Improving efficacy of youth psychotherapy via reward monitoring


Reward processing (alternatively referred to as “reward learning,” “reinforcement learning,” and “reward responsiveness”) is a dynamic process that reflects ability to learn the reward value of consequences of behavior and then modulate behavior to maximize reward. Ineffective reward processing has been observed across a number of mental disorders and predicts persistence of psychiatric symptoms and comorbidity. Improvements in reward processing have been observed in response to mental health treatment. The goal of our current project is to incorporate assessment of reward processing into the self-monitoring process that is a key part of many evidence based psychotherapies for adolescents and young adults. To ease the burden of self-monitoring of reward processing and better integrate this line of research into ongoing services, we aim to develop a mobile app. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to examine whether monitoring reward processing throughout the course of treatment provides clinically meaningful information that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of youth psychotherapy.

What we did

We conducted interviews with clinicians who do psychotherapy with youth and with youth who have participated in psychotherapy on their experience with daily monitoring activities as well as their use of mobile apps. Both groups expressed interest in using a mobile app for daily monitoring activities. Their feedback on important design issues (e.g., frequency of reminders) is being incorporated into the development of a web-based prototype that is currently undergoing usability and pilot testing.


To be determined, study in progress.


To be determined, study in progress.

More information

For more information about Dr. Sabrina Darrow’s project, please email her at [email protected]