Blending cognitive analytic therapy with a digital support tool: Mixed methods study involving a user-centered design of a prototype app

EASTON, K., KELLETT, S., COOPER, M., MILLINGS, Abigail, VARELA, J. and PARRY, G (2021). Blending cognitive analytic therapy with a digital support tool: Mixed methods study involving a user-centered design of a prototype app. JMIR Mental Health, 8 (2), e20213.

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© Katherine Easton, Stephen Kellett, Martin Cooper, Abigail Millings, Jo Varela, Glenys Parry. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health (, 01.02.2021. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Mental Health, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included. Background: Patients can struggle to make good use of psychotherapy owing to deficits in awareness, and digital technologies that support awareness are at a premium. Currently, when patients participate in cognitive analytic therapy (CAT), the technology supporting relational awareness work involves completion of paper-based worksheets as between-session tasks. Objective: We aimed to design, with therapists and patients, a prototype digital mobile app. This was to help patients better engage in the “recognition” phase of the CAT treatment model by providing an unobtrusive means for practicing relational awareness with dynamic feedback on progress. Methods: A national online survey was conducted with CAT therapists (n=50) to determine readiness for adoption of a mobile app in clinical practice and to identify core content, functionality, and potential barriers to adoption. A prototype mobile app based on data and existing paper-based worksheets was built. Initial face-to-face user testing of the prototype system was completed with three therapists and three CAT expatients. Results: Among the therapists surveyed, 72% (36/50) reported not currently using any digital tools during CAT. However, the potential value of a mobile app to support patient awareness was widely endorsed. Areas of therapist concern were data security, data governance, and equality of access. These concerns were mirrored during subsequent user testing by CAT therapists. Expatients generated additional user specifications on the design, functionality, and usability of the app. Results from both streams were integrated to produce five key changes for the reiteration of the app. Conclusions: The user-centered design process has enabled a prototype CAT-App to be developed to enhance the relational awareness work of CAT. This means that patients can now practice relational awareness in a much more unobtrusive manner and with ongoing dynamic feedback of progress. Testing the acceptability and feasibility of this technological innovation in clinical practice is the next stage in the research process, which has since been conducted and has been submitted. The important challenges of data protection and governance must be navigated in order to ensure implementation and adoption if the CAT-App is found to be acceptable and clinically effective.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: acceptability; cognitive analytic therapy; digital app; relational awareness; user testing; user-centered design; 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Identification Number:
Page Range: e20213
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2021 13:20
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 14:30

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