An estimated 32% of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Though a large segment of the population is affected by anxiety, many lack access to treatment and coping resources. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy aimed at helping individuals with anxiety challenge unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior. However, traditional treatments for anxiety can be costly and time-consuming. Beyond these logistical barriers lies an enduring stigma of mental illness that discourages individuals from seeking treatment.

Mobile applications attempt to bring established mental health treatments to more people directly. Although efforts to expand therapy resources into a digital space have made them more accessible, many apps fail to take advantage of the affordances of mobile digital devices. Such devices make it easy to create and manipulate media and suggest opportunities beyond converting existing interventions to static device screens.

This investigation explores how a digital therapy tool might be designed to challenge negative automatic thoughts related to planning and goal setting. Drawing from imagery-based interventions used in cognitive behavioral therapy, this investigation combines imagery change techniques with multimodal digital storytelling to develop visual strategies for eliciting, reframing, and transforming mental imagery.

Check out my full thesis project here.  


How can a digital therapy tool challenge negative automatic thoughts for undergraduate students experiencing anxiety in order to achieve more balanced thinking in daily planning and goal setting?

Conceptual framework sythesizing Beck’s Cognitive Model, Cognitive Experiential Self Theory, Narrative Discourse Theory (Adapted for a Cognitive System) and principles of Transformation and Transduction used in Multimodal Storytelling.  


SQ 1: How can a multimodal image builder leverage unique personal visualizations and metaphor to help students new to metacognition represent their thoughts through imagery?

SQ 2: How can a multimodal image builder suggest alternative views or perspectives to help students identify and reframe negative automatic thoughts?

SQ 3: How can interactive visual prompts interrupt negative thinking patterns to help students practice using alternative thoughts and images to manage their goals in high and low-stress moments?

SQ 4: How can a multimodal image builder and interactive visual prompts cohere to facilitate the full cycle of experience, observation, reflection, and planning used in image rescripting?

This investigation framework illustrates how each subquestion is situated in the process of image rescripting. 

Mockup screens of an imagined app that allows patients to enact scenes of mental imagery. In this example, the patient alters the distressing mental image of drowning by making the waves smaller.