is simple: they tap into our innateenjoyment of games and natural instinctto form relationships.
“I’m not for a minute suggesting thatthis technology can replace people,“Hudlicka says. These devices andprograms can be part of, but not asubstitute for, other forms of therapy.
They’re also for people who wouldn’totherwise get treatment. “It’s quiteapplicable to Alberta because it’s such alarge province, land-area wise, with lotsof people living in smaller centres andrural areas,“ she says.
This first version of Hudlicka’s appis designed for people going from anintensive treatment program for alcoholaddiction back to everyday life. It couldbe adapted for other forms of addictionand mental health conditions. The appswill let people record behaviours, setgoals, track progress, store inspiringphotographs or messages and getoutside help with the click of a button.
It’s the virtual coach that setsHudlicka’s program apart from othermental health apps. The virtual coachleads people through a mindfulness-based relapse prevention program that’sbeen proven to help people recover fromaddictions. And the coach’s approachto teaching the material adapts to users’individual needs. “It tries to be moreinteractive and more responsive towhere the person is at,“ Hudlicka says.
Patrick McNulty has been anaddictions counsellor in Red Deer formore than 20 years. He says people withan addiction are more likely to relapse asthey shift from treatment back to livingindependently.
“Whenever you try to apply a new
skill, there can be challenges—it’s going
to feel awkward,“ McNulty says. “Extra
support, on an as-needed basis, could be
Morrison has been treated for
addiction at centres across Alberta. He
remembers one instance in the early
1990s when he graduated from a year-
long residential program one afternoon
and relapsed two hours later.
“Within a month I lost my apartment,
lost my job, sold my car to a drug dealer
and ended up homeless again.“
Morrison imagines many ways a
smartphone app, always within reach,
could have helped him stay clean. He’s
been sober since September 2012 and
today works as a counsellor with Fresh
Start, a Calgary recovery centre for men.
This kind of lived experience with
addiction has helped shape Hudlicka’s
work. She’s currently at the University
of Lethbridge researching the next phase
of her project: how to encourage policy-
makers and clinicians to make better
use of new behavioural technologies in
These devices and
programs can be part of,
but not a substitute for,
other forms of therapy