The Role of Compassionate Technology in Blended and Digital Mental Health Interventions: Systematic Scoping Review

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An essential value in mental health care is compassion: awareness of suffering, tolerating difficult feelings in the face of suffering, and acting or being motivated to alleviate suffering. Currently, technologies for mental health care are on the rise and could offer several advantages, such as more options for self-management by clients and more accessible and economically viable care. However, digital mental health interventions (DMHIs) have not been widely implemented in daily practice. Developing and evaluating DMHIs around important mental health care values, such as compassion, could be key for a better integration of technology in the mental health care context.

This systematic scoping review explored the literature for previous instances where technology for mental health care has been linked to compassion or empathy to investigate how DMHIs can support compassion in mental health care.

Searches were conducted in the PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases, and screening by 2 reviewers resulted in 33 included articles. From these articles, we extracted the following data: technology types, goals, target groups, and roles of the technologies in the intervention; study designs; outcome measures; and the extent to which the technologies met a 5-step proposed definition of compassion.

We found 3 main ways in which technology can contribute to compassion in mental health care: by showing compassion to people, by enhancing self-compassion in people, or by facilitating compassion between people. However, none of the included technologies met all 5 elements of compassion nor were they evaluated in terms of compassion.

We discuss the potential of compassionate technology, its challenges, and the need to evaluate technology for mental health care on compassion. Our findings could contribute to the development of compassionate technology, in which elements of compassion are explicitly embedded in its design, use, and evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42403
JournalJMIR mental health
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2023

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