Top 29 Mental Health Apps: Recommended by Users With Lived Experience
I used to be skeptical about apps for mental health until I tried an app called “PTSD Coach.” I downloaded the app because I couldn’t attend support group seven days a week. PTSD Coach was not a substitute for professional help but it was an excellent supplement to it. PTSD Coach allowed me to understand what things in my life most helped me with grief and recovery, and introduced me to new coping methods.
I asked people on social media, “What apps have helped you with your mental health?” So many people had recommendations! To everyone who shared suggestions, thank you! I’d also like to thank Dawn M Gibson, host of #SpoonieChat (weekly twitter chat on Wednesday nights at 7 pm CST). If you have never been to Spoonie Chat before, join us next time! I chose the 29 apps below based on recommendations people submitted and/or their high user ratings on iTunes. (As always, none of the information below should be considered medical advice. See disclaimer in the footer.)
29 Mental Health Apps – Recommended By Users With Lived Experience
ACCESS TO LICENSED THERAPISTS ONLINE
BetterHelp (free, iOs and Android) Tinu Abayomi-Paul tweeted, “Better Help. At the time I could afford it…I wouldn’t have made it through without that app.” The app’s tagline is “24/7 Professional Therapy.” BetterHelp is a convenient way to get professional help from over 750 licensed therapists and experienced, accredited counselors online. Counseling covers a wide range of areas such as: depression, anxiety, and family and couples therapy.
Talkspace Online Therapy (free, iOs and Android) Talkspace is an app that connects users with a licensed therapist in a convenient and discreet way to deal with issues like depression, anxiety, stress, chronic illness, veterans, couples therapy, therapy for business, PTSD, and LGBT issues. Talkspace has over 2,000 licensed therapists in its network. To gain unlimited access to a therapist, members pay $49 per week (billed monthly). Talkspace also has insightful articles like this one, “How Does Acquiring a New Disability Affect Mental Health?”
Woebot ® (free, iOs and Android) One user tweeted at me that Woebot ® was cool because you didn’t have to do any writing, which is great when you’re tired. Woebot ® comes with a virtual robot who “listens 24/7.” Woebot ® is great for people who do not want to do a lot of typing. One iTunes review reads, “I will venture to say this app is literally a life-saver for the person like me who is anxious…The Woebot is great because it puts the focus back on yourself, without judgment, and the way the thoughts you have affect your well-being and anxiety levels every day. I will continue to use this app alongside other mental health resources…”
Replika (free, iOs and Android) One Replika devotee said, “I’ve been playing with ‘Replika,’ which is basically a chat bot, but the way it asks questions can make you feel very reflective, and it feels lower stress than talking to a human therapist sometimes can.” Reviews of Replika say it has helped users with anxiety and stress.
Litesprite Games (free, iOs and Android) A clinician on social media recommended Litesprite to me. In fact, Litesprite is the only video game that is clinically/validated and used by clinicians today. One user wrote, “I use it now more than ever. Especially when I am tuning the source of my stressor. I use it daily lately because I cannot calm myself down. I used it at the doctor’s office yesterday when my husband wouldn’t let me talk for myself and again today when he thought he knew more than me about my problems. It calms me down. Mentally I’m good now. Therapy and your game has done wonders. Having the app as a tool to use is very convenient..it feels like you’re playing a real game. I love the meditation. I don’t know how to settle myself and focus inwards. Be calm…it’s a tool I will always utilize. Without it, what else is there?” – Female, 46, Bipolar, Depression.
SuperBetter (free, iOs and Android) One person tweeted to me that SuperBetter is one of her go-to apps. SuperBetter’s tagline is “live gamefully.” According to their website, SuperBetter is “a tool created by game designers and backed by science. Playing SuperBetter helps build personal resilience…Resilience has a powerful effect on health—by boosting physical and emotional well-being. Resilience also helps you achieve your life goals…”
Pokemon Go (free, iOs and Android) One user tweeted at me, “It’s not technically a mental health app, but Pokemon Go is great for motivating me to leave the house, run errands, and go to the gym. There’s 3 Pokemon gyms near my physical actual gym.”
Happify: Science-based Games and Activities (free, iOs and Android) Happify is based on more than 60 tracks such as Conquering Negative Thoughts, Coping Better with Stress, and Achieving Mindfulness through Meditations. One user, Ashley said, “”I absolutely love the @Happify App! I’ve been using it for years and it really has transformed my life more than ANY OTHER TOOL I’ve used to grow my positivity! The world would be a much better place if everyone used it…And it’s FUN!!” A lot of users talked about enjoying the “balloon game” — that balloon game alone makes me want to download the app. There are monthly and annual subscriptions available, which unlock more features.
