AMA with Psychologist Silja Litvin on How A Digital Mental Health Game Can Build Your Emotional Intelligence AND Boost Your Mental Resilience.

Silja Litvin
Aug 13, 2018

Hi, my name is Silja Litvin. I'm a psychologist and founder of eQuoo, the Emotional Fitness Game. 

How many times have you downloaded a 'healthy app' just to abandon it days later?! Too many times if you are anything like me... And like 75% of the population! In my company, we believe that all things in life can be fun, even therapy. So we partnered with Collision Studios, the same game developing company that worked on games like "Game of Thrones", "The Walking Dead", "Barbie", "Scrabble" and many more to design a game that teaches psychological skills:

eQuoo is an Emotional Fitness game that teaches its players the psychological skills they need to succeed in the game AND in real life. What is therapy if not acquiring the skills to be able to deal with emotional and mental stressors?

With eQuoo you can learn many skills vital to building mental resilience, effectively acting preventatively while having fun playing a game. The game is targeted at 18-28-year-olds who are vulnerable to mental health issues due to life-changes as well as being in the age where most mental illnesses manifest. But we have hundreds of players older and younger that are getting a kick out of eQuoo, too.

The game uses psycho-education, positive and systemic psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) wrapped up in a game to ensure the player can learn and practice the new psychological skills in a safe and stimulating environment. Once a skill is learned, the player commences to an interactive game where they use what they just learned to win the level.

Any questions regarding digital mental health, mental health in general or EQ? Shoot, I’m all ears!

eQuoo is available in the iTunes App and Google Play Stores in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia if you want to give it a go.

Since we just launched 2 weeks ago, we can use all the support we can get, so please do spread the news. And go easy on us: eQuoo will get better over time, just like us <3

What is the Vibe of this AMA? What is AMA Vibe?

This AMA has finished, no more comments and questions can be posted and votes submitted to those. Check other similar AMAs here or host your own AMA!

Conversation (68)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

Do you think it’s possible for digital mental apps like Equoo to become an apt substitute for therapy since they provide solutions for the self-management of mental health disorders?
Aug 15, 4:55AM EDT0

I think that they have the potential to become a new type of therapy. I coined our game to do “Digital Game Therapy” in the future, and I can imagine that there will be a part of the population that responds very well to it. Other people will need other types of therapy, also different disorders have different treatment requirements. For low-level disorders this could be a way to fight the mental illness wave, but I would love to see face-to-face therapy become available to anyone who needs it, too.

Aug 16, 11:42AM EDT0
What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?
Aug 15, 3:11AM EDT0

That is a hard one: there are days I feel like I’m flitting around like a squirrel on speed, not getting anything done. Other days I need to turn my notifications off while I’m working, and lists help a lot. I make checklists and work my way through them.

Aug 16, 11:39AM EDT0
In your opinion, what characteristics are essential for a digital health app to be considered useful for medical professionals while also being appealing for patients?
Aug 15, 1:15AM EDT0

For professionals regarding clinical apps: it has to be evidence based, meaning that they can read the research if they want  in peer reviewed journals to make sure they are not harming their clients. As we are sub-clinical at the moment, it doesn’t have to be evidence based, so our professionals make their own opinions. We have 6 PhD psychologists and psychiatrist publicly endorsing us on our website: .

For patients: knowing an app is evidence based is important for many clients to help them decide which app to trust. But for many, it’s a bout user experience, fun and easy-to use.

Aug 16, 11:37AM EDT0
How did you raise funding for developing Equoo during the first phase and what methods will you be using for achieving your seed money during the next stage?
Aug 14, 5:01PM EDT0

I raised a ‚friends and family’ round by pitching to hundreds of people and their friends for 1 ½ years… Not fun, to be honest. Now will be different because we have a product and traction, not just an idea and a starry-eyed entrepreneur.

For this next round it’s a bit of the same: pitching, pitching, pitching, going to conferences, speaking on panels, podcasts, shows. Reaching out with cold-emails to angels and early stage VC’s AND: making sure we get the right distribution partner that will help us get eQuoo out there.  

