SlowMo is a new inclusive, digitally supported therapy service for people with distressing psychosis. We designed this first-of-a-kind service in close conjunction with an interdisciplinary team at King’s College London (KCL). SlowMo supports in-person therapy sessions by helping patients monitor and recall difficulties, understand cognitive behavioural therapy concepts and access therapy tools outside of the clinic room and in daily life. The project has been awarded £1.3m funding by Wellcome to allow it to be scaled up in three NHS Trusts, and with the plan to dramatically increase the psychological therapy workforce in the NHS for severe mental health problems, SlowMo is ideally placed to achieve this.
The goal for the app is to overcome the widely recognised limitations of existing talking therapies, including poorer access, engagement, adherence and outcomes for marginalised groups. The SlowMo app doesn’t seek to replace in-person therapy, but empowers users to implement everyday habits that support them well beyond their therapy.
Key was understanding the specific needs and requirements of a very targeted audience. The KCL team found that 25% of people with severe psychosis didn’t own a smartphone and feared being tracked online. Following carefully crafted interviews with lived experience individuals and practitioners, the design team was highly aware of building a digital interface that would be as accessible and as transparent as possible, for any level of tech literacy.
Unlike the majority of other therapies, SlowMo doesn’t focus on problems, which often leads to poor adherence and therapy drop out, but instead focuses on surfacing safer thoughts and useful resources to build better long-term habits. The therapy is based on a core metaphor of capturing worries as bubbles, identifying and slowing down the thinking patterns behind these worries, and identifying safer thoughts to replace them. The clarity of SlowMo bubbles transforms complex and abstract therapy methodologies into an accessible and inclusive experience.
Designed to be useful during a psychotic episode, as well as a useful resource throughout everyday life, patients can either use the ‘emergency’ function to slow down negative thinking, or access their toolkit, where elements from the live therapy sessions can be bookmarked to appear, allowing patients to take the most useful content home with them.
The UX, UI and branding are designed seamlessly across the patient’s phone, the therapist’s computer and printed cards. The UI is intuitive to navigate regardless of the make and age of the devices. The SlowMo app can be used in the privacy of patients’ homes, or in busy public spaces, without giving away any confidential information. Offline, the physical tip cards can be used as a no-tech aid to reframe worries on-the-go.
Dr. Amy Hardy, Clinical Psychologist Lecturer and SlowMo Co-founder, adds: “We are delighted to have been awarded the Wellcome Trust funding. Inclusive human-centred design provides a novel way of harnessing therapy mechanisms – engagement, usability and enjoyment – that can lead to better outcomes. The collaboration with Special Projects has been invaluable in improving the user experience of SlowMo for delivery in frontline services.”