Chapter 5. Crafting Emotional Interventions

LIKE MANY PEOPLE WHO live in colder climates, I struggle with seasonal affective disorder. Having blown through some of the typical advice, like special lighting and fresh air, I was looking for something new. That’s when I came across Koko, a crowdsourced approach to emotional well-being (Figure 5-1). Koko asks you to choose a topic of concern, like work or school or family, and to write your worries about a worst-case outcome. When you click “Help rethink this,” your request goes out to a community. Community members—some trained in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, some not—swipe through each card to see if they can help. It offers a few prompts like, “A more balanced take on this would be…,” or, “This could turn out better than you think because…,” for those who want to help. Comments are moderated in real time and an algorithm watches out for trigger words that can signal a need for a more serious intervention.

Accepting rethinks helped steer me away from dark thoughts. After a while, I began offering some advice when I felt I could. The app not only helped me build resilience by rethinking stressful situations as a helper, but offered a sense of empathetic community, too.

Koko is only one of many sleep trackers, therapist bots, anxiety coaches, and mood monitoring apps that help us pursue emotional well-being explicitly. Technology as a mental health intervention is becoming accepted practice. That makes sense because we ...

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