Can this ‘pocket therapist’ transform my relationship with myself and others?

Emilee Geist

As anyone who has ever required them will know, mental health services are on their knees. Last month, it emerged that one in four wait three months or more for mental health help and due to the pandemic, more people than ever are seeking treatment. 

It is against this backdrop that Courtney Carlsson designed Paradym – an app that users describe as a “pocket therapist” – which she hopes will fill a gap in the market. It is “very important not to leave people high and dry when they’re struggling,” she tells me.

Carlsson got the idea for the app in 2014 when she was “going through my own mental health journey” and found that meditation apps, whilst soothing, were not getting to the crux of her negative relationship patterns (namely, her tendencies to overreact or be jealous). She sought the help of a therapist and found it so helpful she wanted to start a company based around it, she tells me, “to help people who don’t have access to therapy.”

The result is Paradym, which she started working on in 2017, and which fully launched during lockdown, with a team of in-house psychologists. It’s not intended for treating mental health illnesses, Carlsson points out, but is instead an “emotional identity coaching app designed to break negative emotional patterns”.

The app is divided into five sections: Aware, Love, Success, Body and Identity. In each section, there are chapters which you have to go through in chronological order. You start with Aware, as self-awareness is the pillar of your other relationships. This covers topics that make you consider, for instance, whether you’re an optimist or pessimist, an introvert or extrovert, and whether you’re proud of where you’re from. 

You can either read each chapter or opt for the ‘Listen’ function, which transforms the app into a podcast as Carlsson herself reads the chapter. Afterwards, you complete a questionnaire that encourages you to reflect on what you’ve just read. This approach combines different therapy models, including CBT, ACT and mindfulness.

In a slight twist, you can only access one chapter per day – and you have to read/listen to them chronologically. Carlsson explains that this is because, in the app’s genesis, users were “binge-using” it, going through hours of sessions at a time. This, she says, is not productive. “If you think about this from a therapy perspective, if you did 16 hours of therapy in a day, it wouldn’t be very impactful,” she says. “The introspection and reflection takes time and so stepping through these chapters in a meaningful way will have a bigger impact.”

To see if she’s right, I put the app to the test for two weeks, making my way through the Aware chapter to see if this app could increase my self-awareness and improve my relationships. 

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