Why the secret to great therapy is data: Explaining the Kip Experience

This is a guest post by Kip’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Anja Schmitz

We make breakthroughs in therapy when we can discover patterns between what we are doing, thinking, and feeling. We uncover patterns by tracking data: the thoughts, feelings, and actions that we experience every day.

When you feel depressed or anxious, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why you feel this way. Some people think that they shouldn’t feel depressed because they can’t find a ‘real’ reason. Some people feel like upsetting events or crises have a much larger and longer impact on their mood and energy than seems reasonable. Other people have felt anxious throughout their lives and identify with ‘just being an anxious person.’

You might notice that these kinds of feelings – when excessive – have a huge impact on your life. They can prevent you from doing activities that are meaningful to you and help you reach your goals. It’s also difficult to figure out how to exit the downward spiral of depression or the vicious, repetitive cycle of anxiety.

One way to approach these problems is through therapy.

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At Kip, you and your therapist work together:

  • First, to understand what’s going on in your mind and how your thoughts and actions influence the way you are feeling (and vice versa).
  • Second, to find ways to change what you are doing, examine anxious and/or depressed thoughts, and re-evaluate how you engage with those thoughts.

We make breakthroughs in therapy when we can discover patterns between what we are doing, thinking, and feeling. We uncover patterns by tracking data: the thoughts, feelings, and actions that we experience every day. And at Kip, our goal is to make it easy for you to capture the data that will help your therapist gain insight and help you get better.

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For example, in therapy, you might track sleep, exercise, meditation, and the time you spend on Facebook throughout the week. Through tracking, you collect data that helps you answer: Which actions actually help to elevate your mood? Which ones, if any, trigger your anxiety?  Which habits stifle your productivity? How much time do you spend procrastinating on your phone?  It’s with this kind of information that you and your therapist can decide together which goals you want to set for yourself in therapy.

You might also decide with your therapist to track what kinds of thoughts come up during difficult situations and what feelings and actions come with these thoughts. With Kip you can write down these observations in the moment, on your phone. You don’t have to remember later when you’re with your therapist, what was going through your mind at the time.

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Your Kip therapist will also use self-report measures to learn more about the symptoms that you are experiencing and how much they impair your day-to-day experience. Self-report measures are standardized and clinically validated surveys for measuring mental well-being (such as the PHQ-9). You and your therapist can also come up with your own customized measures based on your individual experience (e.g. rate from 1-10 how flustered you felt at work today).

Tracking mood and other symptoms daily give your therapist (and you!) the ability to see how your symptoms are improving over time. When you measure results, you can see when you are getting better. Your therapist can also see when treatment isn’t working as it should and then quickly take steps to modify your care plan. To see an example, here is a chart of one Kip client’s progress over time (de-identified and used with permission) as measured by the DASS-21, a self-report measure that measures anxiety, stress, and depression. Research has shown that outcomes improve when therapists routinely collect data and measure progress. If you’re into reading scientific articles, this and this paper give great summaries of how and why.

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It is crucial that change is tangible for you personally. It’s hard to get a real sense of how your mood is changing if you don’t actively keep track of it. One of the hallmarks of depression is a tendency to focus on negative information and discount the positive. For example, you may focus on the single critique in an otherwise glowing performance review. With Kip, you and your therapist can easily keep track on how specific symptoms are changing and give you concrete data–which in turn can inspire hope that things are getting better, even if it’s hard to tell in the beginning!

You can also share feedback with your therapist through Kip. Did you get to talk about everything you wanted to in the last session? Do you feel like you are making progress? Do you feel like your therapist has your best interest at heart and understands your needs? You might already think about some of these questions after a therapy session. It can be intimidating to share negative feedback with your therapist in person.

Kip has a standardized survey that you take after sessions to provide this kind of feedback to your therapist.  And our therapists love getting feedback because it helps them improve their care and make your experience better. Gathering feedback in a standardized way has been shown to improve therapy and helps your therapist to notice when they are moving too fast, when it might be time to change strategies, or time to re-evaluate your therapy goals.

Through Kip, your therapist is always up to date and can look at measures you are tracking, your self-reports and any other assignments before you are coming in. They are able to prepare for your next session much more efficiently, which saves time in session to work on what’s important! Your therapist can see what you’re putting into the app in real time, which helps to keep you accountable! And you keep all of the important parts of your therapy care experience in the palm of your hand.

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