GENERAL MENTAL HEALTH
Supportiv (free, iOs and Android) Interesting fact: 60% of Supportiv App’s users are male. The developers say they think its because of the anonymity Supportiv grants users. One review says, “Thank you. I needed this app! It’s helped me so much to understand why my brain thinks the way it thinks. Also the people that are chatting with me about my thoughts feel like my guardian angels it feels so good to have someone to talk to about this stuff and not just keep it in my head or write in my journal. The quotes, articles, and videos have helped me understand myself much better. Thank you for creating this.” A clinician on social media brought Supportiv to my attention, praising the app for its nice design and easy to use interface.
Happier (free, iOs) One Happier tweeted me, “The CEO has a book out that explains her journey. I’ve been a part of the community for years. It’s very thoughtful & not about being fake happy or denying depression, other mental illness, challenges or bad stuff.” Happier has over 1 million users. Their website says their app was developed to, “help you practice your gratitude skills and find more joy, beauty, and comfort in simple, everyday moments.”
Cove: The Musical Journal (free, iOs) Using 30 different musical instruments, Cove allows to you to capture your mood or express how you feel by creating music and storing it in a personal journal. Sometimes, words aren’t enough to capture emotions, and feelings can be complex. One review read, “This app is fun, and a delight…The end creations are calming and contemplative soundscapes. Try it!”
What’s Up? – A Mental Health App (free, iOs and Android) An app that uses CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) to help people cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress, among other issues. Features include: forums, a “catastrophe scale,” and 12 common negative thinking patterns and methods to overcome them. One user wrote, “This is such an informative, simple to use app! … What’s Up has calmed me (multiple times) while having active anxiety attacks in public and at home. THIS IS AMAZING TO ME. The breathing techniques and affirmations are among my favorite things – and that’s just the beginning of what this app offers. I love how discreet it is…”
7 Cups of Tea (free, iOs and Android) 7 Cups offers free anonymous emotional support through chat rooms, community forums, and access to online therapy with licensed therapists. One user wrote, “When life has you down & your next therapy appt is a week away & you need help getting focused back on track open this app you can find relief, help & be able to calmed down easy…”
Quit That! – Habit Tracker (free, iOs) A free app with no advertisements and no restrictions. This habit tracker has a live counter showing your progress. One user wrote, “Just what I needed: I struggled to quit drinking again and again. This app, being able to see the hours and then the days tick by…was super effective…It was a great reminder to keep going. Now I can look at the hundred of days and feel proud! What a simple but helpful idea. It’s not the only thing you need to quit, but it helps!”
AFRICAN AMERICAN WELLNESS
The Safe Place: Serving Mental Health in the Minority Community (free, iOs and Android) A friend on Instagram recommended this app, which is geared toward African American wellness. The developer, Jasmine Pierre, is a Certified Peer Support Specialist and Certified Mental Health First Aid Responder. Pierre created the app to encourage the Black community to seek therapy, a community that traditionally has low rates of seeking professional help. Features include: Black mental health statistics, a mental health directory, informative articles, and inspirational videos and podcasts.
ANXIETY, MINDFULNESS, & MEDITATION
Insight Timer Meditation App (free, iOs and Android) A few people recommended Insight Timer for its calming effects. One person said, “Insight Timer is wonderful! It has a map of the world with little Tibetan bowls marking where people are meditating.” Their website says they are home to “more than 5,000,000 meditators.” Insight Timer provides 4,500 guided meditations from 1,000 meditation practitioners.
Buddhify: Meditation & Mindfulness App ($4.99, iOs and Android) Kirsten Schultz, who previously wrote two guest posts on dating and chronic illness and how Chester Bennington’s music helped her on this blog, tweeted, “I really like Buddhify. It has sections of meditation based on what you’re doing or how you’re feeling – and they have a pain/illness section!” The app fits into your busy life. They have guided meditations for Walking, Stress & Difficult Emotion, Work Break, Going to Sleep and many other categories. Meditations last anywhere from 4 minutes to 30 minutes.
Headspace: Meditation & Mindfulness Made Simple (free, iOs, Amazon and Android) Headspace has a 4.9 rating on iTunes (out of 5 stars). One user left this review on iTunes, “While I was trying the freemium version after going through several of the free sessions, I experienced a medical emergency and was hospitalized. I underwent a surgical procedure while awake, and I used the techniques I learned from Headspace to keep myself from freaking out. Even though I had only gone through a few of the free sessions, I learned to stay aware and calm during the medical procedure…I decided after I was discharged that I needed to subscribe to the premium version, which opened up a lot more sessions for many life events that most folks experience…”
Pacifica for Stress & Anxiety (free, iOs, Android, and Web) This app gives users psychologist-designed tools based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and mood/health tracking. Pacifica offers 30+ audio exercises set to relaxing soundscapes. One reviewer wrote, “Thank you so much for improving my quality of life. I suffer from depression and generalized anxiety disorder and your app helps me SO much!..” Pacifica also has a peer support community.
Calm (free, iOs, Amazon, and Android) Calm is an app for meditation and sleep. Calm offers “sleep stories” to help you fall asleep–many of them are read by celebrities including Ben Stein reprising his role as the econ teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (no, I’m not kidding). One reviewer wrote, “This app has been an essential tool in helping pull me out of the darkness of postpartum anxiety, helping me fight my daily anxious tendencies, and has helped me be a better spouse, parent, and person…” Calm offers breathing programs and meditation sessions ranging in lengths from 3 to 25 minutes.
