Development of a Wearable Biocueing App (Sense-IT) Among Forensic Psychiatric Outpatients With Aggressive Behavior: Design and Evaluation Study

Annemieke ter Harmsel*, Thimo van der Pol, Lise Swinkels, Anna E Goudriaan, Arne Popma, Matthijs L Noordzij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The ability to regulate anger is often impaired in forensic psychiatric patients, frequently resulting in aggressive behavior. Although some treatment programs are partially successful in enhancing aggression regulation and reducing recidivism among specific subgroups, generalizable conclusions on the effectiveness of these interventions cannot be drawn to date. In forensic outpatient care, low treatment adherence and a predominant focus on cognitive control in most treatment programs may entail some of the factors impeding treatment. Technology-based interventions may address some of these treatment challenges. Objective: The aim of this study is to explore whether a new technology-based biocueing intervention, the Sense-IT app, can be a valuable addition to aggression regulation treatment programs in forensic outpatient care. The Sense-IT app, which provides the user with real-time physiological feedback and behavioral support, is developed to strengthen emotional awareness and facilitate real-life practice. In this study, we aim to develop and evaluate an updated version of the Sense-IT app that is suitable for forensic outpatients with aggressive behavior. Methods: First, we conducted a design study to assess the attitudes of forensic professionals and patients toward biocueing and to collect requirements for a biocueing app for this specific population. On the basis of this information, we developed an updated version of the Sense-IT app. In an evaluation study, 10 forensic outpatients used the app for 2 weeks. The app's acceptability, usability, and clinical outcomes (aggression, anger, and recognition of bodily signals related to anger) were measured before and after the intervention using both quantitative and qualitative measures. Results: The design study revealed a cautiously positive attitude toward the use of biocueing as an addition to aggression regulation therapy. The evaluation study among forensic outpatients demonstrated moderate acceptability and adequate usability for the new version of the Sense-IT app. Exploratory analysis revealed a significant decrease in trait aggression postintervention; no significant changes were found in other anger-related clinical outcomes. To further increase acceptability and usability, a stable functioning app with self-adjustable settings, the use of smartwatches with a longer battery life, and the use of the patient's own smartphone devices were recommended. Conclusions: This study, which is one of the first attempts to enroll and evaluate the real-life use of a biocueing intervention among forensic outpatients, emphasized the importance of involving both patients and therapists throughout the development and implementation process. In the future, experimental studies, including single-case experimental designs using ecological momentary assessment, should be performed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Sense-IT intervention on clinical outcomes. An open attitude toward new technology, allowing exploration of the potential benefits of the Sense-IT app case-by-case, and training of therapists in using the app are expected to facilitate its integration in therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29267
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


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