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ParentingWell: Preliminary Steps in Mobile App Development for Parents with Co-occurring Disorders

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Center for Technology and Behavioral Health Pilot Core

Project Period

March 2013 – February 2014

Principal Investigator

Joanne Nicholson, PhD

Other Project Staff

Mary Ann Greene, MS; Toni Wolf (Employment Options, Inc.)


Will Haslett, PhD (Gile Mountain Scientific, LLC)

Project Summary

The majority of American men and women living with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders are parents. In this pilot, we will lay the groundwork for the development of the ParentingWell mobile technology application (smartphone or tablet “app”).  The potential app will fill the gap in accessible, effective practices targeted to improving outcomes (e.g., self-efficacy, well being, functioning, social supports, relapse prevention and recovery) for parents living with co-occurring disorders. Multiple barriers to service use undermine their success; mobile communication technologies provide opportunities to reach, engage and provide support to these parents.

We will begin by systematically reviewing existing apps for parents, guided by (a) design criteria (i.e., a tested design model for individuals living with serious mental illnesses), (b) task criteria (i.e., an eHealth literacy framework) and (c) content criteria (i.e., an empirically-tested set of criteria for rating the credibility/evidence base of content). The reviews will be conducted by Consumer Research Assistants who are parents living with co-occurring disorders themselves, along with a provider and researcher. Focus groups of parents will be conducted to assess the current use and acceptability of mobile technology and identify goals for ParentingWell app use, guided by data and examples obtained in the systematic review. We will develop the information architecture, functionality and general design for the ParentingWell app based on data obtained in the systematic review and focus groups, and informed by the larger research literature and previous intervention development and testing efforts of the investigator.

The proposed pilot project will leverage a number of existing assets. The combination of (a) access to CTBH colleagues working at the cutting edge of innovation in technology-based behavioral health interventions; with (b) long-standing community-based partnerships; and (c) an available pool of potential end users will insure successful completion of the project and the relevance and usefulness of findings.