Vakgroep Psychologie, Gezondheid & Technologie

Title: Compassionate technology: A literature review



Type of assignment:  Ma

Internal or external?  Internal                                                                                              

How many students possible? 2

Own data collection or existing data?  -

Type of research (qualitative empirical, quantitative empirical, mixed-method, literature review):   literature review  / limited qualitative study

EC (10 of 30EC)?   10EC    




The Dutch society is faced with rising healthcare costs and waiting lists and this is especially true for mental healthcare, with over a million patients per year. For decades, ICT has been put forward as a crucial component to realize a more self-management and prevention focused, economically viable mental healthcare. Furthermore, technology could open up completely new paths of treatment by technology mediated mechanisms such as just in time intervention, and enhanced adaptability and personalisation through personal sensing ((Mohr, Zhang, & Schueller, 2017). Yet, this transition has not taken place to the extent envisioned. Clients show low adherence to the technology mediated options, and many professionals show persistent hesitation in prescribing ‘emental health’ options and lack digital skills to confidently explain and adapt the existing options (Feijt, de Kort, Bongers, & IJsselsteijn, 2018). The societal readiness level of current mHealth technology is low, and often mostly a one-to-one translation of components of existing F2F therapies. ICT in mental healthcare seems to be perceived by mental health professionals as a cold and inferior option, that mostly can be ignored in favour of the warm and effective Face-to-Face options (F2F).


The aim of the current literature review is to synthesize recent alternative approaches to the design of technology and new ways of dividing tasks between people and technology that can lead to optimal societal readiness of technology. These approaches could be referred to as ‘compassionate’, ‘empathic’, ‘affective’ or ‘intimate’ technology. A recent paper (Strauss et al., 2016) synthesized existing conceptualizations of compassion. What already can be inferred from this conceptualization is that compassion is both an attitude or sensitivity to suffering and wellbeing, and taking the expedient action to improve the human condition. This combination of both sensing and acting makes it a more comprehensive concept to link to technology (which often both senses and acts) than for example empathy or intimacy, which mainly have to do with the sensing aspects of interaction (Gilbert, 2012). To be able to define compassionate technology you will provide a definition of compassionate technology based on a systematic literature review. This review will also answer the question how technology has already been seen to fulfill a compassionate role.


Who are we looking for?

An enthusiastic student interested in emental health, compassion and technology.



Dr. Matthijs Noordzij



Feijt, M. A., de Kort, Y. A., Bongers, I. M., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2018). Perceived Drivers and Barriers to the Adoption of eMental Health by Psychologists: The Construction of the Levels of Adoption of eMental Health Model. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(4), e153.

Gilbert, P. (2012). Compassion-focused therapy. Cognitive Behaviour Therapies, (April 2009), 140–165.

Mohr, D. C., Zhang, M., & Schueller, S. M. (2017). Personal Sensing: Understanding Mental Health Using Ubiquitous Sensors and Machine Learning. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 13(1), 23–47.

Strauss, C., Lever Taylor, B., Gu, J., Kuyken, W., Baer, R., Jones, F., & Cavanagh, K. (2016). What is compassion and how can we measure it? A review of definitions and measures. Clinical Psychology Review, 47, 15–27.