Post–intensive care syndrome–family (PICS-F) is a constellation of adverse psychological symptoms experienced by family members of critically ill patients during and after acute illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy delivered using smartphone technology is a novel approach for PICS-F symptom self-management.


To determine the efficacy of smartphone delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing the prevalence and severity of PICS-F symptoms in family members of critically ill patients.


The study had a randomized controlled longitudinal design with control and intervention groups composed of family members of patients admitted to 2 adult intensive care units. The intervention consisted of a mental health app loaded on participants’ personal smartphones. The study time points were upon enrollment (within 5 days of intensive care unit admission; time 1), 30 days after enrollment (time 2), and 60 days after enrollment (time 3). Study measures included demographic data, PICS-F symptoms, mental health self-efficacy, health-related quality of life, and app use.


The study sample consisted of 60 predominantly White (72%) and female (78%) family members (30 intervention, 30 control). Anxiety and depression symptom severity decreased significantly over time in the intervention group but not in the control group. Family members logged in to the app a mean of 11.4 times (range, 1-53 times) and spent a mean of 50.16 minutes (range, 1.87-245.92 minutes) using the app.


Delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy to family members of critically ill patients via a smartphone app shows some efficacy in reducing PICS-F symptoms.

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