Hillel's Tech Corner: Clinical psychology on your phone

Not to get too personal here, but I think we can all agree that this pandemic has taken an emotional and mental toll on us all.

GGTUDE (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As the world races toward a vaccine, the ramifications of this pandemic on our collective mental health are not getting nearly enough attention. Millions of people have entered the circle of anxiety, depression or worse.
When one takes a closer look at the mental health space in general, and the solutions that exist both for diagnosis and for treatment, what they find is an area that has not evolved since mental health became a thing.
There are several companies in the space, some of which are in Israel and I’ve already covered. Companies like BetterHelp and Kai. I recently discovered another one that takes a different angle on mental health treatment.
The company is called GGTUDE, and it has seven apps for iOS and Android, all of which are free to download – with several more in the works.
One thing we can all agree on is that we are spending more and more time on our mobile phones and becoming increasingly dependent on these devices as we go through life. If we are able to put that time spent on our phones to better our mental health, well, that would kill two birds with one stone.
As the company puts it, “GGTUDE is an evidence-based digital mental-health platform designed to help people overcome mental challenges and improve their lives.”
The words “evidence-based” is key here because the last thing someone suffering from mental illness wants or needs is false hope from some platform that promises them peace of mind but does not deliver.
So what exactly is GGTUDE and how does it work?
The company combines mobile technology, cognitive behavioral therapy, and brain sciences to create multiple mental health products that address things like anxiety, obsessions, body-image, self-esteem, and more. It is also important to emphasize that a person’s overall mental well-being improves the efficacy of other medical devices and pharmaceuticals by targeting and improving the patient’s inner dialogue and promoting a positive outcome.
Well, it’s 2020 and GGTUDE couldn’t ignore COVID. The company’s new app, GG Self Care, provides a research-backed, personalized digital intervention for COVID-19-related psychological difficulties as well as other mental-health challenges.
It is safe to say that everyone is coping with mental challenges in the face of this horrible pandemic, some more than others, but everyone is struggling.
GGTUDE, like many companies, is now focused on providing mental-health first aid for coronavirus-affected communities. It aims to provide scalable mental-health first-aid tools for healthcare communities and offers strategies for developing resilience and coping with uncertainty for people in lockdown and breakout zones. The uncertainty of what will happen in the world over the next few months is a huge source of anxiety for millions of people so facing that uncertainty head on is of paramount importance.
GG Self Care helps individuals cope better with mental difficulties related to COVID-19. Specifically, the app targets challenges such as uncertainty, distress related to health worries, coping with crisis and more.
The story behind this specific app is no less interesting than the company itself. It was built by a group of Israeli and Palestinian developers and entrepreneurs who chose to focus their efforts on building a research-backed personal tool for dealing with the mental challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We realized we were facing something completely new. While technically, many people have more spare time, a lot of it is spent on news consumption, chores and pure survival, so it is hard to find quality time to look after ourselves. We knew we had to build something that improves resilience and coping even if done in very quick exercises of 3-4 minutes at a time.
“We wanted to respond as quickly as we could, Guy started working on the content, but we had many technical challenges we had to take care of in order to succeed. Most of the capable people we talked to were busy balancing their own boats or in some state of shock,” recalls Gur Ilany, CEO of GGtude, the digital health start-up that provides the platform for the project. “Then we met Mohammed Faour, a young and brilliant engineer and entrepreneur from Nablus in the West Bank. He looked at our project, saw the importance and potential, and didn’t waste any time before joining the collaborative effort.”
The company was founded in 2019, has only raised $100k, has five employees and has offices in Tel Aviv. The company also received a $350k grant from the Israel Innovation Authority to create an algorithm that will help individuals with depression.
GGTUDE’s multiple apps, which have been downloaded more than 500 thousand times, cover a wide range of psychological themes, including: anxiety; depression; obsessive–compulsive disorder; self esteem; body image; post-traumatic stress disorder; parenting; sex life; relationships.
I KNOW what you’re thinking. Can apps really replace therapists? The answer is no.
Their apps do not try to imitate therapy sessions or simulate a chat with a therapist. However, cognitive behavioral therapy revolves around improving mental health by reducing maladaptive beliefs and utilizing a healthy inner monologue. The idea behind the apps is to help you directly target and improve your inner monologue.
As mentioned, the apps are free, and offer two or three free daily exercises per topic.
Premium membership offers 500+ daily exercises, and costs $11.99 per month or $59.90 per year with a seven-day free trial.
The company’s apps are guided by three primary principles. The first is that everything is research-backed so you know the products are reliable. The second is efficiency so you don’t need to spend more than three minutes a day in the apps. The third is privacy so you know all your data is stored locally and not in the cloud.
Led by Prof. Guy Doron, clinical psychologist and researcher, the team of technologists and mental health experts designed the most efficient way to improve your mental wellness without investing many hours or spending a fortune.
Doron’s co-founder, Ilany, brings extensive business and innovation experience spanning over a decade, as well as technical know-how, which is a rare and very valuable combination. He is also a UX expert and the author of four books.
The company’s three most popular apps include GG Self Esteem, which is for anyone; GG OCD, which deals with OCD, anxiety and depression; and GG Self Care, which also caters to the general public. There are other apps in the app stores that include GG Body Image and GG Sex Life to help enhance your physical intimacy.
Not to get too personal here, but I think we can all agree that this pandemic has taken an emotional and mental toll on us all. I am no different. GGTUDE, along with the many other companies trying to tackle mental health, makes me hopeful and optimistic for the destigmatization of mental illness and the world of mental care in general.