Feeling down? There are ways to get help. While therapy, counseling, and talking to friends can be a sufficient option for some, not everyone has access. That's where mental health apps can come in. They're available in all different formats to address a myriad of struggles you may be going through.
We took a dive into the world of mental health apps, from mood trackers to AI therapists to mindfulness meditation, and chose our 10 best apps for smartphones and tablets. Our number one pick is Sanvello by Sanvello Health: with it, you can set goals and track your mood or practice self-care through gratitude journaling and meditation. You can even connect with coaches and licensed therapists. Prefer a different approach? Check out the rest of the list, and scroll down to our buying guide for insight from a licensed professional counselor.
Omolola Taiwo is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Katy, Texas who provides psychotherapy services to young adults, adults, and couples. She specializes in wellness-oriented and trauma-informed care, with an integrative approach of cognitive-behavioral interventions, dialectical behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and wellness consulting.
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Table of Contents
Are you dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression? You're not alone. In a year, about 40 million adults in the United States will be affected by an anxiety disorder and 17.3 million will experience a major depressive episode.
And according to the American Institute of Stress, in 2017 a whopping 77% of adults reported that they regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
While therapy can be beneficial for everyone regardless of their mental state, it can also be expensive. If you have a busy life, it can be hard to make time for regular appointments.
Even those who attend therapy may want other ways to access support and tools outside of their sessions. In these cases, a mental health app can be a great solution.
If you're already dealing with a difficult situation, the last thing you want to do is stress about which mental health app to download. Here are some important things to consider to help point you in the right direction.
Because there is such a wide range of mental health apps, it’s helpful to know ahead of time what your goals are. Maybe you want an app that helps support your overall well-being, which may include mood tracking, daily journaling, and prompts.
Or perhaps you want an app where you can set a specific goal, like coping with stress, building self-confidence, or improving mindfulness, and then track your progress. If you struggle with a specific disorder like anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, or disordered eating, there are often apps made specifically to support your recovery.
If you're looking for an app to complement in-person therapy, it can be helpful to find an app that offers robust reporting so that you can easily share a snapshot of your week with your therapist. In addition, it may be beneficial to ask your therapist for app recommendations and advice.
Reviewing life goals is as refreshing as accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. Every few months, it's helpful to keep your mental health goals in mind to monitor progress on completing them. The best way to track your goals is to notate them in your most commonly used apps or notebooks.
Apps are still a new tool in the world of mental health, and not many comprehensive studies have been done on their effectiveness. In order to ensure that you’re picking an app that will help you, take some time to make sure that it’s backed by science.
Take a look at the creator of the app. Apps made by companies in the health and science industries are likely more credible than apps made by a single developer. Check out the app’s website as well to see if any studies have been done on its effectiveness.
The other thing to look for is an app that uses evidence-based techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
Every mental health app is different, but many of them have similar features. Deciding which features are important to you can help narrow down your options.
Many mental health apps contain a mood tracking component, where you input your mood at regular intervals. Tracking your mood can help you feel more connected to yourself, see patterns, and understand triggers. Apps will often allow you to set reminders to check in with yourself so you don't have to remember throughout the day.
Many apps offer the ability to track other factors alongside your mood like activities, medications, and other symptoms. This can help illuminate how your activities and habits affect how you feel.
Gratitude is a simple act with a big impact, but it can be hard to remember to take time for it out of our busy days. Some mental health apps include a gratitude journal, where you can write down what you’re grateful for each day.
Practicing gratitude helps you focus on feelings of contentment and satisfaction, which can help reduce stress and improve happiness. If you keep a gratitude journal, it can be a helpful thing to look back on during especially hard times.
Meditation is having a moment, and for good reason! There are many mental health benefits to meditation, including increasing self-awareness, reducing negative emotions, and improving attention.
While there are apps dedicated solely to meditation, many mental health apps include some form of meditation as a tool to help improve your overall well-being. Some apps allow you to track your meditation, which can help keep you accountable. Other apps include guided meditations that you can listen to as part of your mindfulness practice.
There is a multitude of benefits to meditation, especially related to stress management. Although it takes time to begin meditating, the effects are more long-term/permanent to the individual.
