This Research-Backed Online Tool Hopes to Banish Negative Thought Patterns

When a situation have a few possible outcomes — say, asking a friend for a favor — do you tend to assume the worst will happen? Not that they’ll be happy to help out, but that they’ll secretly resent you? That sort of negative thinking isn’t uncommon when you’re coping with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, and it can really drag you down.

A new, free program from the University of Virginia hopes to make it easier for people to see better outcomes for themselves. Through four online sessions, users will be tasked with imagining endings for a variety of situations. In the process, researchers hope they’ll develop a new style of thinking.

Bethany Teachman, a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at UVA, explains. “We want to give people practice in learning how to think about those situations in new ways, because we think that people who are prone to anxiety, depression and negative mood tend to have a pattern of thinking that things will turn out badly, and that can have really serious, negative consequences.”

The launch of the online program continues a study that involved 201 UVA students. The initial study found that participants reported relatively more positive expectations about the future, an increased believe in their ability to reach their goals, and an increased believe that a person can change and grow.

Because researchers are continuing to study the program, signing up is a bit more complicated than most online mental health tools. You’ll need to visit the website, complete a short eligibility test, and — if you’re eligible — sign up for the study and agree to its terms. As part of the experiment, some participants may be assigned to groups that access versions of the program that researchers believe to be less effective. If you’re one of those participants, you’ll still be able to complete the program they consider most effective at the end of the trial. All participants will also be asked to complete a few assessments.

If you’re interested, you can head on over to MindTrails to join the study.


<em><small>Photo by Javier Quesada on Unsplash</em><small>

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