Adrian Aguilera, professor of social welfare, University of California, Berkeley, and clinical psychologist, said his patients report feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages asking them to track their moods, reflect on positive interactions, etc.
"When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved," reported one Spanish-speaking patient in Aguilera's cognitive behaviour therapy group, the journal, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice reports.
The project began in 2010 when Aguilera developed a customized "Short Message Service (SMS)" intervention programme, with the help of his California colleague Ricardo Munoz, according to a California statement.
Aguilera's patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.
"We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities," said Aguilera.
Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realised that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stressors they routinely faced. They could not afford laptops, electronic tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a prepaid monthly plan.