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SmartCAT App Receives Award

SmartCAT App Selected for National
Behavioral Health Patient Empowerment Challenge Award

Congratulations to Jennifer Silk, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, and her colleague, Bambang Parmanto, PhD, Professor of Rehabilitation and Health Sciences at Pitt, on the selection of their SmartCAT application by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) for a Behavioral Health Patient Empowerment Challenge Award.  This award aims to identify and highlight existing technologies that empower consumers to manage their mental health and/or substance use disorders.

The ONC announced the award as part of the Technology Innovations for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders Conference that took place at the White House on September 16, 2013.  The conference was organized by the ONC, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The SmartCAT app was one of the top three tools selected for awards.  Visit the behavioral health technology innovations website developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in conjunction with this conference to learn more about this innovative tool for managing child anxiety disorders.

SmartCAT is an application designed for improving cognitive-behavioral treatments for child anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly-diagnosed childhood mental health problems, affecting 10-20% of school-aged youth. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which involves teaching children skills for coping with their anxiety and practicing the skills with a therapist, has been recognized as an efficacious treatment, but many children continue to have symptoms of anxiety even after weekly therapy sessions. SmartCAT is designed to improve the treatment efficacy by delivering an engaging intervention for youth to practice CBT skills in their day-to-day life (in vivo). Moreover, SmartCAT provides skills coaching to patients when and where it is most needed, not only during weekly 1-hour office visits.  

SmartCAT offers several advantages for improving CBT approaches: (1) providing opportunities for repetition to improve learning of CBT skills, (2) facilitating skills practice by reminding patients to complete home-based practice and to apply CBT skills during real-world emotional situations, (3) providing increased communication between therapists and patients, and (4) helping therapists track progress and personalize treatment by focusing on patient-specific skills deficits and strengths.