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USU develops mental health app, makes it free for students

By Mike Anderson, KSL TV | Posted - Jan 14th, 2020 @ 11:04am



LOGAN — Faced with the challenge of a growing demand for mental health care and not enough resources, one Utah State University professor came up with a way to put some of the tools that psychologists often use with their clients into an online program.

“Really the focus has been, how do we take the psychological skills we know are helpful when we do them in therapy and translate them into this other format?” said Michael Levin, who is an associate professor of psychology at USU. “These skills we know can help with a wide range of mental health problems, like depression, anxiety, coping with health problems, just general stress.”

Levin spent several months putting some of those tools into software form, testing them and putting them into an online program called ACT guide, which stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The ACT guide costs $10 for six months but was recently made free for all current USU students.

“Some people are uncomfortable with seeking therapy,” Levin said. “They’re not sure if they need to see at therapist also, so this provides a low-intensity option.”

However, Levin added the ACT guide is not meant to take the place of a counselor.

“A lot of people see a therapist and they get a lot of help from it,” Levin said. “That’s the best way to get help, but this gives an additional resource.”

James Morales, vice president of student affairs at USU, said the program is just one more tool among many others that are designed to reach out to more people.


Wherever people are on that spectrum of mental health concerns, we think these skills could be a benefit to them.

–Michael Levin, USU associate professor of psychology


“The demand for services has been growing fairly exponentially over the last few years,” Morales said. “As one of the universities that has a sizeable population of residential students, we’ve learned that no one single approach was going to be best to address their needs.”

Morales added one of the main reasons for that exponential growth in demand was the fact that stigmas over seeking mental health have gone down significantly in recent years.

“This is about helping people re-engage in doing the things that matter, and move toward those things, even if it is difficult,” Levin said. “Wherever people are on that spectrum of mental health concerns, we think these skills could be a benefit to them.”

The ACT guide can be found here.

Mike Anderson

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