By Professor Pål Kraft, Medical Director and one of the founders of Changetech.
Over the past decades, psychology has been put to more and more different uses. The theory, research and practice associated with psychology are fields that have been particularly important for our business in Changetech. This all comes together in the Personal Change Psychology (PCP) concept.
The first field is called preventive healthcare. This involves motivating and helping people to change health habits such as smoking, alcohol use, eating patterns, exercise, etc. There is now a broad body of research literature in these areas.
Research on how to motivate people to want to change their own health habits (by influencing their general attitudes to these issues) has been particularly useful.
So, too, is research about how to help people to maintain a behaviour change over time – and prevent relapse into old habits – by strengthening their willpower and capacity for self-regulation (Ajzen and Fishbein, 2010; Conner and Norman, 2005).
Changetech PCP programmes for helping people change their health habits are designed and planned on the basis of this comprehensive body of research (Kraft et al, 2008, 2009).
Another distinctive field is what is called self-help or self-therapy. This means helping people who experience challenges with their quality of life and general wellbeing. Examples include people who suffer from chronic diseases (diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), etc.).
Many such people also struggle with other problems of a psycho-social nature, such as poor sleep, pain, burnout, lack of confidence, anxiety and depression. Recent research has shown that this group can benefit from the kinds of interventions traditionally used in clinical psychology. These include techniques and therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, meta-cognitive therapy and positive psychotherapy.
Changetech programmes for this target group have an eclectic approach in the sense that we use therapy elements, techniques and exercises from several of these directions. They are all documented by extensive research (for an overview, see Kraft et al, 2009).
The third field included in Changetech Personal Change Psychology consists of what are often referred to as "social problems". These are the kinds of issues that stem from living together in an increasingly complex society, featuring ever-more complex ways of living together and with working lives that are increasingly demanding.
Many people find it a challenge to succeed in areas such as family, children, work and self-development. However, psychological research can provide insights as well as practical techniques in this field.
There is now extensive research available on what is appropriate practice in relation to raising children. Couples therapy has been shown to help those who have problems in a relationship. Communication training can help avoid personal conflicts and misunderstandings. Measures for coping with stress and a better sense of presence (mindfulness) can help people achieve better quality of life and greater flexibility.
In other words, psychological research has made a significant contribution to increasing our knowledge about what "works" within these three main fields.
Over the last decade, there has also been another development that’s really significant for us at Changetech.
Research now indicates that exercises, techniques and therapies previously only used in direct contact with patients and users can also be implemented effectively by digital means, using the Internet, smartphones, etc.
Research shows that such digital programmes have a significant effect (Barak et al, 2008; Kraft and Yardley, 2009, Portnoy et al, 2008, Webb et al, 2010).
Digital media also make it possible to reach large numbers of people at low cost. A combination of psychology and technology can make significant contributions to effective public health tools and interventions that can contribute to better health and improved quality of life for many people.
Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (2010). Predicting and changing behavior: The reasoned action approach. New York: Psychology Press.
Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M. & Shapira, N. (2008). A comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of Internet-based psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 26, 109-160.
Conner, M. & Norman, P. (2005). Predicting health behavior. Open University Press.
Kraft, P. & Yardley, L. (2009). Current issues and new directions in Psychology and Health: what is the future of digital interventions for health behaviour change? Psychology and Health, 6, 615-618.
Kraft, P., Drozd, F. & Olsen, E. (2009). ePsychology: Designing Theory Based Health Promotion Interventions. CAIS: Communications of the Association for Information Systems. Volum 22, article 24.
Kraft, P., Drozd, F. & Olsen, E. (2008) Digital Therapy: Addressing Willpower as Part of the Cognitive-Affective Processing System in the Service of Habit Change. Fogg, T.J. et al. (Eds.): PERSUASIVE 2007, LNCS 5033, pp. 177–188, 2008. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008
Kraft, P. (2008). Digital Therapy: the Coming Together of Psychology and Technology Can Create a New Generation of Programs for More Sustainable Behavioral Change. Fogg, T.J. et al. (Eds.): PERSUASIVE 2007, LNCS 5033, pp. 163–178, 2008. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008
Portnoy, D. B., Lori, A. J., Sheldon, S., Johnson, B. T. & Carey, M. P. (2008). Computer-delivered interventions for health promotion and behavioral risk reduction: A meta-analysis of 75 randomized controlled trials, 1988–2007. Preventive Medicine, 47, 3-16.
Webb, T. L., Joseph, J., Yardley, L., & Michie, S. (2010). Using the Internet to promote health behavior change: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of theoretical basis, use of behavior change techniques, and mode of delivery on efficacy. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12, e4.