Twenty-Three Apps for the 21st Century Therapist



Mobile applications have a lot to offer therapists.  Whether you are looking for games to play with patients, productivity or billing tools, or something to help you research, there’s an app for that.  Many supervisees, students and consultees have asked me lately what apps I recommend, so I thought it was about time I gave you a list sampling those I find most helpful and fun.  Many are cheap or free, and available for the iPad, iPhone and Android:

1. GoToMeeting

Planning on doing online therapy?  Gotomeeting has desktop and app versions of videoconferencing software, which is HIPAA-compliant.  The app version allows you to attend meetings, but the meeting needs to be initiated from the desktop version.  I use this program for the majority of my online sessions with patients and supervisees.

2. IbisMail

If you are juggling multiple roles or a portfolio career, or simply want better therapeutic boundaries, this is the email program for you.  Installed on your iPad or iPhone, this program allows you to set up automatic filters, so you can sort through junk mail.  But it also allows you to set up folders for patient emails, so that you can have them all in one place.  Then it is up to you to decide when you review your patient communications, rather than have everything coming through one inbox.  Supports multiple email accounts.

3. Flipboard

If you are wanting to add value to your twitter followers or consultees, this is a great app.  It provides a slick intuitive interface on your mobile device that pulls in stories from feeds you set, from you Facebook account to the Harvard Business Review blog.  When you find something you want to share, the app allows seamless sharing on a variety of social media platforms.  In a few minutes you can browse and share selected readings and keep up to date on current interests.

4. Bamboo Paper

This app allows you to write notes on your iPad.  It is great for note-taking during evaluations, and allows you to send these notes to Evernote as a .pdf or email yourself a copy.  NOTE: Doing this is not HIPAA-compliant if you have distinguishing identifying information in the note, so I recommend you refrain from using the cloud-based features if you have any concerns about patient privacy.  If you are using it for workshops or other personal uses, however, no worries.  And if you keep the notes local to your password-protected device, it can be a great tool.

5. Evernote

I was hesitant to add Evernote due to the recent hack they experienced, but their quick and effective response to this have actually made me more confident that this cloud-based note-taking device is still useful.  It is NOT HIPAA-compliant, so I don’t use it for patient notes ever.  That said, it is great for dictating notes about workshops, blog ideas, snapping pictures of things for study aids, and a myriad of other useful tasks.  The notes synch up between every device you have them on, so you’re always up to date.

6. iAnnotate

One of my favorites.  iAnnotate allows you to mark up .pdf files on your mobile device.  If you need to sign off on a document someone emails or faxes you, no more scanning, printing, scanning again stuff.  And if you are a student or researcher this is a must-have, as it supports highlighting and annotating research articles.  Synchs with Mendeley and Dropbox so you can store your research library with notes online.

7. 1Password

How can you make your mobile device more secure and use your web-browser more safely?  This may be the answer for you.  1Password installs on your mobile or desktop, and allows you to save and generate extremely long and secure passwords.  The level of encryption can be adjusted for the most cautious of password protectors.  This program also synchs over the cloud so that you always have the up-to-date passwords on all of your devices.  Even more convenient, it can bookmark your sign-in pages.  All of this is secured by double-password protection on your iPhone.  Stop using the same lame password for everything and start generating unique hard-to-crack ones for true HIPAA-compliance.

8. Mendeley

One part social network, one part research library,  Mendeley allows you to store research articles and annotations online and on your device.  It allows you to network with other colleagues to see what they are researching, share articles, and store all of your articles in one place.  Often it can even pull up the bibliographic entry from the web just by reading the .pdf metatag.  Geeky research goodness!

9. PayPal

This is one option for billing patients and paying vendors that is good to have.  You can invoice by email, transfer money to your bank account, and keep track of online payments on the website.  The app works well in a pinch if you aren’t ready to swipe cradit cards in your office.  NOTE, each transaction has a small fee.

