North Texas Daily

AiM app encourages recovery and change

AiM app encourages recovery and change

November 05
03:40 2015

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer


Changing a lifestyle riddled with vices and distractions that cause harm and damage productivity can be difficult. Now there’s an app for that.

Developed in part by one of UNT’s own doctoral candidates, the app is called AiM.

Since October 2011, when discussion of development first began, British transfer doctoral student and adjunct Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation faculty member Harvey Wells worked tirelessly with his friend and colleague, Dr. Daniel Bressington, to develop an app that would help people struggling with motivation.

Nearly four years and over $50,000 later, AiM was released to the public on Jan. 5.

The app’s main focus is to empower users to motivate themselves and realize their own potential to change.

Harvey Wells is helping develop the app the public will be able to download on their smartphones. He was drawn to the public because of his interest in mental health. Screenshot | AiM App

Harvey Wells is helping develop the app the public will be able to download on their smartphones. He was drawn to the public because of his interest in mental health. Screenshot | AiM App

“The idea is that people who struggle with addiction and mental health issues often have problems with motivation,” Wells said, “and the reason they continue to keep using [addictive substances like drugs and alcohol] is because they’re not motivated enough to change.”

Wells has experience both as a psychologist and a clinician and said he believes that through this app, users can realize they have the intrinsic capability to change whatever they want about their own lifestyle. The user alone decides what it is he or she needs, and the app will supplement different information outlets, give helpful exercises and offer checkups to keep users on track.

AiM is structured with several different categories of change, tailored to accommodate nearly any lifestyle. Categories include, but are not limited to, smoking, drinking, weight loss, drug use, prescription medicine abuse and work/life balance. Users select a category and compose their own plans of action.

“People need to want to change before they change,” Wells said. “The user defines their own goal[s].”

Wells said he has observed a lack of a personal aspect in apps similar to his, as they merely seem to throw information or tasks at the user, regardless of whether or not users want to see or do them.

The AiM app has features tailored to help users when they feel they might be slipping on their journey to a healthier lifestyle. For example, if someone is interested in losing weight, the app will offer a number of healthy dietary and fitness options. Users then decide what suggested options fit for them and which choices they think will benefit them the most.

AiM also has an emergency button, where users can notify a family member, friend or sponsor and ask for help when they are feeling at the edge of relapse. The app’s website offers a multitude of information regarding the app’s functionality and featured components.

Screenshot | AiM App

Screenshot | AiM App

Bressington, the app’s co-founder, works in Hong Kong conducting research with various patients, integrating the app into his studies to prove its effectiveness. He is also trying to get the app translated into Chinese to broaden its reach.

Bressington has a doctorate in medication management and a background as a mental health nurse treating schizophrenic patients. He anticipates that the app can be used to better the health of those with schizophrenia, citing research that those with the disease have an increased chance of suffering from unhealthy weight gain, heart disease and depression.

He also said patients with Schizophrenia often die 15 to 20 years earlier than those without the disease. Bressington said he believes better disbursement of correct medications and a positive change in physical fitness can lead to prolonged life and healthier lifestyles for those with the disease.

“Harvey and I thought that if we could develop an app for the general public, then we could kind of tailor it and trim it down to suit certain patient groups in the future,” Bressington said. “We’re trying to establish a longer-term practice for research.”

Though the app isn’t free – it is priced on Google Play and Apple’s app store at $3.13 – Wells said the purpose of the app reaches far beyond financial means.

He is also using the app as part of his doctoral studies and said it looks to prove there is significant benefit in the use of apps as a means to breakthrough behavioral changes and improvements in motivation. Additionally, Wells said he is looking to use the app as part of the long-term Eagle Peer Recovery Program at UNT.

“It costs less than a beer, or a pack of cigarettes, and significantly less than a meal,” Wells said. “It’s about helping people to try and become motivated to change.”

Featured Image: The AIM app was created with the purpose of improving public health and health education. Screenshot | AiM App

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