In-depth reviews of the Groov app.

Clinical review

: Carrie Cornsweet Barber, Clinical Psychologist, Senior Lecturer, University of Waikato
Date of review: April 2022
Version: Free individual app version (not part of a workplace plan)
Comments: Groov app provides information, activities, and videos about mental and emotional wellbeing. It incorporates a mix of scientifically sound information, personal story videos, and practical advice on practices that can help build resilience and cope with stress.  It is not designed to be treatment for significant mental health problems, but to prevent them and help support self-care and wellness. 

Groov app is useful for anyone interested in managing stress, anxiety, or mood problems using self-help techniques; it is not a substitute for mental health care, but could be helpful alongside professional services in some cases, and seems mostly designed to prevent normal distress from becoming more severe. 

Overall I think this is a well-designed and engaging tool for people in Aotearoa and Australia to use to manage stress and improve emotional wellbeing. The videos instructions may work for some, but the lack of instructions in text form can be inconvenient – for example, when using the mood tracker, I had a very hard time figuring out where I could see the record of ratings; the only way I could find this out was to re-watch the video. 

Even in my fairly neutral mood, I found some of the videos overly cheery and enthusiastic, and therefore hard to relate to. In particular, the “Pillars of wellbeing” course’s “do” video made me feel lonely and incompetent … watching these two people cheerily doing some ‘simple’ physical motions that I had trouble doing … I ended up feeling annoyed and depressed in just 4 minutes!  The ‘celebrate’ one was lower key and so I could relate to it better and feel ok if I couldn’t keep up.  It seems like the videos are a bit overambitious – an entire gratitude, values, and self-confidence exercise all in 4 minutes. I’m a bit concerned that offering what sound like quick, easy solutions to feeling low can backfire with people who are really stuck in depression, or for whom this particular mode of delivery of the information might not be optimal. In some, it seems like the implicit message is that change will happen quickly – in minutes, and it’s all simple. 

This was not true of all the videos – in particular, the slightly longer personal stories, including Sir John Kirwin’s, of travelling through distress, are very genuine and helpful.  It’s the ones that seem more like cheerleading, and are mostly instructions for activities, that seemed hard to relate to for me. 

I did have some technical glitches: several of the videos hung up and would not play on my not-that-old iphone 8.  When I closed the app and opened it again in an effort to see if this helped (it didn’t), it was quite hard to find my way back to where I was – it isn’t easy to see the big picture of the organisation of the many components of the app. 

With regards to security and privacy, I can’t see any information about the development or funding for the app – it may be there, but I couldn’t find it, and I tried searching ‘privacy’, ‘health information’, and ‘funding’ and got no information within the app. Looking at the webpage for the app, it looks like the intended market is employers, and the free individual version is an offshoot of that. There is a statement on the website that information is private and is not shared with employers, but it is not clear whether it is being stored or used online.
New Zealand relevance: This is a New Zealand based app. Its nice that the lifesaver icon is always visible and links to NZ and Australia resources.
Safety concerns: None.

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