Digital Navigator Training Session

Digital Navigator Training Recap

Katherine Swarts, BridgingApps Digital Content Writer, shares a “non-techie’s” notes from the Digital Navigator Training course held Wednesday, May 3, at The Menninger Clinic.


The Digital Navigator Training course was created for Digital Navigators and other professionals whose work includes helping clients with limited digital literacy connect to the mental-health-care system. Digital literacy is, in the presenters’ words, “a new social determinant of health” as telehealth options continue to expand.

The course comprised four modules:

  1. Supporting clients with native smartphone applications. Includes illustrated step-by-step directions for navigating basic smartphone tasks such as app downloads, text messaging, and organizing a calendar schedule.
  2. Technology troubleshooting. Ninety percent of technical difficulties can be fixed within 60 seconds by anyone familiar with modern user-friendly devices. An important part of helping many clients is guiding them past early-experience headaches such as lost passwords, limited storage, or erratic connections.
  3. Evaluating a mental health app. Search an app store for “mental health,” and you may get 10,000 results—not all of which are reliable, easy to use, or likely to still be around in six months. Important considerations include: Is the developer a government department, academic institution, or other organization of proven stability and well-backed research? What security/privacy precautions come with the app? Has the app been updated recently—and is it updated regularly? Will its features prove personally helpful to the individual who will be using it?
  4. Supporting clients with mental illnesses. This module covers the basics of common mental illnesses—depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia—and what non-clinical digital workers need to know about client privacy, signs that a client may be in danger, and how to talk to clients with mental illness.

The program included patient interactions role-played by presenters. Attendees received notebooks covering the curricula plus the next-step Digital Outreach for Obtaining Resources and Skills (DOORS) program.

Points of Interest

  • Around 16 percent of the U.S. adult population—up to 36 percent in some demographic groups—is digitally illiterate.
  • The best app for an individual is largely determined by that person’s “engagement style”: their personality type, natural learning style, personal goals, and other things that affect how they will use an app and what they will be most comfortable (and uncomfortable) with.
  • When engaging with a client, it is important to ask open-ended questions, pursue clarity, maintain transparency, nurture trust, and avoid making assumptions.

The Digital Navigator Training course is a one-day, four-module program presented by the Division of Digital Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For more information or to schedule a program, contact the department at

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