Mental Health Apps Recommended by an Actual Mental Health Professional
With so many mental health apps available in the app store, knowing where to start, which reviews to trust and which mental health apps are recommended by mental health professionals can be confusing. In this blog, I’m going to give therapist approval on my top mobile mental health apps. Paralysis of choice is a normal experience even for myself, and with many mental health apps tested on my devices over the years, these recommendations are my top choices. In fact, I’ve used many of these mental health apps personally in my journey to improved well-being.
You Need To Relax
Insight timer is not a mental health app per se. However, it's my top recommended app for people who are new to mindfulness and meditation or who are meditation-curious. App users can select from a variety of different teachings from some of the leaders in meditation and mindfulness such as Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield and Thich Nat Hanh. There are courses, classes and individual sessions on a variety of topics from sleep to anxiety and mood to relaxation. Insight timer currently has 27,000 free meditations available for listening. The app also has a unique community feature where it will show you different users from around the world who have completed a meditation at the same time as you. Only the information that you input on the app would be public to users, and this feature can be turned off. Latest additions to the app include over 2000 talks, and daily insights. For those who prefer a quick and silent meditation, you can use the timer feature and select your preferred bell tone and length of time to do a meditation on your own. You can even keep a journal on the app to record your personal insights. Overall, this app is a great place to begin the journey into meditation. My personal recommendation is a guided meditation by Meditainment called Secret Garden which started me on my own personal practice. It’s longer for beginners such as I was, however it plays like a story and led me to the deepest calm. (Full disclosure, I’m not a regular practicer of meditation, however I try to bring mindfulness into my daily life.)
Pros: Thousand of meditations, talks and insights; great for beginners who want to dive in
Cost: Free, optional premium upgrade
Relax Melodies is my favourite mental health app for relaxation. After scouring the App Store for ambient sound apps many years ago, I stumbled across Relax Melodies. During a particularly stressful time, I found a melody that resonated with me and I would play it during my commute and in the background during my workday. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it significantly helped to decrease anxiety and increase my sense of relaxation. Relax Melodies features binaural beats to help with sleep, relaxation, concentration and more. My favourite part is the library of ambient sounds, from single sounds such as slow waves (my favourite for practicing calm breathing), birds chirping, rain falling and white noise, to soft, melodic instrumental music. This app allows you to custom-make your own ambient mixes to help you relax and feel more calm. You can even adjust the volume of the sounds you mix to your preference. Do you want to hear heavy rainfall and a quiet campfire? Quiet, slow waves with seaside sounds in the foreground? Relax Melodies also lets you add ambient sounds over songs in your music library, so you can close your eyes and relax to your favourite song with a cat purring and rain in the background (on the app!) The premium version includes additional sounds to increase your ambiance library- and if you ask me, it’s worth the upgrade. You can learn more about this mental health app at: https://www.relaxmelodies.com/
Pros: Mix your own ambient sounds, increase relaxation
Cost: Free, premium features are worth the upgrade!
Stop, Think and Breathe
I began to use Stop, Breathe and Think after a client mentioned using this app for mindfulness. Many features of this app got me hooked. When you open the app, you are prompted to complete a mindfulness check in. After you check in, you can record how you're feeling, and the app makes recommendations for your mood. The app uses audio, video and cute illustrations to demonstrate how to practice mindfulness. It also helps to dispel myths about how to do mindfulness “properly.” Research suggests that learning to identify with thoughts and feelings by simply noting them can reduce the intensity of stress and worry by up to 50%. This is a win-win-win given the non-invasive nature of the app and its gentle guidance through mindfulness.
Pros: Learn mindfulness very easily, track mood and learnt to apply mindfulness in a practical way
You Need to Calm Down
Beat Panic is another one of my favourite mental health apps. As the name suggests, this mental health app will help you walk through a panic attack without completely freaking out. It can also help you calm down from a panic attack. The app goes through a series of slides that encourage you to focus on calm breathing and rational thinking. The information on the slides also helps to deflate the danger that you naturally experience when having a panic attack. Anxiety affirmations on the slides can help you remember that you are bigger than your anxiety and that you can fight a panic attack. This is a paid app, and while some YouTube videos can help you through a panic attack, Beat Panic is like a personal anxiety coach that you can repeat over and again until your panic subsides. It doesn't matter if you have access to Wi-Fi or not. Whether you are at school, work or commuting, this app is available for use anytime, and can give you something better to focus on than your panic symptoms so that you can gently return to a state of calm.
