The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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A mobile lifeline

An app developed at Ohio State helps people in recovery stay on course

As a doctoral candidate studying clinical psychology in 2015, Brandi Spaulding researched mobile applications designed to help patients suffering from addiction. But she couldn’t find one that fit their needs in the way she envisioned.

Rather than settle for less, Spaulding, now a detox counselor at Ohio State’s Talbot Hall addiction-recovery facility, listed the features of an ideal app. “The app would increase accountability by checking in with (the patient),” says Spaulding ’05, ’06. “Two, it would be a reminder that there’s someone there.”

Working with an Ohio State mobile app team and Brad Lander, clinical director of Talbot Hall, Spaulding created the Squirrel Recovery app. It tracks sobriety achievements and prompts the user to document progress. Contact information for up to 10 support people can be listed. If the person feels on the verge of relapse, one tap notifies the support system.

Spaulding says patients who use Squirrel Recovery (a playful reference to the pleasure-seeking part of the brain that’s quickly led astray — like a squirrel) seem more stable.

“It gives them other options,” Spaulding says. “So it isn't straight to, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m having a crisis. I have to go use.’ It is, ‘I’m having a crisis, I can push this button,’ and then there are more people available to them.”