Aug 16, 11:33AM EDT0
What can people do on a daily basis to grow mentally stronger and become better?
Aug 14, 4:04PM EDT0

If you would allow me to past an answer I wrote a bit below: 1) Therapy! If you can afford it, go see a therapist and work through all your past. There is always something to work on. 2) Read. This book by Travis Bradberry is a good start. 3) Get feedback. Ask the people around you who you can trust to be honest with you for feedback about your personality. Brace yourself for things you might not want to hear, but be open and reflect on what they say – there will be truth in them. 4) Practice. When you get upset about someone, practice putting yourself in their shoes. What could have triggered them? What is their background. Do they have beliefs that differ from yours? 5) meditate. Practice compassion meditation. Try cultivating your ability to be compassionate and kind.

Aug 16, 11:29AM EDT0
Do you have in your plans to develop a game for developing mental skills for children and/or teenagers?
Aug 14, 1:13AM EDT0

For now I’m concentrating on adults. There are quite a few good children’s mental health and development games out there.

Aug 16, 11:28AM EDT0
This app is quite innovative. Why do you think an app like this would resonate with people so much? How can this app help with mental health versus traditional alternatives for everyday situations?
Aug 13, 10:05PM EDT0

 Thank you, Ed! We are using gaming techniques that have been time-tested by millions of users since the first PC. Gamification features are tailor-made to cater to the brains reward system, making any interaction pleasurable and exciting. The only difference to games so far is that we actually add value to the players lives after they stop playing.

eQuoo and any other app coming after it isn’t meant to replace traditional face-to-face therapies, it’s meant to fill the gaps: in the UK only 35% of the people get the mental health care they need. In less wealthy countries you can imagine how much higher that statistic is!

Aug 15, 8:27AM EDT0
How do you feel the relationship with technological devices is changing society?
Aug 13, 6:22PM EDT0

I think people are overdosing and not yet quite aware that everything has to be ‘consumed’ in balance. I think that certain brain processes are being altered in a way that is yet to be determined and that the general direction of individualism spurred by capitalism is being sped up by technology.

I also believe that we are more connected (and less likely to see another culture as foreign or ‘other’), more educated, less likely to die and experiencing much, much more than any other generation before us.

Aug 15, 8:22AM EDT0
If this app proves to be a success, what modifications are you planning to make in the future?
Aug 13, 12:37PM EDT0

Here we go again with ‚if’! You mean, ‘when’, right?! Think positive 😊

Will be making the game play smoother, adding content, scaling up (translating into other languages) and most important of all: adding game features that treat depression and anxiety.

Aug 13, 12:45PM EDT0
Is Equoo available worldwide? If not, do you have plans to release it in the short-term? What are your goals regarding scalability?
Aug 13, 12:37PM EDT0

 Unfortunately not: at the moment we are live in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Once we have our foot in the app-world-door, then we will be translating into other languages. Some languages will need app modifications because the lettering is different. I am working on making the app  available worldwide, so it’s able to help treat people especially in countries where mental health care is hard to come by.

Aug 13, 12:47PM EDT0
What other ways would you recommend to give a boost to your emotional intelligence?
Aug 13, 7:28AM EDT0

1) Therapy! If you can afford it, go see a therapist and work through all your past. There is always something to work on. 2) Read. This book by Travis Bradberry is a good start. 3) Get feedback. Ask the people around you who you can trust to be honest with you for feedback about your personality. Brace yourself for things you might not want to hear, but be open and reflect on what they say – there will be truth in them. 4) Practice. When you get upset about someone, practice putting yourself in their shoes. What could have triggered them? What is their background. Do they have beliefs that differ from yours? 5) meditate. Practice compassion meditation. Try cultivating your ability to be compassionate and kind.

Last edited @ Aug 13, 7:52AM EDT.
Aug 13, 7:51AM EDT0
Do you foresee that in the future people will design technology with a more sustainable approach, aiming to make people better human beings?
Aug 13, 4:56AM EDT0

I’m really loving these questions you guys (all of them), thanks for participating!

A thing you probably don’t know about me is that I am a very optimistic person. You probably have to be if you found a start-up, but that‘s a whole other AMA. I believe that there will always be pain and evil in the world, and recent developments in technology in some sectors (like porn) is VERY worrisome. But I can see the trend of trying to make technology work for us instead of us being slaves of media. It’s in the social push-back against Facebook, you can see it in all the panels about ethics and technology, you can see it in slow shifts in consumer behaviour, and many more places.

Once we have understood the impacts of media on wellbeing and mental health I think we will take on a similar approach to is as to opioids: in small doses at the right time it enhances lives and enables better living. In high doses its an addiction that needs to be handled.