Pros: Beat panic attacks, build resilience to anxiety
MindShift is a free mental health app from Anxiety Canada that focuses on helping individuals recover from anxiety. In its early days, MindShift contained evidence-based research and information to empower users to identify anxiety triggers and learn practical strategies to reduce anxiety. Nowadays, MindShift has a sleek look and includes a mood check in feature, anxiety rating scale and symptom tracker. This provides an opportunity for app users to increase their awareness of the factors that contribute to anxiety. As a bonus, app users can check in multiple times a day to track anxiety before, during and after tasks, to compare morning to evening anxiety, and so on. MindShift contains special topics like general worry, social anxiety, perfectionism, panic and phobias. Each section contains information, signs (body, mental and behavioural symptoms) and tips to help manage anxiety. The latest version of the app also includes a tools section where users can practice healthy thinking, relaxation and behaviour exercises. According to its creators, “MindShift can help you change how you think about anxiety” by making important shifts in thinking and behaving to help you better manage anxiety.
Pros: Exercises and information contained within this app are evidence based and proven to help reduce anxiety.
Youper is the emotional mental health app assistant you’ve always needed. While many mental health apps can track mood and be a journal, Youper operates like a friendly assistant whose only job is to help you feel better and encourage you to dive deeper into your emotions- if you want to! Youper is a great addition to therapy. It can track your mood, provide space for self-reflection, and also has mental health questionnaires that you can complete to track problematic anxiety, depression and other concerns. This app was created by a team of doctors, scientists, and engineers led by a man named Dr. Jose Hamilton. Like MindShift, Youper incorporates evidence-based strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, and other science-based approaches to help you improve your mood and decrease stress. A fun feature of this app is its personality assessment that can help you gain personal insight. The majority of its features are free, however premium features are offered at an additional cost.
Pros: Evidence-based strategies, automated mental health questionnaire reminder, built-in personality assessment, friendly AI coach
Cost: Free, optional premium features
Kinda Makes You Wonder
iWonder is a mental health app that was recommended by a friend who does BodyTalk, a somatic-based therapeutic technique that can help you access deep ideas and feelings within yourself. For those who are interested in somatic therapy, iWonder presents thought-provoking questions that dive deeper into the symbolic nature of physical symptoms as expressions of dis-ease. An example question for exploring abdominal symptoms is: “are there things in your life that you have to digest (accept) that are making you feel inflamed (angry)?” The base version of the app includes questions about various body parts, energies, (including chakras and masculine and feminine energies), and specific areas of life, including romance, family, career, etc. Premium features on the app include questions about organs, endocrines and hormones, and other areas of life, like sex, confidence, control and creativity. You can unlock the app for a discounted price when prompted to make your first purchase of a premium feature, which is a benefit for those who want to dive deep into all aspects of their life on a more spiritual level.
Pros: Develop insight into the symbolic nature of somatic experiences
Cost: Free, with premium upgrades ranging from $1.39-$3.99. Unlock the full app for $14.99
We Need to Talk
Gottman Card Decks
Gottman Card Decks is the ace in your pocket for relationship exploration, growth and repair. Based on the revolutionary research by doctors John Gottman and Julie Gottman at the Gottman Institute, this mental health app features various "cards" that you and your partner can swipe through to deepen your friendship and connection. Many of the card "decks" are based on relationship principles adapted from the extensive research on what makes healthy couples tick and what couples in conflict can do to help rescue their relationship. From deepening connection, to questions about intimacy, to expressing empathy, listening empathically and expressing feelings, there are questions and suggestions on this app that are useful for any couple in any situation. The Opportunities card deck helps to spark specific ideas about creating special moments for your partner and making moments to remind your partner of their specialness. The app also features three Salsa card decks intended to help spice up your sex life, which is an often overlooked area in long-term relationships in particular. I recommend for both partners in a couple to download the app as you can star your favourite questions and prompts to ask your partner.
Pros: Improve relationship quality and satisfaction, explore ways to spice up your sex life
[Editor's note: This blog written by Ashley Greensmyth is cross-posted at Parallel Wellness. Also published on: Therapy Route]
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