10. Prezi

I’d love to see more therapists using this one.  This presentation software allows you to create dynamic visual presentations on your computer or mobile device.  You could use it to convert boring DBT worksheets to a dynamic online presentation.  Prezi supports importation from powerpoint, and provides free online hosting of your prezis as well as tons of templates and tutorials.  If you do public speaking, upload some of your prezis on your LinkedIn profile to give potential clients a vivid sense of your work.  You can see a sample here, but bear in mind that it would make more sense if I was there giving the talk.  🙂

11. DCU

I haven’t been to a bank in over 2 years, and this app is the reason why.  Digital Credit Union’s Mobile Branch PC, allows me to deposit checks from patients via my iphone.  Just login, scan the checks, and in 10 minutes you’ve done your deposits for the week.  Meanwhile, the online interface allows you to keep track of your spending easily and export to Excel or accounting software if you need to.  Great for tax season!

12. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great and free way to store non-private information on the cloud.  The app allows you to email items easily, so I use it to email intake instructions to patients, press kits to people inquiring about keynotes, and a number of other items.  I also keep all my DBT worksheets on it so that they can be sent quickly and easily to patients should they be feeling in need of extra support between sessions but not acute enough to warrant hospitalization.

13. TED

This app allows you to stay inspired and experience innovation daily, by beaming TED talks to your mobile device from the offical TED site.  You can favorite, search, and share your favorite ones, or hit “Inspire me” for random ideas.  As I wrote this, I was listening to Amanda Palmer speak on “The art of asking.”  This app can allow you access to ideas outside of the filtered professional bubble with therapists often get ourselves stuck in.

14. Line2

Want a second phone line on your iPhone?  This app allows you to have one.  You can port your practice number to it, and stop carrying two cell phones.  At $9.95 a month you can have unlimited US/Canada calling, at $14.95 a month you get a toll-free number and virtual fax.

15. CardMunch

Tired of keeping all those business cards from a shoebox?  CardMunch allows you to snap photos of a colleague’s business card and convert it to a digital one which it stores in your contacts.  Synchs with LinkedIn.

16. Micromedex

Keeping up-to-date on medications is pretty daunting, but this app, with frequent updates, helps you keep track od a medication, its Black Box warnings, contraindications, drug interactions, adverse effects, alternate names, standard dosages and more.

And now for some games!

17. Plants Vs. Zombies

This game is great for helping patients who want to learn about strategy and pacing.  Choose a certain number of plant types to plant in order to stop the zombies from overrunning your backyard.

18. Zombies, Run!

Continuing my zombie kick, this game is better than any pedometer I’ve ever used.  The more you walk or run, the further you progress in this game of fleeing zombies.  Go on multiple missions, play with friends, and even train for a 5K.

19. Kingdom Rush

This game is a classic tower defense game, which helps patients learn to make choices, control impulse spending as part of a winning strategy, and work on pacing, problem-solving and a host of other cognitive abilities.

20. Minecraft Pocket Edition

This mobile app version of Minecraft is a great way to connect with a patient’s gaming, and the app allows you to play together on a wireless LAN, so you can fight for survival or create an amazing construction right from your office together.

21. Flower Chain

This is a completely nonviolent game that focuses on setting up a chain reaction of flower blooms in order to complete each level.  Great eye candy, and a fun game for clearing the mind after a difficult session.

22. Trainyard

This puzzle game requires you to plan out and design multiple railroad tracks.  The trick is to set them up and pace them so that they all meet their goals without running into each other.  Great prompt for talking with adolescents about how they can learn to negotiate peer relationships in the same way, or learn to compromise with adults in order to get along with them.

23. Lavalanche

This puzzle game is reminiscent of Jenga, in that you have to dismantle a tower without letting the Tiki Idol fall into lava.  Another great one for executive function capacity-building around sequencing, planning and problem-solving.

So there you go, give some of these a try and let me know what you think.  Have a favorite app that you want to share?  Please feel free to comment and include the link.

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Money: The Post You Don’t Want To Read But Should

First off, not only am I not a financial advisor, an economist or an accountant, I have never been the poster-boy for “financial whiz.”  I say this out of neither pride or shame, but for two other reasons.  First, as a caveat to the reader that all of this is based on personal learned experience and therefore as limited as it is true for me.  And second, because if I can do this, I think you can too.

Money is the Achilles heel of many therapists.  We are averse to think about or speak aloud about it, and we come by this aversion honestly.  At least in the US, we are raised and educated without a single class or course in financial planning or money management.  Ask yourself, what subject have I ever learned about in life that I avoided thinking or talking about?  But in the case of finances, many of us emerge into adulthood with huge blind spots about how to function in a capitalist economy and society.

