Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Welcome to the future: The new wave of mental health support

5 min read
Written by

Feel Therapeutics

Let’s stop and think for a minute about how technology has redefined modern medicine. In the 21st century, people can monitor their blood sugar levels anywhere with glucose monitors, and we even have the means to measure our temperatures, blood pressure, and heart rate at home, rather than having to go to the doctor. And all of these technological advancements work in conjunction with traditional medicine.

However, the mental health sector is still stuck in the dark ages, relying on subjective measurement. Until now, there hasn’t been any tool that can continuously and objectively measure your mental health state.

Our vision is to help change how we prevent, diagnose and care for mental health. We believe that providing objective data to the field will complement traditional psychotherapy, just as other technologies have seamlessly become an everyday part of modern medicine.

Why the current mental health care model is flawed

Mental health disorders have been rising steadily for years. Unfortunately, the current healthcare system hasn’t grown with it, and consequently can’t keep up with demand.

Right now, mental health relies on the “sick enough model”, i.e., you need to have a diagnosis or “be labeled as sick” to get support. Even then, the time between someone requesting access and receiving it can be up to six months.

Additionally, to receive support, you have to visit your therapist’s office at a specific time for an appointment. This means that unless you are ‘in crisis’ at the time of your appointment, care can’t be accessed when it is needed the most.

More importantly, there is no tool that allows you to predict or prevent a mental health crisis before it occurs. Diagnosis currently relies a lot on the patient’s ability to accurately recall private information at each clinical visit. All this can lead to missed diagnoses and, in fact, 50% of mental health issues are untreated or undiagnosed.

But can we really measure emotions?

Have you noticed how when you get angry, your heart starts beating faster, or when you are stressed, you might sweat? This happens because several body signals (biosignals) are strongly correlated with your emotional status.

Over the last few decades, neuroscience research has shown that emotions are chemical reactions created by our brain. They involve the entire nervous system, but more specifically, it is the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), that is the control system. When your body enters the “fight or flight” mode, it’s the ANS that causes your heart to beat faster, and your muscles to tense.

Medical biomarkers are anything that can be used as an indicator of a particular disease state, and it’s these body signals (bio-signals) that can be measured to gauge the intensity of your emotional status, both positive and negative. Research [1 to 3] has shown that the several bio-signals such as Heart Rate Variability (HRV) or Skin Temperature (ST) have the strongest correlation with a person’s emotional status.

Feel Therapeutics developed the Feel Program for mental health, to help participants improve their mental wellbeing. Feel includes the Feel Emotion Sensor, the first wearable device that has made it possible to translate bio-signals into a person’s emotional state. The sensor monitors the user’s physiological signals throughout the day and, over time, learns to recognize their emotional patterns. A mobile app connects to the Emotion Sensor and responds in real-time to the changes in their emotional state, and allows users to journal their feelings and triggers. Weekly, 15-minute online sessions with a dedicated mental health expert are included. There is also online access to exclusive material that has been created from years of scientific research and experience, taking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to the next level by incorporating bio-psychology and neuroscience, etc. The program also focuses on “what’s working” and supports participants to cultivate those aspects of their lives. By catching the negative we can uncover the underlying factors to shift thinking and change behaviors, and by catching the positive, we can reinforce what is working and see where we can stretch further into the positive. The program was created in our efforts to develop digital biomarkers and therapeutics to bring objective, passive, and continuous measurement and data to reinvent the way we diagnose, manage, and care for mental health.

How Feel can reinvent mental healthcare

The Feel Program does not aim to kill off or replace psychotherapy but rather enhance and evolve traditional mental health support.

By offering continuous data collection and remote monitoring, Feel can help mental health professionals be proactive in their support and more prepared for sessions with their patients. Thanks to the Feel Emotion Sensor’s data, the mental health expert will have a clearer picture of the participant’s concerns in advance of the sessions meaning they can offer tailored support, and target interventions to enhance behavior change.

Feel’s Vice President of Clinical Operations, Sharon Kaplow, has 18 years of experience in providing therapy and explained: “One of the main ‘pain points’ for therapists is having to ask patients to recall what happened in the past week, how they felt, what happened to trigger their emotions, etc. Sometimes this is neither always easy for patients to recall, nor is it always accurate .”

Sharon continued: “With a tool like Feel, not only can the therapists review the patients’ emotion logs and data in advance of the session so they are better prepared to address concerns and provide more personalized interventions and support, but the exercises are also customized and enable the participant to “put into practice” the skills taught in the educational material.

Also, because Feel allows users to monitor their mental health they feel more in control, which can prevent potential problems. The habit of journaling their emotions and reflecting on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors helps them bring their awareness to the present moment, and gives them the opportunity to shift their thinking and behaviors, which builds resilience.

The other main benefit of the Feel Program is its accessibility. With unlimited access to the educational material, users are directed to tools and exercises specific to their needs, which will also go to inform their weekly sessions. And the remote weekly coaching can help them save time from their busy schedules with shorter, more efficient sessions based on objective data.

The future of mental health support

The one good thing the current COVID-19 pandemic has done is increase awareness about mental health. It’s something we all have, and it needs looking after just like our physical and dental health does.

One day there will be no stigma about mental health. People will consider it normal to look after the mind, body, and soul to achieve wellness and realize that when one of those is ‘out of sorts’ it will create problems in other areas.

Feel is a holistic program that brings mind and body together to treat the whole person, and will make getting mental health support much easier. By cutting down waiting times, Feel empowers users with timely, professional guidance and the tools they need to self-manage their emotions, feel in control, and, more importantly, improve their wellbeing and live the life they want to live.


[1] Kreibig, S. D. (2010). Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: A review. Biological Psychology, 84(3), 394–421.

[2] Shu, L., Xie, J., Yang, M., Li, Z., Li, Z., Liao, D., Xu, X., & Yang, X. (2018). A Review of Emotion Recognition Using Physiological Signals. Sensors, 18(7), 2074.

[3] Kim, K.H., Bang, S.W. & Kim, S.R. (2004). Emotion recognition system using short-term monitoring of physiological signals. Med. Biol. Eng. Comput. Vol 42, pp. 419–427.

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