Virtual Hope Box

Virtual Hope Box (VHB) is designed for individuals struggling with depressive disorders (particularly military service members) and acts as a personalized multimedia resource for improving one’s mental health and mood. The app is tailored to individual needs by syncing with pictures, videos, music, and recordings that hold personal significance that can quickly be assembled in one place for easy access. The four main features of VHB aim to distract, inspire, relax or manage coping skills for the user in efforts to best cater to individual needs. The distraction techniques utilize intellectually stimulating games such as Sudoku and word puzzles, the relaxing techniques offer a variety of guided and self-controlled meditation, and the coping techniques advocate for pursuing and monitoring pleasurable activities that relieve stress. The inspiration component of VHB offers brief quotes to bolster mood and attitude deriving from a variety of idioms and cultural expressions in efforts to alleviate depressive symptoms. The program can be utilized with a mental health provider as the “coping cards” feature can be programmed to address specific problem areas and the relaxation tools utilizing guided imagery may benefit from partner guidance if desired.

Available for: Android; iOS 6.1 or later (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
Company Name: National Center for Telehealth & Technology
Classification: Cognitive Behavioral Principles
Targeted conditions: Depression
Target demographics: Adults (especially military personnel)
Special provider necessary: No (but may be helpful)
Languages Available in: English, German, Japanese, Polish, Simplified Chinese, Spanish
Where to get it:
iTunes App Store
Google Play

Expert ratings and reviews

PsyberGuide rating: The research and support basis of the product

Research base 2/3
Research support 2/2
Specificity of proposed intervention 2/3
Number of consumer ratings 3/3
Product advisory support 1/1
Software support 2/2

Total 12/14

date of rating: May 2017

Explanation of the rating factors

MARS rating

Quality scores range from 1 to 5, where 5 is the maximum score

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Research on the product

Bush, N. E., Dobscha, S. K., Crumpton, R., Denneson, L. M., Hoffman, J. E., Crain, A., … & Kinn, J. T. (2015). A virtual hope box smartphone app as an accessory to therapy: Proof‐of‐concept in a clinical sample of veterans. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior45(1), 1-9.

  • Eighteen veterans undergoing treatment in a dialectal behavioral therapy clinic used both a conventional hope box and the virtual hope box. Compared with the conventional hope box, patients (1) used the VHB more regularly; (2) found the VHB more beneficial and helpful; (3) found the VHB easy to set up; (4) said they were likely to use the VHB in the future; and (5) would recommend the VHB to peers.

Bush, N. E., Smolenski, D. J., Denneson, L. M., Williams, H. B., Thomas, E. K., & Dobscha, S. K. (2016). A virtual hope box: randomized controlled trial of a smartphone app for emotional regulation and coping with distress. Psychiatric services, appi-ps.

  • “VHB users reported significantly greater ability to cope with unpleasant emotions and thoughts (Coping Self-Efficacy Scale) at three (b=2.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]=.29–4.55) and 12 weeks (b=2.99, 95% CI=.08–5.90) compared with the control group.”

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