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Using Technology-Based Therapeutic Tools in Behavioral Health Services

Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 60


Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); .
Report No.: (SMA) 15-4924


This Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) provides an overview of current technology-based assessments and interventions (including treatment, recovery support, relapse prevention, and prevention-focused interventions) targeting behavioral health, and it summarizes the evidence base supporting the effectiveness of such interventions. It also examines opportunities for technology-assisted care (TAC) in the behavioral health arena—particularly in improving early access to care, client engagement in and commitment to treatment and recovery, client education, specific treatment interventions, relapse prevention and recovery management, extended recovery, community engagement, mental health promotion, and substance use disorder prevention, among other areas. This TIP addresses how behavioral health service providers can use Web sites, telephone and televideo resources, smartphones, and other portable devices and electronic media for education, outreach, and direct client services. It emphasizes use of TAC with clients who might not otherwise receive treatment or whose treatment might be impeded by physical disabilities, rural or remote geographic locations, lack of transportation, employment constraints, or symptoms of mental illness. This TIP emphasizes the use of TAC with those who might not seek treatment in conventional settings and/or who have personal preferences that limit access to conventional services.

It is definitely not the intent of this TIP to suggest that electronic media should replace in-person client contact. Instead, this TIP focuses on how TAC, when incorporated into mental and substance use disorder treatment and prevention efforts, can supplement existing methods and also provide services to clients who might not otherwise receive this help. It is also not the intent of this TIP to promote any particular technology-based therapeutic tools or any of the companies that develop or host these tools, but rather, to broadly highlight the promise of TAC by providing specific examples. This TIP does not explicitly address how use of TAC in behavioral health service delivery intersects with changing healthcare laws in the United States, but it does suggest that TAC may significantly increase the quality of care delivered and the success of integrating behavioral healthcare with disease prevention and management.

In short, evidence-based TAC has the potential to reach more clients and help engage and retain them in services in a cost-effective manner. This TIP provides treatment and prevention workers in the behavioral health arena with the resources they need to use various technologies in their practice and to recognize the limits and ethical considerations involved in using them. It also provides behavioral health program administrators with the information they need to integrate and expand the use of technologies in their systems of care.


This publication was produced under the Knowledge Application Program (KAP) contract numbers 270-09-0307 and 270-14-0445 with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Christina Currier and Suzanne Wise served as the Contracting Officer's Representatives, and Candi Byrne served as KAP Project Coordinator.

Suggested citation:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Using Technology-Based Therapeutic Tools in Behavioral Health Services. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 60. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4924. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.

The opinions expressed herein are the views of the consensus panel members and do not necessarily reflect the official position of SAMHSA or HHS. No official support of or endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS for these opinions or for the instruments or resources described is intended or should be inferred. The guidelines presented should not be considered substitutes for individualized client care and treatment decisions.

Bookshelf ID: NBK344045PMID: 26889536


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