Online program takes aim at how mental disorder sufferers think

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- The University of Virginia is developing a new program aimed at shifting the rigid, negative thoughts that come with mental disorders.

Such disorders, like anxiety and depression, can have devastating effects on people's lives, and they may lead to isolation, poverty, and poor physical health.

The online program, called Future Thinking, can train people to imagine different and positive outcomes for various scenarios.

"It is four sessions long, and each session is about 15 to 20 minutes," said Bethany Teachman, a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at UVA. "People will see a variety of brief stories that are missing an ending. We encourage them to fill in those endings in different ways across the different sessions."

She says the anonymous program is designed to teach users to develop a new style of thinking, because people who are prone to mental disorders tend to have a pattern of thinking in which things will turn out badly.

"That can have serious, negative consequences," Teachman added.

The program can be accessed by computer, smart phone or tablet, and Teachman says that is deliberate because organizers want people to incorporate the program into their lives.

Making the program available to the public continues a study in which more than 200 UVA students took the training and reported relatively more positive expectancies about the future, an increased belief that a person can effectively change their goals, and the belief a person can change and grow.

Teachman says her team will continue to analyze and refine the program as more people participate in it.

"This is still a research study to find out for whom it will work best, in what ways, and what is the best way to deliver this," she said. "We think some people are going to do it on their phone as they are sitting outside their boss' office. For other people, they'll prefer to do it on the computer in the privacy of their own home. There are a lot of ways that this can work for people, and we want to find out how people can benefit most from it."

There are numerous barriers to treatment of mental disorders are numerous, including social stigma, cost, transportation, child care, and more.

To access the program, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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