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Lance RappaportUWindsor psychology professor Lance Rappaport is leading a study to assess the effectiveness of an online app to manage anxiety.

Feeling anxious? There’s an app for that!

A UWindsor psychology professor is leading a study to assess the effectiveness of a smartphone app to manage anxiety.

Lance Rappaport heads a team of researchers assessing MindShift, a free tool developed by experts at Anxiety Canada to help people manage psychological distress. The app has been freely available for several years, but the group of mental health professionals now want to evaluate how well it’s working. The goal is to expand the app’s reach and develop it further.

“This is the first empirical study of the smartphone app,” Dr. Rappaport said. “We anticipate that this research will help people use the app to better manage anxiety.”

Mindshift is based on cognitive behavioural therapy, a psycho-social intervention that helps people challenge unhelpful cognitive beliefs and behaviours, improve emotional regulation, and develop coping strategies.

Anxiety Canada, the non-profit organization that developed the app, has awarded Rappaport a grant of $21,750 to fund the research.

The study asks participants to watch a short video explaining MindShift before using the app for 16 weeks. There’s an online initial baseline assessment of anxiety and psychological distress, then five follow-up assessments during the 16-week period.

“We want to see how often people use the app,” said Rappaport. “It’s a matter of practising skills so they are there when you need them. We want to see how distressed people are initially and how distress changes as they use the app.”

Participants must be at least 18 years of age and located in Canada or the United States. They have to be comfortable enough with the English language to complete study questionnaires and they must have access to an iOS or Android smartphone or mobile device with access to the Internet.

People who take part in the study can receive up to $95 in gift certificates for their participation.

For more information or to participate, visit Anxiety Canada’s MindShift research page.

—Sarah Sacheli