” exercise that they describe, although not necessarily for the development of critical thinking skills. Hearing a story of a child’s “perfect day” could be enlightening. This and other apps would also be good for encouraging play between parent and child.

Some sample dice

This is a relatively simple app that doesn’t have any surprises. The only thing that I would like to see is the ability to choose a subset of pictures to use with a particular client. But that’s speaking as a clinician, not necessarily the target demographic for the app (although educators might like that as well)

There are no specific issues regarding data security for this app – it keeps no data.

Content – 4/5 – Would be better for my particular use if pictures were selectable from a library.

UI – 5/5 – Not much UI to speak of, but a very clean looking app.

Note – Review is of iPad version of this app.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.

3D Brain

3D Brain: iOS iPhone/iPod/iPad (free); Android (free); Windows Phone (free)

http://www.g2conline.org/

If you’re like me at all, you’re at least a little interested in the new things we’re learning every day about the interaction between brain structure, brain function, and mental health issues. In addition to the cool factor, though, I occasionally find that an explanation of brain structures that are involved in various mental health issues can be very helpful in de-stigmatizing some disorders. For example, discussion of biological differences in the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain has helped me re-frame ADHD for some parents who think that their child is just “bad.” Those of us who remain relatively familiar with the brain can easily forget that most people have no idea what we’re talking about when we say “cingulate gyrus.” This leaves you with the choices of:

a) pointing at your head

b) using some sort of visual aid

The 3d Brain app is actually a port of the same map of the brain that is available at the developer’s website (http://www.g2conline.org/2022). It contains 29 maps (on iOS and Android) highlighting different brain structures. It also has a short description of the structure, a case study highlighting a piece of research about the structure, main functions of the structure, effects of damage, and disorders associated with that portion of the brain. Of course, there is also the diagram itself, which can be rotated on vertical and horizontal axes (only horizontal on Android). There is also a label button, which will label all colored structures in the image; note that many labeled substructures do not themselves have an explanation. Still, it’s a good lay description and illustration of portions of the brain that might be associated with some disorders.

There are no specific issues regarding data security for this app – it keeps no data.

The app UI on both iOS and Android are pretty straightforward – menus to select a portion of the brain, and clearly marked areas of the screen to get text info or color-coded labels. The iOS app hasn’t been updated for some time (since 2010), and this is notable for a field that seems to change almost daily. The Windows Phone app was released in 2011, and the Android app in early 2012. The references and information appear to be similar across iOS and Android. I did not perform an exhaustive search on the references included in the description of each area. I would have liked to be able to access a complete reference list from the app, in case I wanted to read any of the literature that they cite. There are also a few typos in the text here and there (e.g., “frontals lobes”).

Content – 4/5 – information is easy to understand and fairly thorough; it’s unclear how often the research cited in the app will be updated (if ever).

UI – 5/5 – easy to navigate and accessing information is fairly intuitive. diagrams are excellent.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.

Teen Hotlines

Teen Hotlines: iOS iPhone/iPod (Free)

http://teenhealthandwellness.com/

Many of us wish for a good, thorough database of hotlines. The best-organized therapists that I know have a database somewhere, either on a spreadsheet or on their phone. However, I often find myself searching in session for a website or hotline number that best fits my particular client’s needs and demographic. For example, the last hotline I searched for was a suicide/help line for veterans. Adolescents are an excellent demographic, especially as cellphone and smartphone penetration among teens gets higher. (on a side note, this cellphone penetration lends itself to some interesting uses of text messaging as a therapy/homework tool.)

Teen Hotlines is one such resource; it actually has two main functions. First, it is designed as a comprehensive portable database of support and informational numbers for adolescents. There are many, many topics on their list, including resources for suicide, bullying, depression, sex, sexuality, domestic violence, and more. Now, I have not by any means vetted all of the organizations listed in this app, but (for example) the numbers listed under sexuality are free from references to unsubstantiated and genuinely harmful things like “reparative therapy.”

The app also functions as a gateway to the Teen Health and Wellness website, which is a resource with message boards, literature on a broad range of teen mental health issues. You’ll note upon going there that it asks for a login and mentions a “30 day free trial.” Obtaining access to the full site is a kind of unique process, as it is typically made available through local libraries, schools, or similar institutions. I was able to “join” via my local library membership (in fact, I learned about this app from a news post on my library’s homepage). From within the app, the “login” link opens the full website in Safari after obtaining your login info. I only had to enter my library card number once; the app remembers it; this is good, because I don’t want a teen in crisis to have to go through any extra steps to get the information. You can use the hotline portion of the app without a login or without interacting with the website at all.

The UI is easy enough to navigate, and the links to phone numbers work properly. Numbers are listed by category. One thing I like is that every time the app opens, there is a message suggesting that you skip the hotline and call 911 if you are in an immediate emergency or danger. In terms of security, this app doesn’t keep any information aside from library card or other login. However, calls will of course end up in the call log on the phone; given the delicacy of confidentiality issues with teens, you probably don’t want parents finding out sensitive information by accident.

A tangential final tip: if a child has a deactivated iPhone that they are using as an iPod, it can still dial 911 just like any deactivated cellphone (but only if it has a SIM card in for AT&T or TMobile, as far as I know; deactivated phones on Sprint and Verizon should be able to call 911).

Content: 5/5 – a good reference list, no blatant missing categories, references appear to be appropriately neutral/nonjudgmental

User Interface/Experience – 4/5 – login process is a little clunky, and accessing the information on the website is extremely obscure unless someone at your school or library advertises it. No such problems if you are only using it as a hotline reference.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.