At their core the Optimism applications are mood charts, designed to help with managing mental health. They are used as self-help or self-improvement tools, for depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.
The core purpose of the apps is to help you discover what causes mood swings or other symptoms, to find the warning signs of a decline in health, and learn strategies, often specific to you, that help you to remain well.
The Optimism apps help you to be proactive. A continual feedback loop, in the form of charts and reports, improves your understanding of your mental health and the things that are helping or hindering you.
Who are they suited to?
The Optimism apps were originally developed as electronic mood charts. Mood charts have long been recommended by psychiatrists and therapists, for their clients to use in monitoring their mental health. Traditionally they have been used by people with a mood disorder, like depression and bipolar disorder.
Our experience is that Optimism is used much more widely. The second most common use is for self-help or self improvement. They are also commonly used for PTSD and other anxiety disorders, ADHD, and a range of physical illnesses.
Why would I use Optimism to track my mental health?
In a nutshell, the purpose of self-tracking is to learn more about yourself and achieve better health.
By using the Optimism apps you can monitor the patterns in your life, to identify the negative influences (or "triggers") that impact on your health, and the early warning signs that your health is deteriorating.
Optimism can help you find the small things, as well as the big, that help you to stay well. It can show you the impact of positive strategies that you adopt on your well-being.
It helps you to plan for better health. By bringing together your knowledge of your triggers, early warning signs and symptoms, and wellness strategies you can develop a plan for remaining well. That is the key. The purpose of the software is to plan for wellness, not just keep a record of illness.
Rather than be a passive recipient of treatment, or just seek treatment in reaction to a new episode, Optimism can help you to have more involvement in your health and a greater sense of control. In general people achieve better health outcomes when they educate themselves and are proactive with their health.
There are many health professionals who love Optimism. By tracking your mental health you can provide your clinician with a precise, detailed history. It removes the problem of memory recall and gives an accurate picture of what has been happening. It gets to the bottom of what is or isn't working, which helps them to give more relevant, appropriate advice and treatment.
Every person's illness is different. "One Size Fits One". For many people treatment is difficult, a slow process, or not entirely successful. Optimism is designed to help increase your chance of success.
What are the assumptions underpinning the applications?
No two people suffering from a mental health condition will experience exactly the same symptoms or respond in exactly the same way to treatments.
Medical and psychological interventions often form the backbone of treatments for people with mood disorders or other psychological problems. The Optimism apps are not intended as a replacement for such interventions. They are integrative tools, best used in conjunction with existing treatments.
A person who is proactive about their health will generally achieve a better outcome. Optimism is designed to this end; to help motivate the person to be proactive. By being involved in their own treatment a person can learn more about themselves and find the small and big things that help them to recover and stay well.
The Optimism apps are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The advice of a qualified health professional should be sought for any questions regarding a medical condition.
How long have the applications been in development?
Development of the Windows and Mac software commenced in early 2007, with the first release in January 2008. The Optimism Online web app was released in October 2009, the iPhone/iPod app in March 2010, and the iPad app in August 2012.
All of the applications have been in continual development since release.
Are the apps used by many people?
Yes, they are! The apps are used by thousands of individuals and mental health professionals in over 80 countries.
More importantly, we receive regular feedback from individuals that the applications are helpful and contributing to good mental health. A fraction of the positive feedback that we've received is displayed on the home page.
How long does it take to fill in data each day?
Once you have customized the application to suit your personal circumstances, it should only take you a couple of minutes each day. There is a "fill from previous" button in the web and desktop software apps, to enter data for the current day if little has changed.
You will want to spend more time analyzing your records to spot patterns in your health, however this would be periodically rather than daily.
How can I keep up with future improvements and new releases?
The best way is the join our newsletter circulation list, by entering your name and email address in the form at the top of this page. We send the newsletter when we have a major announcement relating to the applications, which is generally every couple of months.
You can be removed from the circulation list at any time, by clicking on the "unsubscribe" link which is at the bottom of all newsletters.
About the Apps
How does the desktop software differ from the web version?
The online and desktop versions are functionally the same, and we are developing them to be very similar going forward.
There is an advantage with the web application in that you can access it from any computer whereas with the desktop version you are restricted to one computer or otherwise need to synchronize between computers (e.g. desktop and laptop).
If you decide to use the iPhone or iPad app then there is an extra step for synching to the software because the data needs to be downloaded from the online database. Nothing extra needs to be done for the web app.
Will the iPhone or iPad app work with the desktop software?
Yes it will. You need to use the sync function in the software to keep the apps synchronized. These are the steps for getting up and running:
Download and install the latest copy of the software. You can do this by downloading the Mac OS X version or Windows version directly, or by using the update function in the software.
Synchronize your data in the desktop app to the online database. There is a Sync toolbar button to the left of the Help button. Follow the instructions to upload your data.
You are now ready to use the Optimism iPhone or iPad app. Download it from the iTunes store and use the username and password that you created above to start using it.
Your entries from the iPhone or iPad are stored online. Whenever you use the desktop software you will prompted to sync if your most recent records are in the online database or when you make changes and close the desktop software.
