Use of Apps for Mental Health and Wellness

Many people experience barriers to receiving mental health treatment. Whether it is a busy schedule, transportation problems, or financial concerns, it can be difficult to maintain consistent appointments with a mental health provider. Below is a list of helpful mental health applications that can be used on your mobile device. Many of them are free for users, and the rest are purchasable for a small fee.  These applications help with a range of mental health needs – including maintaining daily balance and wellness, reducing stress, and reinforcing concepts related to treatment.   

  • Apps for Lowering Stress and Promoting Mindfulness and Wellness
    • Breath & Relax
      • Feel better right away with the easy, enjoyable Breathe & Relax app. It will help you develop the habit of breathing in a natural, relaxed way throughout the day. Experience stress relief, relaxation and more energy with three simple tools:  Breathing Exercise, Four Breathing Break Audios and Breathing Reminders. ($1.99 iOS; $1.49 Android
    • Breathe2Relax
      • Created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing. Its features include educational videos on the stress response, logs to record stress levels, and customizable guided breathing sessions. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Calm
      • Named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone App of the Year, Calm is quickly becoming regarded as one of the best mental health apps available. Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music. This app is truly universal; whether you’ve never tried meditation before or regularly practice, you’ll find the perfect program for you. (The initial 7 Days of Calm, unguided sessions, some guided sessions and tracking features has no cost. A subscription which provides access to the entire Calm catalog costs $12.99/month, $59.99/year and $299.99 for a lifetime iOS and Andriod) subscription.)
    • Stop, Breathe, Think!
      • This app can help cultivate mindfulness in 5 minutes. Mindfulness can improve mood, lower stress, and help increase self-compassion. In addition, this app can also help to improve focus by bringing one’s attention to the present moment, including thoughts and sensations, and encouraging a judgment-free outlook. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • eCBT calm
      • Implementing some of the many strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy, this app helps users assess their stress levels, practice mindfulness and relaxation skills, and connect their thoughts to feelings and behaviors. The end result is experiencing increased calmness in everyday life and more awareness of actions and emotions. This app can also be used to help manage symptoms of anxiety. ($0.99; iOS)
    • Happify
      • This app offers an array of engaging games and activity suggestions to promote gratitude and positive mood. It was designed with input from 18 psychologists.  The website also links to bonus “feel good” videos that are sure to make you smile. (Free trial, or $60 for the year):
    • Happier
      • Happier is an app that works to keep users optimistic by introducing them to a community of like-minded people, and giving them a place to journal thoughts and feelings. This app can also sync with the Apple Watch. (Free; iOS)
    • Headspace
      • This app uses winsome animations to teach you the basics of mindfulness and meditation. The sessions themselves are voiced by Bristolian co-founder Andy Puddicombe, who as a 20-something, ditched his university career in sports science to travel to Asia and become a Buddhist monk. (Free for the starter program. Monthly subscription  $12.99 month. $7.99-per-month for annual package, $399.99 for Lifetime subscription; iOS and Android)
    • iSleep Easy
      • The iSleep Easy app contains a wide variety of guided meditations to help you fall asleep and sleep deeply. You can listen to the meditations with or without several choices of music or nature sounds. In addition, you can create your own sleep program using a Playlist feature which allows you to listen to up to six meditations in one session, choosing which music or nature sound you'd like in the background and how long they will continue after the voice guidance stops. If you prefer to listen to music or nature sounds alone, a Sound Mix feature allows you to listen to a combination of music plus a nature sound, or two nature sounds together. ($3.99 iOS; $3.99 Android
    • Insight Timer
      • Insight Timer is one of the most popular free meditation apps out there, and it’s easy to see why. The app features more than 4,000 guided meditations from over 1,000 teachers—on topics like self-compassion, nature, and stress—plus talks and podcasts. If you prefer a quieter meditation, you can always set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells or calming ambient noise. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Learn to Meditate
