Introduction: Benefits from mental health early interventions may not be sustained over time, and longer-term intervention programs may be required to maintain early clinical gains. However, due to the high intensity of face-to-face early intervention treatments, this may not be feasible. Adjunctive internet-based interventions specifically designed for youth may provide a cost-effective and engaging alternative to prevent loss of intervention benefits. However, until now online interventions have relied on human moderators to deliver therapeutic content. More sophisticated models responsive to user data are critical to inform tailored online therapy. Thus, integration of user experience with a sophisticated and cutting-edge technology to deliver content is necessary to redefine online interventions in youth mental health. This paper discusses the development of the moderated online social therapy (MOST) web application, which provides an interactive social media-based platform for recovery in mental health. We provide an overview of the system’s main features and discus our current work regarding the incorporation of advanced computational and artificial intelligence methods to enhance user engagement and improve the discovery and delivery of therapy content.
Methods: Our case study is the ongoing Horyzons site (5-year randomised controlled trial for youth recovering from early psychosis), which is powered by MOST. We outline the motivation underlying the project and the web application’s foundational features and interface. We discuss system innovations, including the incorporation of pertinent usage patterns as well as identifying certain limitations of the system. This leads to our current motivations and focus on using computational and artificial intelligence methods to enhance user engagement, and to further improve the system with novel mechanisms for the delivery of therapy content to users. In particular, we cover our usage of natural language analysis and chatbot technologies as strategies to tailor interventions and scale up the system.
Conclusions: To date, the innovative MOST system has demonstrated viability in a series of clinical research trials. Given the data-driven opportunities afforded by the software system, observed usage patterns and the aim to deploy it on a greater scale, an important next step in its evolution is the incorporation of advanced and automated content delivery mechanisms.