Therapy concept app
How might we create more awareness of and enable practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
Hexaflex is a concept therapy app based on the psychological model and tool of the same name used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of counseling teaching clients psychological flexibility through mindfulness and behavior change techniques.
Unlike other methods, ACT does not focus on changing negative thoughts nor analyzing their origins, but rather on guiding clients towards accepting the whole of their experience, good and bad, and moving in a positive direction towards meaningful values. Because it is based in mindfulness techniques, this therapy could easily be made into an app with guided meditations.
The goal of this project was to explore an app concept for this therapy—since those in the field are poorly designed for consumers—and to just have fun!
Research, wireframing, visual and interaction design
May - July 2019
—— the problem
Current ACT apps have great resources, but are poorly designed and so don’t entice and encourage users.
There are two apps on the market geared specifically toward helping users practice this therapy model: ACT Companion, created by two practicing psychologists, and ACT Coach, created by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. I don’t wish to disparage the hard work that went into making these resources available. And I want to underscore that these are real apps, with real guided meditations, written resources and links, whereas my project is merely a concept. I simply wished to explore a visual and interaction design to display the same type of information for fun as a mini passion project.
—— the hexaflex
Six core tenets of psychological flexibility are the basis of the ACT model
The “Hexaflex” is a model of six interconnected core tenets of healthy psychological flexibility: maintaining Presence, exploring Values, taking committed Action, experiencing Self as Context, de-identifying with thoughts and feelings through Defusion, and being at peace with life's experience through Acceptance.
Individuals who suffer from psychological turmoil typically do because they are relatively inflexible with their thoughts and behaviors: trapped in worrying about the Past and Future, Lack Direction regarding values, are Inactive on their goals, experience their Self as Content, Fuse with their thoughts and feelings, and try to Avoid their experience.
The goal of ACT is to increase clients’ psychological flexibility in each of these domains.
—— design exploration
Playing with hexagons and color
I wanted to stay true to the Hexaflex model and use the design language of the hexagon throughout the app. I tried to incorporate hexagons in places of squares or circles where possible, and that came through in the final design. I also wanted to use color to distinguish the flexible vs inflexible sides to the model.
Initially, I explored fitting the entire Hexaflex diagram on screen, but the condensed space made the labels illegible and touch targets too small. I tried a design that had the flexible and inflexible tenets listed out as labels on the sides of larger hexagons, but thought the screen was too busy and didn’t contain enough context on each for users to click in. The variation with larger hexagonal cards felt right, but it felt strange for users to scroll through those vertically.
—— design exploration
Breaking out the condensed diagram was key
Eventually, I opted for larger hexagonal cards which contained a short description of each tenet. Users could swipe through, find one they wanted to explore and pull up to access guided meditations.
Again, this was all just for fun, but I think it would be pretty cool if any of this could one day work its way into a real app!