      • The Meditation Oasis® Learn to Meditate app is designed to make learning meditation easy and enjoyable. You will be able to meditate along with the guided meditations from day one, and you will have all the support your need to address any questions or challenges you may have along the way. By the end of the five weeks, you will have everything you need to continue meditating on your own. This meditation style does not require concentration or mastering complicated instructions. You will simply be tapping into a natural ability already within you. ($3.99 iOS; $3.49 Android
    • Meditation Rx
      • Find relief from the stress of serious illness with the Meditation Rx app. Whether you are ill or are supporting a loved one through an illness, you will find guided meditations especially designed to suit your needs. The app helps you to deal with the stresses of being ill, being in a medical setting, undergoing difficult procedures, hearing bad news and more. ($2.99 iOS; $2.99 Android
    • Music Oasis
      • Enjoy this uplifting instrumental music whenever you need calming, relaxation or soothing. Use it for meditation, yoga, massage, falling asleep, or any time you want to relax. The Music Oasis app was created in response to many requests from people who have enjoyed its beautiful music in the background of the guided meditations in the popular Meditation Oasis® podcast and apps--29 music selections, Nature Sound feature: option to mix the music with choice of 5 high quality nature sounds, Playlist feature: play a preset playlist or create your own custom playlists, Timer feature:use timer to determine how long the music plays. ($1.99 iOS; $1.99 Android
    • Optimism
      • Optimism is designed to help identify and work through users’ feelings as they arise, rather than when they are in the midst of trouble. According to the app makers, it helps users learn triggers so once can recognize early warning signs. It does this primarily through mood and trigger tracking, and also lets users create reports to share with a treatment team. (Free; iOS)
    • Relax & Rest
      • Enjoy the deep relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation without prior experience. Now upgraded to include all the features of the original popular iPhone version. Three meditations of varying lengths allow you to relax deeply regardless of how much time you have available to meditate. Written Meditation Tips help support your experience with the guided meditations. ($1.99 iOS; $1.99 Android
    • Simply Being
      • Enjoy the deep relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation without prior experience. Simply Being has been developed by Richard and Mary Maddux, creators of the popular Meditation Oasis podcast. It allows you to choose from 4 meditation times and gives you to option to listen with or without music/nature sounds. You can also listen to the music or nature sounds alone. ($1.99 iOS; $1.99 Android
    • Super Better
      • SuperBetter can help increase resilience - the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficult obstacles. Playing SuperBetter can encourage users to get through tough situations. The apps’ goal is to help people achieve the goals that matter most to them. Available in both mobile and online versions. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Take a Break
      • You can enjoy the deep relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation now without prior experience. Take a Break has been developed by Richard and Mary Maddux, creators of the popular Meditation Oasis podcast. Featuring two popular meditations from the podcast, the app gives you the option to listen with or without music. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Talkspace
      • Users can text message with a trained and licensed mental health professional every day of the week and as many times as they want. The app offers services for individuals and couples. It starts with a free, no-commitment assessment online that answers questions about the process and is for adults 18 and older.
      •  ($25/week; iOS and Android)
    • Walking Meditations
      • The Meditation Oasis® Learn to Meditate app is designed to make learning meditation easy and enjoyable. You will be able to meditate along with the guided meditations from day one, and you will have all the support your need to address any questions or challenges you may have along the way. By the end of the five weeks, you will have everything you need to continue meditating on your own. This meditation style does not require concentration or mastering complicated instructions. You will simply be tapping into a natural ability already within you. ($1.99 iOS; $1.99 Android

