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Ecological momentary interventions for mental health: A scoping review



The development of mobile computing technology has enabled the delivery of psychological interventions while people go about their everyday lives. The original visions of the potential of these "ecological momentary interventions" were presented over a decade ago, and the widespread adoption of smartphones in the intervening years has led to a variety of research studies exploring the feasibility of these aspirations. However, there is a dearth of research describing the different dimensions, characteristics, and features of these interventions, as constructed.


To provide an overview of the definitions given for "ecological momentary interventions" in the treatment of common mental health disorders, and describe the set of technological and interaction possibilities which have been used in the design of these interventions.


A systematic search identified relevant literature published between 2009 and 2020 in the PubMed, PsycInfo, and ACM Guide to the Computing Literature databases. Following screening, data were extracted from eligible articles using a standardized extraction worksheet. Selected articles were then thematically categorized.


The search identified 583 articles of which 64 met the inclusion criteria. The interventions target a range of mental health problems, with diverse aims, intervention designs and evaluation approaches. The studies employed a variety of features for intervention delivery, but recent research is overwhelmingly comprised of studies based on smartphone apps (30 of 42 papers that described an intervention). Twenty two studies employed sensors for the collection of data in order to provide just-in-time support or predict psychological states.


With the shift towards smartphone apps, the vision for EMIs has begun to be realised. Recent years have seen increased exploration of the use of sensors and machine learning, but the role of humans in the delivery of EMI is also varied. The variety of capabilities exhibited by EMIs motivates development of a more precise vocabulary for capturing both automatic and human tailoring of these interventions.

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