So today I met SAM. Sam isn’t the average kind of guy…he’s actually a mobile app that helps with Anxiety. Also known as ‘The Self-Help Anxiety Management app’ it helps students to better manage their anxiety and provides 24/7 support at any time or place. Already in the top 100 health and fitness charts across 43 countries, SAM is a platform of therapeutic and immersive activities that students can access and use easily.
The app is a great example of an app that has been designed for and by the people who are going to use it. Using the concept of self-help Phil Topham, Praminda Caleb-Solly and Paul Matthews of the University of the West of England spent 5 long years and £100,000 working with students and staff to develop an app that delivers anxiety management techniques and information from your smartphone. With over a quarter of a million users by the end of 2014 it is fair to say that this app is not only useful but extremely well-used too.
In terms of the app itself, there are a number of different options for users:
- Working with SAM – Information about what users can expect of SAM and guidance on getting the best out of SAM as a self-help tool
- Help for anxiety NOW – Clear and engaging instructions for managing moments of more acute anxiety
- How’s my anxiety now? – A visual display which enables users to record and monitor their anxietyover time – Users are invited to self-monitor on each of four dimensions of anxiety: feeling, thinking, physical sensations and avoidance tendencies
- Anxiety tracker – The ongoing record of the user’s anxiety on each of the four dimensions of anxiety, above
- Things that make me anxious – The user’s personal listing of anxious situations with ratings of the level of anxiety attached to each
- Self-help with SAM – An array of self-help options for managing cognitive and physiological aspects of anxiety, presented in a range of multi-media formats and offering different levels of challenge to the user
- My anxiety toolkit – An evolving and quick-reference collation of self-help tools, from the self-help options, which the user has assembled to meet their personal needs and preferences for managing anxiety
- Social cloud – A closed, anonymous social network of SAM users where they can share concerns, gain support, obtain further information and guidance about managing anxiety.
Each section contains useful information, resources, examples and activities to help support students with their anxiety issues. For example, when selecting the Help for anxiety NOW section, this opens up three further activities to help the user cope with panic, covering:
- Calm breathing
- Picture peace
- Change the focus
SAM is regularly getting 4-5 star ratings and has featured on the NHS website as being one of the top apps for anxiety self-help. Whilst the app should not be seen as a replacement for face-to-face therapy, it does provide a 24/7 mobile solution for students to use wherever they may be as long as they have an internet connection with their smartphone or tablet device.
This app is fabulous, I’m finding it really useful and it is definitely my favourite app so far. The design is inviting, bright and cheerful and it is certainly an app that has been developed to be picked up and used immediately. The interface is uncomplicated and efficient, benefitting from personalisable features. Not only is the app ‘pretty’ it is well-researched and sits within a number of self-help and behaviour change frameworks such as psychoeducation and transtheoretical model of change (Abraham & Michie, 2008). The qualitative response (assessed through online reviews, blogs and vlogs) appears to be overwhelmingly positive and many individuals find this a useful and appropriate app. So why not check it out? You never know how helpful it could be for you so it’s definitely worth a try!
“I think that SAM can be useful for people and of course it means that we can make available self-help for anxiety to many thousands more people than we can access in one-to-one therapy.” – Phil Topham, Counselling Psychologist and Visiting Research Fellow, UWE