 

  • Apps for Specific Mental Health Concerns
    • ACT Coach
      • Good for: Anxiety, depression.
      • ACT Coach teaches users how to tolerate negative thoughts and feelings by virtually guiding them through awareness exercises and giving tips on how to ditch self-doubt. With an extra focus on mindfulness, this app also provides a log to track progress. (Free; iOS)
    • AETAS
      • Good for: Anxiety, OCD.
      • Chock-full of visual aids to encourage relaxation and self-soothing, AETAS also arms users with a time perspective inventory that helps them understand that how they view the past, present, and future will either help or hinder their happiness. ($4.99; iOS)
    • At Ease
      • Good for: Anxiety
      • This application contains a unique approach to relieving anxiety and worry which combines voice-guided breathing meditations, exercises and journaling. At Ease is intended to make deep and lasting change rather than applying a temporary “band aid”. Most people will experience immediate relief using the guided breathing meditations, but the long term benefit of At Ease will come from using the breathing meditations, exercises and journaling regularly over time. ($2.99 iOS; $2.99 Android)
    • Bipolar Disorder Connect
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder.
      • Bipolar Disorder Connect can help connect people diagnosed with bipolar disorder to a community of people living with the condition. Users can ask and answer questions as well as make new friends. The app also features tracking tools to help monitor moods and share those updates. (Free; iOS)
    • Bipolar Disorder Guide
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder.
      • This app is for people recently diagnosed, and for their friends and family. The Bipolar Disorder Guide app has considerable educational value. Its main feature is an informational guide to this mood disorder, with chapters focused on treatment options, coping mechanisms, support group resources, and more. ($0.99; iOS)
    • BrainWave Tuner
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Insomnia, Chronic Pain.
      • This app offers a unique approach to managing mood. The BrainWave Tuner uses audible brainwave frequencies to help people manage their moods, pain, stress, and more. The app is based on similar technology as Electroencephalography, or EEG, which is routinely used in health care settings to measure neuronal activity in the brain. The app offers programs designed for meditation, destressing, focusing attention, and inducing sleep. There are also ambient sounds that can be played in the background, making it useful for general relaxation. ($3.99; iOS and Android)
    • DBSA Wellness Tracker
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Medication Management.
      • The DBSA Wellness Tracker comes from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Its user-friendly interface was designed to help users manage all aspects of their health. Users can track daily activity, moods, medications, and other symptoms. It’s a great tool to share with one’s doctor, providing a place to store all of your observations, triggers, and symptoms. (Free; iOS)
    • DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Suicidality, Self-Injury, Emotion Regulation.
      • Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a type of therapy that is used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. This app uses the principles of DBT, with a skills coach and a behavior tracker that work in conjunction to help users slow down, analyze thoughts and feelings, and apply what has been learned for better moods and outcomes. ($4.99; iOS)
    • Depression CBT Self-Help Guide
      • Good for: Depression.
      • This app allows users to monitor dips in mood, learn about clinical depression and treatments, try guided relaxation techniques, and learn strategies to challenge negative thinking. (Free; Android)
    • How Are You
      • Good for: Depression, Anxiety, Suicidality.
      • The How Are You mood tracking app can help users identify situations that affect their mood the most. Users can log moods and the situations that influence them, view trends over time, and get tips for how to improve their mood on a daily basis. The app features a mood test that can analyze psychological well-being and a gratitude diary that provides a place to reflect on the positive things in life. ($12.99; iOS and Android)
    • iMoodJournal
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Insomnia, Medication Management.
      • Alerts remind users to check in and choose from a colorful scale of mood labels. There are also hashtags to help organize thoughts and triggers. Users can visualize hashtags on a chart to identify any correlations between how they feel and sleep patterns, medications, or other identifiers. The app can also link to Facebook for those who want to check in with friends and family. ($1.99; iOS and Android)
    • InFlow: Mood Diary
      • Good for: Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and more.
      • In Flow is one option for tracking the effects of a mental health diagnosis, and the effectiveness of treatments. Users can share emotions with friends, and can learn to identify trends and triggers. (Free; Android)
    • Live OCD Free
      • Good for: OCD 
      • Shown to reduce OCD symptoms by 34% in 8 weeks time and endorsed by world-renowned OCD expert, Dr. Michael Jenike, Live OCD Free is an interactive application designed to guide users through the only evidence-based treatment, Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Children and adults version available. (Free Version; As well as 29.99 version; iOS)
    • Mightier
      • Good for: Children ages 6-14 who have difficulty self-regulating and controlling their emotions.
      • Mightier uses the power of video games to help kids 6-14 build emotional strength and resilience. Mightier helps kids who have a tough time with tantrums, feelings of frustration, anxiety, or even a diagnosis like ADHD learn to manage their emotions. (Free; iOS)
    • MindShift
      • Good for: Anxiety, OCD, Pain.
      • This is a straightforward stress management tool that helps users re-think about what’s stressing them out through a variety of on-screen prompts. At the same time, the app encourages new ways to take charge of anxiety and tune into body signals. (Free; iOS and Andriod)
    • Moodlytics
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression.
      • With Moodlytics users can track their ups and downs with text, emoji’s, or photos. Users can also journal their feelings, set reminders, set mood goals, log moods from days passed, and create charts that break down just how often they’re feeling a certain way. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Moodtrack Diary
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression.
      • The Moodtrack Diary app is designed to help users get a handle on mood swings, or at least learn how to better predict and manage them. There is a graphing feature that allows users to view moods over time and may help identify trends and cycles. (Free for Android; $0.99 for iOS)
    • MY3
      • Good For: Suicide Prevention
      • MY3 is aimed at people who are depressed and suicidal, and trains users to recognize suicide warning signs in others. MY3 asks you to choose three close contacts that you feel comfortable reaching out to when you’re down and keeps you connected to this core network. This best part of this app is that it helps you create your own safety plan asking you to think through and list your own warning signs, coping strategies and support network, so that you can easily act when you recognize your warning signs. (Free; iOS)