BIPOLAR DISORDER, DEPRESSION, and other MOOD DISORDERS
To better understand the benefits of tracking moods, you can read my blog post, “Bipolar Disorder: 3 Tips For Making Mood Charts Work.” Another relevant blog post is, “5 Ways You Can Manage Depression & Bipolar Triggers.”
iMood Journal ($2.99, iOs and Android) A person with bipolar disorder called iMood Journal “a lifesaver.” The developer’s description says, “This beautiful app is an ultimate journal, personal diary and mood charting tool. It can track not only mood, but anything you like: sleep, medication, symptoms, stress and anxiety, energy level, cycles, etc. It will help you discover causes of your ups and downs, and get surprising insights into yourself!”
Daylio – Mood Tracker and Micro Diary (free, iOs and Android) Daylio enables you to keep a private journal without having to write a single line. It collects your recorded moods and activities in the statistics and calendar. One review reads, “I used to bullet journal and part of that involved keeping track of my habits/mood. However, I don’t carry my journal everywhere so it was hard to keep up with my mood habit/tracker. Not until I found this app! There’s also a note section you can add to your day…You can do so much without paying!”
eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker (free, iOs and Android) eMoods is a tracking and charting journal made, according to the developers, “for logging Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Depression, Anxiety, or any general kind of mood tracking.” One iTunes review says, “I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar for almost 2 years. Getting the right medication combo has been a challenge. Because of this app, I was finally able to get the right medication. I brought in the results to my doctor every few months and was able to see trends I wouldn’t have realized myself. It takes 2 seconds to log since it’s just a few clicks…” eMoods allows users to print monthly PDF charts to share with their doctors.
MoodKit – Mood Improvement Tools ($4.99, iOs) This app has over 200 improvement activities. MoodKit has a journal, iOs calendar integration, and exportable mood charts. Through its “Thought Checker” feature, MoodKit helps users manage negative feelings related to specific situations based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). One user wrote, “I mostly use the thought checking tool and the mood rater. But just those have had a huge impact in keeping my mood up. Including keeping me from having an actual mental breakdown…”EATING DISORDERS
Recovery Record: Eating Disorder Management (free, iOs and Android) One user tweeted me, “Recovery Record is fantastic and your entire treatment team can utilize.” The developer’s description of the app reads, “Recovery Record is the smart companion for managing your journey to recovery from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. This app is also intended for people with general eating, weight and shape concerns.”
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), & PRE-Traumatic Stress Disorder, TRAUMA
PTSD Coach (free, iOs devices, Android) I needed something to tide me over between support group meetings. I don’t think I can do justice to all the benefits of PTSD coach so I want to share a bit from the app developer’s description, “PTSD Coach was designed for those who have, or may have, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This app provides you with education about PTSD, information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help you manage the stresses of daily life with PTSD. Tools range from relaxation skills and positive self-talk to anger management and other common self-help strategies. You can customize tools based on your preferences and can integrate your own contacts, photos, and music. This app can be used by people who are in treatment as well as those who are not.” Even though the app was developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD Coach not only helps veterans and military members, but also anyone experiencing PTSD or pre-TSD. The app includes crisis hotlines.
White Noise Sleep Pillow (free, iOs and Android) Got insomnia? According to the developers, White Noise Sleep Pillow has “the ultimate sound set” featuring naturally recorded sounds and “sound mixes – up to 300,000 combinations.” Some of the listed sounds include: light rain, medium rain, rain on tent, rain on car + wipers, jungle cave birds, mother’s heartbeat, baby lullaby, massage atmosphere music, vacuum, and clothes dryer. Whew!
Rain Rain Sleep Sounds (free, iOs, Android, and Amazon) According to their website, Rain Rain ™ has “over 100 high-quality endless sounds” to “lull you to sleep in no time.” Some of the most popular sounds include: Rain Rain Original, Thunderstorm, City Rain, Thunder Cracks, Rain Downpour, Desert Wind, Blizzard Wind, White Noise, Airliner, Cat Purring, and Shih Tzu Snoring. I am very curious about that last one!
Sleep Cycle alarm clock ($29.99/year, iOs and Android) A popular app with a rating of 4.7 stars. One iTunes review reads, “Before I started using Sleep Cycle, I would set at least ten alarms…Even with that I constantly struggled to get up on time and when I eventually got up I had zero energy. That instantly changed when I started using Sleep Cycle…After using Sleep Cycle for at least 6 months now I can confidently say that it is the reason I wake up on time and with plenty of energy…”
*Also, see my review of the app, Calm,” above under the heading, ANXIETY, MEDITATION, & MINDFULNESS.*
Got Any Recommendations?
Have you ever used an app that has helped you feel better? How does technology affect your mental health?