A general consciousness towards taking responsibility is emerging and I think it may lead to a (very flawed, but hey – we’re human) utopian-like future. This is what we are trying to help facilitate with eQuoo: harnessing technology for good!

Aug 13, 7:06AM EDT0
Would you agree that physical activity is also important for young adults to get happier, reduce stress and the possibility of becoming depresses?
Aug 13, 4:35AM EDT0

Absolutely! Research strongly supports that physical activity and mental health are closely linked. On our wish list (or to-do-list) I have parts of augmented reality games planned that will get players out of the house. Like a Pokemon Go for mental health.

Aug 13, 6:56AM EDT0
How much time daily would you recommend to play Equuo? Are there any contraindications?
Aug 12, 3:40PM EDT0

Our current version doesn’t have enough content to lead to addictive patterns. For the future my head of research and ethics will help us build in safe-guards that will gently shut off game time once a certain threshold is surpassed. I think people get the best out of playing at least one level (learning 2 psychological skills and then practicing them in an interactive story), but more is fine, too.

Aug 13, 6:54AM EDT0

What was your most profound experience in developing eQuoo?

Aug 12, 7:52AM EDT0

That if I put my heart to something – and I find the right people to help me on my journey (I have the best team ever) – I can achieve much more than I thought I could. This journey has been a lesson on growth, resilience and the joy of building something that adds value!

Aug 13, 6:51AM EDT0
How will the app help a person self evaluate his emotional intelligence?
Aug 12, 2:48AM EDT0

At the moment the app doesn’t give feedback on that because we’re still in the middle of conducting a trial. The feedback we give is the ability to level up in the game. We do share people’s probable personality score according to the Big 5 Personality test. Once we’re farther along we will be able to give our players more insights.

One step at a time…

Aug 13, 6:49AM EDT0
What are some common characteristics of resilient people and how does a person become resilient?
Aug 11, 7:27AM EDT0

I like this quote from a Psychology Today article:

"At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself—yet also a belief in something larger than oneself.

Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs… It's possible to strengthen your inner self and your belief in yourself, to define yourself as capable and competent. It's possible to fortify your psyche. It's possible to develop a sense of mastery."

Going through therapy, learning about mental health and practicing mindfulness are good ways to build resilience. 

And playing eQuoo, naturally... :-)

Aug 11, 1:46PM EDT0
Was Equoo tested before launching? If so, during the testing phase, what interesting findings did you encounter regarding behavioral changes in the people who used the game?
Aug 10, 8:03PM EDT0

The game was tested as a beta for 5 months pre-launch. We were testing for bugs, crashes, typos and the likes. The behavioural change I appreciated the most was how immediately the skills taught in the game were incorporated into our testers ‘mental vocabulary’ or ‘psychological toolbox’. They would instantly look back and reflect on a situation that had happened and how they would act differently had they known. Or that they finally understood why someone had reacted the way they did. That was EXTREMELY gratifying.

Aug 11, 1:44PM EDT0
What can you share about the features that people will find on Equoo?
Aug 10, 1:42PM EDT0

What?! And rob you of the insane pleasure of finding out for yourself?!? No way! :-P We’re live! Why don’t you give it a try?

(Ok, ok. We teach you 2 psychological skills for each level, and then you go on an interactive adventure where you need to use those skills to be able to win. Each level is a different genre and a bit harder than the last. You win points, get feedback on your personality, can share your success with your friends and learn skills that will be important for the rest of your life.)

Aug 11, 1:40PM EDT0
Why eQuoo app best suited for persons between the age of 18 and 28 years?
Aug 10, 12:11PM EDT0

Well, we have to start somewhere, with one age group. Because of the life-changes that occur during this time (leaving home, relationships, etc) and the fact that most mental illnesses manifest in this age range, we thought it would have the most positive impact on individuals and society. So we tried to make it in a way that would appeal to ‘digital natives’. What say you? Did we succeed?

Aug 11, 1:38PM EDT0
About #HealthAMA

Welcome to #HealthAMA, an "all things health" channel where you will encounter a far-reaching collection of AMA's gleaned from our caring community of approachable and informed hosts. In addition, we also cherry pick Health related AMA's from around the web for your viewing pleasure.

Interested in participating? Our user-friendly channel makes it possible for anyone to create an AMA on just about any imaginable topic that’s relevant to health, wellness--and you.

The #HealthAMA channel is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.

Top Contributor
Sensei of wellness