The effects of stress activate the central nervous system, which places a strain on a person's mental and physical health. Therefore, meditation allows the brain to scan and reframe the experience to be more relaxed and calm.
In addition to meditation, many mental health apps help you learn coping skills to deal with difficult feelings like stress or anxiety. These can be structured as audio or visual lessons, games, or guided exercises.
For example, an app could take you through a deep breathing exercise or body scan to help ground you when you’re feeling anxious. Another app might provide lessons on how to improve self-confidence or handle social anxiety.
Many mental health apps use techniques based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a common form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors by interrogating and uprooting irrational beliefs. Studies have shown that CBT does not have to be done in-person to be effective.
While some apps contain features to help you manage your own mental health, others allow you to connect with people for support. Some connect you with trained counselors and therapists you can talk to via text, phone, and video. Others have a community aspect where you can talk to other people and share your experiences.
A community aspect can be especially helpful if you’re experiencing an issue that not many people can relate to, like a chronic illness. It can also be helpful for people in marginalized groups, who may be seeking others with similar experiences.
There are also a couple of apps where you can chat with a bot about what you’re experiencing. These apps use artificial intelligence to understand your needs and suggest evidence-based strategies to help you.
Design and user experience are important when choosing a mental health app. If you’re already feeling bad, the last thing you’ll want to do is figure out how to use a confusing or frustrating user interface.
Many mental health apps have free versions, so take the time to try out a few to find the one you like best. It’s absolutely okay to judge an app by its aesthetics; after all, you want an app that you feel good using, and certain images and colors can contribute to your enjoyment.
While confidentiality is an important part of in-person counseling, things can get murkier when using a mental health app.
In addition to the information you input into the app itself, some mental health apps may integrate with other apps like your camera or health-tracking apps, giving them more access to your information.
While mental health apps can be beneficial, they should not take the place of professional help from a licensed counselor or therapist. Because there are so many factors at play, diagnoses and treatment should only be done by a mental health professional, so be wary of any app that tries to diagnose you.
If you find that problems in your life are seriously interfering with your ability to function at work, with your family, or in your social life, then it may be time to seek professional help.
Click to purchase
A Comprehensive App for Managing Mental Health
A Mental Health App That Prioritizes Diversity and Inclusivity
Get by With a Little Help from AI
Roble Ridge Software
A Mood Tracking App With CBT-Based Tools
Gamify Self-Care to Motivate and Build Reslience
Mighty Proud Media
A Community for Health and Wellness Support
Use Reports to View Progress and Identify Patterns
An App That Improves Happiness With Games and Activities
Simply Rooted Media
Immediate Assistance for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Groop Internet Platform
An App That Connects You With a Licensed Therapist
Sanvello offers a four-pronged approach to help you take control of your mental health and handle stress, anxiety, and depression in a healthy way. Practice self-care with mood tracking, meditations, guided journeys, and CBT-based coping tools. Get support from peers in the Sanvello community.
In addition to these self-guided methods, the app also offers coaching and therapy. Coaches come from health and wellness backgrounds and can provide support via text conversations or group classes. Therapy from licensed clinicians is available in some states via video sessions.
Some reviewers were unhappy with the free version of this app, saying that the most helpful tools required a subscription, but this may be covered by your insurance. Others were frustrated by how long the onboarding process takes. Some found the user interface to be slow or not intuitive.
However, most reviewers were impressed by this app, saying that it was a tremendous help in managing their mental health. They found it to be very comprehensive, with extensive tracking capabilities and a variety of tools, like articles, meditations, motivational quotes, and mood boards, to help cultivate a positive mindset.
One of the things that makes Shine stand out among mental health apps is that it's created by women of color, and thus takes a more explicitly inclusive approach to self-care. Shine aims to make caring for your mental and emotional health a habit through self-care strategies and community.
Start each day with the Daily Shine, a mantra or message for reflection and inspiration. Listen to episodes of their podcast-meets-meditation. Keep a gratitude journal and receive recommended articles, meditations, and exercises based on your mood. And discuss self-care topics with the rest of the Shine community.