    • nOCD
      • Good for: OCD
      • Designed with the help of OCD specialists and patients to incorporate two treatments: mindfulness and Exposure Response Prevention Treatment. You can receive immediate, clinically-supported guidance when an OCD episode strikes, take weekly tests to assess the severity of your OCD and have motivational support along the way. (Free; iOS)
    • Recovery Record
      • Good for: Eating disorders including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. 
      • Recovery Record helps you chart your progress and check in with your mood throughout the recovery process. The food logging system is easy and discrete and you can connect the app to your dietician or therapist. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Rise Up + Recover
      • Good for: Eating disorders including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder
      • Ues cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help monitor your diet and exercise and determine what your triggers are. The app is easy to use, with lots of motivational quotes to keep you going and you can set yourself helpful reminders. Users can also share their progress and daily entries with their therapist/dietitian.  Free (iOS & Android)
    • T2 Mood Tracker
      • Good for: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and a Brain Injury.
      • The T2 Mood Tracker, created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, allows users to rate their moods by sliding a bar to the right or left, and add notes about medications and treatments. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Operation Reach Out
      • Good for: Depression, Suicidality.
      • This mood tracker and resource locator was designed by Emory University researchers to aid in suicide prevention. Users create a personal profile that includes emergency contact information, current medications, safety plans, and reminders for appointments or medications. Plus, the app uses GPS to locate mental health care services nearby, should any user enter crisis mode. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • PTSD Coach
      • Good for: Anxiety (including PTSD), Trauma.
      • Available as an app or on the Web, PTSD Coach lets users select the specific issue they want to deal with (from anxiety and anger to insomnia and alienation), and then gives them guidance on how to lift their mood, shift their mindset, and reduce stress. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Quit Pro
      • Good for: Substance abuse.
      • This app is a tracker for users’ smoking habits. Users can monitoring cravings over time, the places they puff the most, the triggers that lead them to light up, and the money saved by resisting a cigarette, this comprehensive app can help individuals develop better control over this habit. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Quit That!
      • Good for: Substance abuse, Addiction. 
      • Helps users beat their habits or addictions. Whether you’re looking to stop drinking alcohol, quit smoking, or stop taking drugs, it’s the perfect recovery tool to track and monitor your progress. Track as many vices as you want and find out how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years it’s been since you quit. (Free; iOS)
    • Recovery Record
      • Good for: Eating Disorders 
      • Recovery Record helps you chart your progress and check in with your mood throughout the recovery process. The food logging system is easy and discrete and you can connect the app to your dietician which is pretty handy. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Rise Up + Recover
      • Good for: Eating Disorders 
      • This app uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help you monitor your diet and exercise and determine what your triggers are. The app is easy to use, with lots of motivational quotes to keep you going and you can set yourself helpful reminders. (Free; iOS)
    • SAM
      • Good for: Anxiety, OCD.  
      • SAM’s approach is to monitor anxious thoughts, track behavior over time, and use guided self-help exercises to discourage stress. The app also offers a “Social Cloud” feature that allows users to confidentially share their progress with an online community for added support. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Sidekicks
      • Good for: Children with ASD.
      • Sidekicks makes it easy for parents to talk to their autistic child, and share in their intense passions -- a defining characteristic of autism. Through active participation in your child’s strong interests, you can help them communicate better, grow emotionally and develop deeper relationships, all while having fun together. (Free; iOS)
    • Step Away
      • Good for: Substance abuse (drinking).
      • A study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that this pro-sobriety app helped reduce heavy drinking among users by 60 percent. Step Away offers tips on maintaining sobriety, encouragement, strategies to avoid drinking during stressful times, and a place to add drinking triggers. (Free; iOS)
    • Stop Drinking
      • Good for: Substance abuse (drinking).
      • Relying on the powers of relaxation, visualization, and positive suggestions, this pro-sobriety app has the goal of calming users’ mind and getting it to a less stressed place—where they’ll be less likely to crave a drink. There is a reminder feature that gives periodic chimes to prompt users to breathe and focus on the good throughout the day. ($2.99; iOS and Android)
    • Stress and Anxiety Companion
      • Good for: Anxiety, Depression, OCD.
      • This app can help make the process of releasing negative thoughts, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging in mindful awareness a lot easier by guiding users through proven techniques to reduce those off-kilter thoughts and emotions while cultivating a much more present mindset. An additional feature allows users to identify anxiety triggers. ($4.99; iOS)
    • UCSF PRIME
      • Good for: Schizophrenia
      • Created by psychiatry professor Danielle Shlosser, connects people with schizophrenia to their peers through a social network style interface. It also lets users track “challenge goals,” things they’d like to accomplish or improve about themselves. Only clinical trial participants can use PRIME. Please email drivelab@ucsf.edu to determine your eligibility to participate in the PRIME studies. (Free; iOS)
    • Virtual Hope Box
      • Good for: Depression, Suicidality.
      • The Virtual Hope Box (VHB) is designed as an add-on to psychotherapy. VHB provides individualized coping skills, relaxation skills, distraction techniques, and ways to create more positive thoughts. The app includes video, audio, images, inspirational quotes, coping strategies, mindfulness techniques, and more. (Free; iOS and Android)
    • Worry Watch
      • Good for: Anxiety, OCD.
      • The idea behind Worry Watch is to enable users to track what kick starts their anxiety, note trends in their feelings, observe when the outcomes were harmless, and keep tabs on insights to stop future rumination and anxiety. Worry Watch is password protected. ($1.99; iOS)

References:

K Schreiber (2015, April 13). 81 Awesome mental health resources when you can’t afford a therapist [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://greatist.com/grow/resources-when-you-can-not-afford-therapy

E Renter (2016, June 20). The best bipolar disorder apps of 2016 [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/top-iphone-android-apps#2