[Translate to English:] Milou Feijt won de Marina van Dammebeurs 2018.

Van Damme grant for innovative tools in mental health care

Reducing reluctance to use technology in the mental health care system, this is what Milou Feijt wants to achieve with her doctoral research. Winning the Marina van Damme grant, awarded last Friday during MomenTUm, makes a big step possible in this direction.

photo Trees Overhein

“I think that technology really has something to add to our mental health care system, but in practice little use is made of it,” observes Feijt, who is in the second year of her doctoral studies in the Human-Technology Interaction group at the department IE&IS. “There are wonderful technologies available, clients are positive, but still we are seeing a strong reluctance among treatment providers to use technology in their treatment. Of course, they are dealing with a vulnerable target group, but it is such a shame that it is not being used. We want to do something about that!”

Virtual reality

Virtual reality is a technique that could be used in different treatments. “It has a promising future, for example, in exposure therapy for anxiety disorders. You can expose people to their fear in order to help them overcome it. But it isn't always easy to get vertigo sufferers somewhere up high, or in an aircraft. With virtual reality you can do an exercise like this easily and safely.”

“I think biosensors are also very promising, for example for measuring stress levels. That can give a therapist very valuable information during a session.”

Big plans

For her Master's thesis, Feijt has already studied the barriers and drivers relating to eMental Health among treatment providers. As a PhD candidate she is doing further research on this topic, as part of a larger NWO project. “It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up; this is exactly what I find super-interesting.”

To ensure her research really is adopted in practice, Feijt has big plans. For example, she wants to spend a number of months in the BioSense research group at UC Berkeley in California. “For my Master's I also spent six months studying there. This group is a frontrunner in this field and can give me valuable insights that I can use in my research.”

Co-creation and workshops

The nine thousand euros of the Van Damme grant will help Feijt to realize her plans. As well as funding her stay in the US, the grant means she can organize co-creation sessions with treatment providers in the mental health care system. “I've already made various contacts for this. Together with them, I want to continue developing the technologies and tools.”

The last step is organizing workshops to allow the professionals to gain experience with the tools - so they learn how they can use them during treatment and start to trust them. “I don't want my doctoral period to end in a nice piece of research and a book. Personally, I can be very proud of that, but it won't help society in any way. I want to really add something within the mental health care system.”

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