I want to use the web and iPhone/iPad apps together. What do I need to do?
There is nothing to do. Your entries in the iPhone or iPad and web apps are saved in the same database, so synchronizing is not required.
About the Clinician Dashboard
What is the Clinician Dashboard for?
It provides a clinician with a history of their clients' health, both historic and current, based on their clients' own self-tracking. It incorporates all of the functionality of the Optimism apps for individuals, plus additional functionality to facilitate easy monitoring and reporting.
How Does it Work?
Clients use the Optimism applications to keep a record of their mental health each day, including key indicators of their overall wellbeing, together with the different health strategies they have used during the day, and the triggers and symptoms they have experienced. There is a notes section that is commonly used for journalling.
Entries by clients into the apps are saved to a secure online database. The dashboard gives the clinician a simple interface for monitoring and reporting based on these entries.
All of the screens that appear in the various optimism apps are available to the clinician in the dashboard. There are additional screens for viewing a summary of client entries, for scheduling the delivery of charts, reports and daily updates, and for setting remote monitoring alerts.
Who Does the Dashboard Suit?
The Dashboard provides opportunities for close collaboration with clients. It is suited to clinicians who have a strong working relationship with their clients and/or want to monitor progress between appointments. The platform depends on proactive engagement on the part of clients, which lends itself to use with clients in a recovery or maintenance phase.
How do I set up clients?
Requests for access to client records are sent from the "Add a Client" window in the dashboard's Summary Screen. Clients must give their permission before you can access their records. At present, permission can only be granted by clients from within the web version of Optimism. After it is granted any of the other apps can be used and will interface with the dashboard.
When authorizing your access to their records clients have the option of restricting some functionality via permission settings. These permissions are for customizing field names (e.g. for specific things that you want them to track), writing or modifying their health plan, adding or modifying goals, adding comments in the Notes area and adding remote monitoring alerts.
After a client has authorized your access you will receive a notification email. Their records will then be available in the Dashboard.
What Platforms is it Available On?
For individuals there are apps available on Windows, Mac, the web, iPhone and iPad, with further versions in development. The clinician dashboard is available on the web, with additional versions also planned.
Is there Reporting Functionality for Organizations?
We recognize the scope for larger clinical organizations to use aggregated data to better understand patient health and clinical outcomes. Please contact us to discuss possible reporting options.
Is there a trial period?
You can add one client to the Dashboard without a trial period restriction. A subscription is required to add further clients. The applications used by your clients are free.
I am a caregiver / husband / wife / coach. Can I use the Dashboard?
Yes you can, so long as you have authorization from the person whose records you will be accessing.
Why are the Optimism apps free for individuals?
Prior to mid-April 2012 the desktop software and web app required payment for use beyond a 14-day trial period. This is no longer the case. We have developed an app for clinicians to use, for close collaboration with their clients as appropriate. The use of this app requires the payment of a subscription fee. Existing apps will continue to be free to individuals, irrespective of whether they are used in collaboration with a clinician.
What are the implications for future development?
We plan to continue making improvements to the apps, and developing new apps for individuals, throughout 2012 and beyond.
Does the software come on CD?
No, the software is only available via download.
Can I run the software on more than one computer?
Yes, you can run the software on as many computers as you like. The database is the same in the Windows and Mac versions, so records can be synchronized between the two operating systems.
Do all products work with the iPhone and iPad apps?
Yes, the Windows, Mac and web apps all work with the iPhone and iPad apps. There is an extra step for synching with the software, because the data needs to be downloaded from the online database. Nothing extra needs to be done for the web app because the iPhone and iPad connect to the same database.
Do you provide support?
We provide free installation and troubleshooting support, however we do not provide medical advice. You can contact us using the form on our contact page or by direct email from within the applications.
I'm moving to a new computer. How can I keep my desktop software database?
When you move computers you only need to copy the database file, named "Optimism.rsd".
On the Mac the database is located in /username/Library/Application Support/Optimism/. In Windows it is located in c:/Documents and Settings/your username/Application Data/Optimism/.
In both cases you need to overwrite the corresponding file on your new computer after installing the software.
An easy way to move your database is to use the online sync function in the software. You can do this by uploading your data from your old computer and then downloading your data to your new computer. You will need to register an account online to do this.
I've received an error message. What should I do?
If you receive an error then we would like to know about it. In some cases it may be caused by a bug; in other cases another software program or your system setup could be causing a problem.
Please send us a screenshot of the error message if possible, a description of how the error occurred, and details of your computer (model, operating system, RAM).
Please contact us regarding any difficulties with the apps, feedback or suggestions for improvements. Use our contact form for standard internet browsers or mobile browsers, or send an email to us directly from within any app.
What are your current development plans?
Over the long term our plan is to expand functionality to enable people to track things specific to their health in more detail. This will include new charts and expanded reports to cater to the expanded functionality. These developments apply to all apps.
Will you be translating Optimism to other languages?
We have developed a Dutch version of the web app. We are hoping to develop other translations over time.
Can I request a new feature or make a suggestion for improvement?
Of course! Please contact us using our contact form or send an email directly from within any app.