Dr. Rachel Kornfield is a postdoctoral research fellow in Digital Mental Health at Northwestern University in the School of Communication, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. She is affiliated with the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITS) and the People, Information, and Technology Changing Health (PITCH) Lab. Dr. Kornfield’s research focuses on developing and testing digital technologies that can help individuals manage concerns like depression, anxiety, and substance use. She is particularly interested in the ways that digital technologies can connect individuals to the right kinds of information and support, at the right time, whether that comes from peers, volunteers, professionals, or automated messaging systems. Dr. Kornfield completed her PhD in Mass Communication in 2018 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Talk: Optimizing the Exchange of Support and Information in Digital Mental Health Technologies

Abstract: Digital technologies have rapidly transformed how individuals with mental health concerns access and interact with support and information. These technologies, including online and mobile, hold promise to help individuals effectively manage their mental health concerns in daily life. Technologies have achieved success particularly when they provide opportunities for ongoing supportive communication that allows users to maintain motivation and obtain personalized guidance. However, facilitating supportive communication at large scale represents a significant challenge, especially when considering the diverse support and information needs of individuals with mental health concerns, and the fluctuation of these needs across changes in mood and motivation. In this talk, Dr. Kornfield will discuss her research on digital mental health technologies, including mobile apps that feature computer-mediated communication with peers and coaches, as well as automated messaging systems that deliver adaptive self-management support. Her work integrates mixed methods to examine: (1) how individuals wish to interact with and through digital mental health technologies, (2) the effects of participation on mental health and wellbeing, and (3) the mechanisms through which participation may achieve its effects. Dr. Kornfield’s research ultimately seeks to inform the design of scalable digital technologies that deliver engaging, personalized support while imposing low burden on users and the health system, and that could be broadly applied to address a wide range of mental health concerns.