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Frequently Asked Questions

What is interpretation bias?

Interpretation bias is a tendency to jump to negative conclusions when faced with ambiguity. This may look like thinking your friends are mad at you if they haven’t texted you back, assuming you’re getting fired when being called into a last-minute meeting with your boss, thinking the loud noise you heard downstairs was someone breaking in, or assuming that the headache you have is a brain tumor. Interpretation bias is very common among people with anxiety or depression, and decades of research has shown that therapies that improve interpretation bias lead to improved mental health!

How much does HabitWorks cost?

There are no costs associated with the app or study- HabitWorks is free to download and use for eligible participants! The only fees associated with participation are standard data charges from your phone carrier. However, we recommend connecting to WIFI while using the app to minimize these charges.

How is my privacy protected?

We are committed to maintaining your privacy to the best of our ability. All data we collect is de-identified, meaning that we assign you a study ID and never use your name. We store all identifying information (contact info) separately in a password-protected file. Data is stored on encrypted devices that only our HabitWorks staff have access to so that it is kept secure.

Are there any risks?

While we don’t anticipate any major risks, you may experience some discomfort or an increase in symptoms like you might in everyday life. The study includes questions about your mental health, and the app may contain scenarios that bring up tougher memories or experiences. We have provided a list of mental health resources both on this website and in the app.

Are there any benefits?

We can’t guarantee that HabitWorks will benefit everyone. We expect that HabitWorks will help some people strengthen healthy mental habits, which has been shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms. Additionally, you will be helping us better understand who this intervention might be most helpful for.

Can HabitWorks replace therapy or other mental health treatment?

HabitWorks is NOT designed to replace traditional forms of treatment. HabitWorks may be a helpful adjunct (i.e., add-on) to therapy and can be used to practice some of the skills you may be learning in therapy. For people not currently enrolled in therapy, HabitWorks may be a helpful tool to learn some basic cognitive therapy skills.

What devives can I use the app on? What if I need to switch devices during the study? 

At this time, the HabitWorks app is only compatible with Apple iOS smartphones. The app is not optimized for use on an iPad or other Apple devices. If you switch phones during the study, we will be happy to re-enroll you on your new device- just let us know!

Technology makes me nervous! Should I still use HabitWorks?

Yes, anyone with access to an Apple Iphone can use HabitWorks! This study doesn’t require any special technical skills- you will need to access your email, use an internet browser, download an app, and respond to prompts by clicking or typing. Most importantly, we have a study team dedicated to helping you with any technical issues you may encounter. We want to make sure you are comfortable and confident in using HabitWorks, so we are happy to provide additional technical support while getting the app set up, or at any point during the study!

Can I decide when to practice the exercises? 

Yes! You can use the app wherever and whenever is most convenient for you! The app will allow you to schedule notifications for the times you would like to practice the exercises. We strongly recommend picking times where you can be in a quiet, distraction-free place.

What if I miss an app notification? Can I make-up sessions? 

Yes, you can access each app feature (exercises, mood check-ins, diary) anytime from the dashboard of the app. Try to complete 3 exercises and 1 check in per week. And remember, you can always change the time & day of notifications in your app settings!

Why does HabitWorks tell me my answers are "wrong"?

The scenarios are intentionally designed to be ambiguous- there could be many different explanations or interpretations and none are actuallly correct or incorrect. Remember that the goal of this app is to help you become more flexible in your thinking. If you have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions, you may need a lot of practice in order to accept different conclusions. By trying to get more answers correct, you will be practicing identifying alternative interpretations in situations where people commonly jump to negative conclusions.

Some of these scenarios have happened to me in the past, and I'm finding it hard to open up to different interpretations

We want to be clear that the purpose of HabitWorks is in no way to invalidate the experiences you have had in the past. While we hope that the app will help you open up to different interpretations for future situations, we recognize that certain scenarios may be unhelpful, or even harmful, to reframe. You can always delete situations that you don't want to see. Further, we want to point out that although the situations presented in the app are commonly related to cognitive distortions in anxiety and depression, there is a chance that those same situations may bring up thoughts related to discrimination for some people. It is NOT the intention of HabitWorks to reframe interpretations related to discrimination you may have faced. If there is a scenario you would not like to see again, please use the XXX button on your screen to remove it from your personalized exercise.

What is the science behind HabitWorks? 

Hundreds of research studies from across the globe have shown that people who experience anxiety or depression tend to interpret ambiguous situations more negatively or less positively than people without anxiety and depression. Improving this mental habit of jumping to negative conclusions has been part of psychological treatments since the 1960’s. In 2002, researchers began developing new methods to change mental habits through training exercises (called Cognitive Bias Modification). The exercise in this app has been tested in many studies, which have shown that it can improve people’s mental habits. Moreover, over time people who complete the exercises tend to react more positively to potentially stressful situations compared to people who do not complete the exercises (e.g., placebo control group). However, with any treatment, not all people will benefit to the same degree, and researchers are still trying to answer basic questions about this type of treatment, such as for whom it is most helpful, when, and how to best deliver it.

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