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Step away from Twitter… Do you need a social media detox?

IN NEED OF A DETOX: Academic studies have linked apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to symptoms of depression, anxiety and general dissatisfaction

A NEW 12-week plan to help end social media dependency has been launched.

Therapy website Talkspace has created a programme where people can exchange texts with a real therapist to talk through their dependence on the phone.

Academic studies have linked apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to symptoms of depression, anxiety and general dissatisfaction.

The launch includes an installation in New York's Flatiron District, where passersby are encouraged to look in a mirror and use the hashtag #reflectreality.

"Look around today, and you'll see everyone's on their phones. Texting has become a big part of our daily lives. Therapy should be made to fit into our lives today," said Talkspace co-founder Roni Frank, who started therapy in her late twenties to address issues with her marriage. The success of the sessions drew her into studying the field.

Frank identified three main barriers to seeking therapy: cost, access and stigma. Each of those, she thought, could be addressed by moving therapy online – and on a smartphone.

In the early tests, Frank and her co-founder (and husband) Oren Frank discovered that their users did not want to have to schedule a session, rather they craved the flexibility of communicating the same way they connect with other aspects of their lives – whether it be texting a friend, ordering food or posting on social media.

Created in 2012, the Talkspace app offers text-based therapy provided by 200 therapists to its current 150,000 registered users. But unlike texting a friend, a parent or a significant other, on the other end is a therapist. It's the gig economy, but for therapists.

Nicole Amesbury, a licensed therapist who is head of clinical development at Talkspace, says the fact that the service is on smartphones – perhaps next to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – is sort of the point. "There's a line in therapy: you have to start where they are," she says. "If you can't meet your client where they are in the world, you can't help someone. We need to meet them where they are, however they feel comfortable."

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