In my coaching and clinical supervision with therapists, and in my talk with colleagues, I have heard some amazing examples of these blind spots.  I once heard a colleague justify not charging a patient for a missed appointment because if she has to miss an appointment the patient doesn’t charge her!  These statements bely an ambivalent and confused statement about money.  Patients are hiring us, we aren’t hiring them.  As uncomfortable as this assymmetry is, the fact is that we don’t pay patients to help us and they do pay us to help them.

I have launched into general diatribes before, but today I want to be really specific and concrete.  I want to share with you one pointer I share with all my coaching clients about how to make more money and how to manage it better.  I’m even going to give you a specific vendor link.

The pointer is this, if you want to make more money, take a look at the bank you’re using.  Making money isn’t just about your fee or caseload, but the fees you may be paying out.  (I know, some of you who’ve made it this far are already getting ready to click away, hang in there.)  One of the things large banks have is large overhead.  They are, for reasons too numerous and obvious, in a lot of distress these days.  For example, Consumer Reports estimates that the government legislature that required them to cap their fee each time you use your debit card at 24 cents a transaction is going to cost banks 6 billion dollars in revenue lost.  So to recoup their losses, they are finding other fees to levy on you that are legal.

What banks are banking on is that we’re afraid of change.  And let’s face it colleagues, most of us want to find a place to “park” when it comes to money management.  We want to find the fee we can set and not look at again rather than adjust it over time.  We want to program our billing into computers or contract it out to services so we can not deal with it.  And we don’t want to compare interest rates and fees, but rather find a bank and stick with it.

And the larger banks don’t just gouge you with fees, they use you in another way.  Maybe you’ve noticed that when you do use your ATM or the bank website advertisements come up that are eerily resonant with what you spend your money on.  This is because banks value your patronage for data mining purposes as well.  Many of them are selling this data to big business.  I am often struck by the irony that a profession which values privacy and confidentiality for our patients turns a blind eye or accepts the violation of their own financial privacy.  So if nothing else, do a little research about whether your bank sells your debit transaction or other data, and if they do, move.

Since 2009 I don’t think I have set foot in a bank to do actual banking.  The last time I went in the building was to have something notarized.  By the same token, my deposits have become much more quick and efficient in my business, and my fees have been minor.  Why is this?

It is because I use an online credit union, Digital Federal Credit Union in fact.  DCU is a completely full-service credit union with the emphasis on online banking.  This is not surprising since it began in 1979 as a charted credit Union for Digital Equipment Corporation.  The eligibility requirements are not at all onerous, in fact your interest in social justice can make you eligible.  I say this because my eligibility came from being a disability rights ally.  I joined the American Association of People with Disabilities.  That was it:  Fifteen bucks to a great cause and I was eligible to join DCU.

As an online credit union, DCU is actually more portable than my licensure!  I can move to any state, bank from any state, online.  Their technology and website are in my opinion excellent.  I can transfer funds easily from my account to other family members’ accounts at DCU, and interbank exchanges are almost as easy.

They have a great bill-paying feature that allows me to schedule payments electronically, either one-time or recurring.  The bill-pay feature has also been a lifesaver for me when I need to dispute something with a vendor or track how much I have spent on utilities for my practice or home in a given amount of time.

And at tax time, house closing, or any other time you need financial documentation quick, DCU allows me to download check images, statements, etc. into PC files.  Or if I am trying to sort my expense deductions for the year I can import the entire tax year into an Excel or other software spreadsheet to sort, locate, and calculate expenses.

But the thing about DCU that makes me go absolutely blissful is their iPad and iPhone app, because it allows me to take photos of checks and deposit them from my office, living room, wherever there is, well, the internet.  No more hoarding checks to make a trip to the bank, no more waiting in lines at the bank.  In fact, I often do my deposits late at night or on weekends, because banking hours aren’t really an issue.

Think about all the time you are spending, which is money you’re spending, on your banking.  Do you spend 30 minutes running to the bank each week?  That’s time you could see a patient.  Is your income stream stuttering because you avoid depositing check until you have to?  And clinically, what message(s) may you be sending your patient that you haven’t cashed their check yet?  If you want to be a better therapist, get better with your money.  And if you want to get better with your money, use an online credit union.

Oh, I have lots of thoughts and opinions on how to use technology to improve your therapy practice clinically and financially, maybe you want to work with me online or in person?