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While psychological treatments have been shown to be effective in treating psychiatric disorders, the mechanism of their therapeutic effect is less well understood. An improved mechanistic understanding of psychiatric disorders and their treatments would enable refinement of existing interventions, and more targeted intervention and the development of new treatments. A major limitation in understanding the mechanism of effect in psychological treatments has been the challenge of capturing what happens outside of the clinical setting. The development of new digital technologies such as smartphones and wearables enables much more inter-session data to be collected. The rapid evolution of smartphones and wearable technologies, combined with the ubiquity of mobile networks means that is possible for patients to provide regular, longitudinal, and high-resolution data. This allows a previously inaccessible and untapped stream of a specific patient's behaviours, moods, activities, and thoughts to be quantified. Monitoring through such technologies may be of therapeutic value, improving self-awareness and promoting mentalization. Smartphones and wearable technologies can also be used to delivered therapies remotely. Digital technologies enable new insights to be gained into the lived experience of mental disorder enabling current treatments to be refined and personalised, as well as generating new targets for future treatment development. In this article we discuss how such technologies are improving our understanding of psychiatric disorder, informing psychological treatments before considering the future potential of such technologies. We will also consider the challenges and ethical concerns of such approaches.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Psychiatry

Publication Date





digital technology, mechanism, mental health, psychological treatments, symptom monitoring, wearables