Some reviewers were turned off by this app's pushing of subscriptions on free users and were disappointed that much of the content requires a subscription. Others found that the interface felt cluttered and said there were sometimes too many options. Some experienced lagging or glitching.
However, most reviewers found this app to be motivational while still being kind, inclusive, and nonjudgmental. They liked that they could choose to do the Daily Shine in under 10 minutes or spend more time doing guided meditations, journaling, responding to reflection prompts, or interacting with the wonderful community.
Youper is a new way to take care of your mental health using modern technology. Created by doctors and therapists, it uses artificial intelligence to understand your needs and guide you through difficult emotions using evidence-based approaches from mindfulness and various psychotherapy treatments.
Youper attempts to mimic the feeling of having a conversation with a real person without needing to wait for a reply. But if you don't feel like talking, you can also use the app for things like guided meditation, calming sleep sounds, and monitoring symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Some reviewers didn't like the way this app interacted with them. They found the AI to be repetitive and sometimes frustrating and found that it took more time than they wanted. Others were upset that some of the free features could only be used a few times before needing to pay for them.
However, most of the reviews for Youper are overwhelmingly positive. Reviewers appreciated the conversation format and liked the AI's kind and empathetic tone, which helped them dig deep and reflect on their emotions. They also praised the app for being well-designed, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use.
Gain insight into how your mood affects your overall wellbeing and actively work to improve it with Moodfit. This app helps you set daily goals for things like gratitude, nutrition, and exercise and tracks them in relation to your mood. You might be surprised at the patterns that emerge.
The app also includes a host of tools you can use to improve your mood fitness, like a gratitude journal, mindfulness meditation, and breathing exercises. It also has a tool that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you break out of negative thinking patterns.
Most of the negative reviews for this app were due to the users experiencing glitches, issues logging in, or problems loading certain aspects of the app. The developers responded to the majority of these reviews to provide technical assistance.
Otherwise, most reviewers gave this app top marks. They praised it for being intuitive and user-friendly and loved that they could customize the goals to fit their lifestyle and needs. They found the charts to be insightful and many of them said the low mood tools had been really helpful for them during difficult times.
Unlock your heroic potential with SuperBetter, an app that activates the psychological strengths of gameplay to build resilience and strength. By challenging yourself in a game, you can build a mindset that better reacts to challenges in the real world.
SuperBetter's games will have you complete real-life tasks to collect power-ups, battle bad guys, complete quests, recruit allies, and go for epic wins. Created by a game designer, SuperBetter's effectiveness is backed by clinical trials that you can read about on their website.
Some reviewers felt that the design of this app felt dated. Others found that some of the suggested activities weren't inclusive of all abilities or were triggering for those with eating disorders. Some reviewers were frustrated with the app's lack of updates in the past, making it less likely to work properly on all operating systems.
However, most reviewers found this app to be a lighthearted but effective take on self-care. They appreciated that the app prioritizes fun, and found that it helped them feel motivated to stay on track with their goals. Many said it was great for both kids and adults dealing with depression or anxiety.
Most people think of social media as being bad for mental health, but The Mighty is a different kind of app. It's the world's largest digital health community, bringing people together to discuss what it's really like to live with everything from mood disorders to chronic illness. If you ever feel like you're alone, The Mighty can remind you that you're not.
With the app, you can join groups based on specific topics like rare diseases or self-care goals. You can post thoughts or questions for advice, encouragement, and support, and do daily check-ins with other members of the community. You can also read others' stories and follow people and topics to create a personalized home feed.
Some reviewers mentioned that there are no trigger warnings and no ability to hide specific tags or topics, making this potentially unsuitable for vulnerable users. Others experienced lagging or glitches when trying to access content in the app that made it difficult to use.
However, most users said this app is an amazing resource for people living with chronic conditions, whether it's anxiety, depression, or physical health issues. They said that the ability to connect with others going through the same things made them feel less alone, and having that community right at their fingertips was invaluable.
Whether you're struggling with depression or anxiety or just want to be more aware of your mental state, Moodpath can help you keep track of your feelings and identify patterns. The app will check in with you throughout the day and provide resources to help, including courses, guided meditations, and sleep aids.
