Medical student develops app promoting positive mental health

Sruthi Meka, Contributing Reporter

Jeff Clark, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, recently developed a free mobile app called CBT Keeper that teaches users techniques to combat depression and anxiety.

The app, currently available for download on Android devices, explains the basic principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and shows users how to categorize their thoughts and address other behavioral health issues.

The app is designed to function as a game, which motivates users to reach goals and remain consistent in their daily practice of healthy behaviors. The goal is to teach users how to recognize and fight the negative thoughts that contribute to depression and anxiety.

CBT Keeper provides constructive goals that promote healthy mindsets about coping mechanisms, allowing users to maintain a more positive outlook.

Clark, a self proclaimed “behavioral health advocate and amateur developer,” first came up with the idea for CBT Keeper in 2013 while finishing a medical research project on child and adolescent psychiatry, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. During the last month of his research fellowship, Clark was inspired to find a way to make a positive impact while still in medical school, and the idea for CBT Keeper was born.

Clark wrote, designed and coded the app, spending over 400 hours on the project while teaching himself the basics of software design. The app was officially launched in late August, but it has already garnered nearly 200 reviews and ratings and over 5,000 downloads.

CBT Keeper features include quick access to the National Suicide Helpline, complete control and privacy over everything written, and daily reminders that prompt users to practice. Users can also track their depression and anxiety using the same scales that are used by professionals in the medical field.

“There’s a big stigma attached to going to therapy,” said Clark. He hopes to make mental healthcare more accessible for people by creating more software products that help manage behavioral health problems and educate people about mental health issues.

Clark is currently working on fixing bugs in the Android app, but he hopes to eventually develop CBT Keeper for iOS, the Apple product operating system. After graduating this year, Clark wants to pursue a residency in psychiatry to further his current interests in behavioral health.

“It’s really exciting,” said Clark. “I’m going to be a doctor soon and I probably won’t see 9,000 patients in my career. It’s really interesting to see how one little app can make an impact.”