It also creates mental health reports detailing your symptoms, as well as statistical reports that provide a snapshot of your mood over time to help detect triggers. Moodpath was developed with help from therapists and doctors and they continuously conduct clinical studies to validate the effectiveness of the app.
Some reviewers were disappointed in the features available in the free version of the app. Others had issues with the questions the app asked, saying that some of them weren't relevant, were difficult to answer, or began to feel repetitive. Some had technical issues with the app resetting and not saving their progress.
However, most reviewers gave this app high scores, saying that it's a great tool for daily mood tracking. They appreciated that the check-ins are fairly quick and that you can choose when they pop up. And they really liked the bi-weekly reports, which allowed them to see their progress and recognize patterns.
Overcome stress, negative thoughts, and life's curveballs using Happify's science-based games and activities. Choose from different tracks like conquering negative thoughts, building self-confidence, or fueling career success, and Happify will provide daily activities to help you achieve your goal.
The activities are developed by scientists and experts in the fields of psychology, mindfulness, and CBT, and they include everything from phone-based games to guided meditation. If you choose to upgrade to Happify Plus, you'll get unlimited access to 30-plus tracks, a 20-page character strength report, and the ability to track your progress over time.
Some reviewers found that there were too many ads for the premium version, making the free version frustrating to use. Others didn't like the gamification aspect of this app, saying that happiness shouldn't be a competition. Some reviewers said that this app wasn't ideal for those with disorders.
However, many reviewers thought this app was a great way to remind them to check in on their mental health. They appreciated the reminders and quick daily tasks, which helped them integrate self-care into their everyday routine. And many of them said that they felt a positive difference in their mindset after using this app.
If you're experiencing a panic attack, just pull out your phone and activate the Rootr by pressing the big red button. The app will then walk you through either facing the panic attack head-on or finding comfort and relief quickly. It also includes lessons to help you understand and manage your anxiety in the short and long-term.
Some reviewers were disappointed in the free content and said that it seemed necessary to pay to get the full benefit of this app. Others had issues signing up or signing in. Some reviewers said that they didn't like the app's CBT-based approach.
However, most reviewers said this app has been extremely helpful in managing panic attacks and anxiety. They appreciated the easily accessible panic button and the prompts that provide reassurance. They also liked the techniques and the lessons that helped them better understand the causes of anxiety.
Talkspace is a subscription therapy service. Once you sign up, they'll match you with a licensed therapist who you can talk to from your device via text, audio, pictures, video messages, and live video chats. Their network includes thousands of therapists across the U.S. with experience treating depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, and more.
While the app itself is free to download, using Talkspace does require a paid subscription. Talkspace partners with some health plans and companies, so you can also check with your insurance provider to see if you might qualify. Note that Talkspace is not a replacement for in-person therapy.
Some reviewers complained that this app didn't provide the type of communication they had expected. Responses from therapists via Talkspace are not immediate and can feel more like emailing than texting. Others found it difficult to schedule live sessions with their assigned therapist.
However, many reviewers found that this app was a helpful addition to their self-care practice. They appreciated having a safe space to share their thoughts and problems, knowing that someone would listen and respond. For some of them, it took some trial and error to find the right therapist, but once they did, they saw a significant improvement in their mental health.
Sometimes an app isn't enough and that's okay. Here are some resources for further support and information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
A free, confidential crisis hotline that provides emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, available 24/7.
Crisis Text Line - Text "HOME" to 741741
Available 24/7, they will connect you with a live counselor to provide support and information in any kind of crisis.
SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline - Call 1-800-985-5990
A free, confidential 24/7, 365-day-a-year hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
SAMHSA's National Helpline - Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
A free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders.
Other mental health resources can support your effort to track your health in a mental health app. Seeking other resources can essentially normalize your experience with mental health, and plug you with the right connection to get your needs met. These resources vary from group meetings, to individual treatment, and alternative therapies to support your healing.
Taking charge of your mental health can be empowering. Check out our other recommendations for books and apps that can help you on your journey.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
The descriptions of each product are referenced from content available on manufacturer, brand, and e-commerce sites.
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