Do Mental Health Apps Work?

Mental health apps are a unique way of receiving treatment and support if you are unable to attend therapy in person. As a society, we adjust to this growing technological world by creating systems that can benefit us. Therapy apps and free mental health apps are now available to help reach people on a virtual and flexible medium.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to leave their jobs, school, or life in order to attend treatment. Additionally, some individuals cannot afford the cost of these services. Therefore, mental health apps are a fantastic bridge between availability and recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health as well as a substance use disorder there are options for you. Fighting both your addiction and mental health can be overwhelming. Doing this alone is extremely difficult, which is why a smartphone app may be exceedingly helpful to you. We would love to help you answer any questions or concerns today. Call us at 405-583-4390 and we can help you decide if a mental health app or a support group app is the best decision for you.

Benefits and Risks of Mental Health Apps

As with many things, there are both pros and cons of mental health apps. An online support group format might benefit one individual but discourage another. It all depends on what works for you. In order to see if a therapy app or a mental health app would support you, consider the pros and cons.


According to the Mayo Clinic, online support group apps can be beneficial; for instance, by:  

  • Having more frequent or flexible participation  
  • Providing opportunities for people who may not have local face-to-face support groups  
  • Giving a degree of privacy or anonymity  

If these qualities sound appealing to you then you might thrive with the help of a mental health app. In fact, the flexibility that an app provides could suit you better than a scheduled therapy or counseling session. However, sometimes people need immediate support where they are during a certain moment. Being able to log onto an app at any point in the day can help you in your recovery process.


Unfortunately, there are risks of free mental health apps and therapy apps. According to the Mayo Clinic, for example, some potential pitfalls of online support group apps are:  

  • Text only communication can lead to misunderstanding or confusion among group members 
  • Anonymity may lead to inappropriate or disrespectful comments or behaviors
  • Participation online may result in isolation from other friends or family
  • Online communities may be particularly susceptible to misinformation or information overload
  • People may use the online environment to prey on people, promote a product, or commit fraud

Hopefully, by being aware of these possible outcomes you will be able to approach them and potentially avoid them. However, it is alright if these risks make you nervous. You can always try out an app to see how you like it. If you are uncomfortable, then consider seeking out in-person support group sessions.  

App Standards

Fortunately, the best mental health apps depend on a set of standards. You get to decide what app you want to download. However, if you don’t know where to begin, various credible organizations have vetted and ranked the over 10,000 mental health apps that are available.   

The US National Library of Medicine believes, for instance, that the minimum standards of a mental health app should include clear information on: 

  • data safety and privacy  
  • effectiveness 
  • user experience/adherence 
  • data integration 

 Moreover, if all of that information is clear then the app is worth exploring.

Typically, within these applications, users will find techniques available in treatment centers such as Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In fact, these methods are some of the most helpful for addiction, mental health, and other struggles such as OCD or anxiety. In addition, studies also show that the combination of peer support, professional support, informational sessions, and deliberate activities in these apps are all effective alongside these techniques.  

App Categories and Rankings

The best mental health apps depend on what you are going through and what you want help with. A website called was founded in 1996 by Ivan K. Goldberg MD. Goldberg was a clinical psychopharmacologist and psychiatrist. In addition, the website focuses on mental health and they created the top mental health apps list for 2020. They claim these are The Top 25 Effective Mental Health Apps: 

  • General Mental Health Apps  
    • What’s Up 
    • Mood Kit 
  • Addiction Apps 
    • Twenty-Four Hours a Day 
    • Quit That! – Habit Tracker 
  • Anxiety Apps 
    • MindShift 
    • Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) 
    • CBT Thought Record Diary 
  • Bipolar Disorder Apps 
    • IMoodJournal 
    • eMoods 
  • Depression Apps 
    • Talkspace Online Therapy 
    • Happify 
    • MoodTools 
  • Suicide Prevention App 
    • notOK
  • Eating Disorder Apps 
    • Recovery Record 
    • Rise Up and Recover 
    • Lifesum 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Apps 
    • nOCD 
    • Worry Watch 
    • GG OCD 
  • PTSD Apps 
    • PTSD Coach 
    • Breathe2Relax 
  • Schizophrenia Apps 
  • Mindfulness and Meditation Apps 
    • Headspace 
    • Calm 
    • Ten Percent Happier 

Furthermore, other organizations have come up with ways to evaluate mental health apps to determine effectiveness and credibility. The American Psychiatric Association created an eight-minute long video explaining their app rating system. Additionally, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America uses their own chart; ranking applications based on their:  

  • Ease-of-use  
  • Effectiveness  
  • Personalization  
  • Interactive feedback  
  • Research evidence  

Health experts do predict that mental health apps and therapy apps will see an increase in use in the future as they continue to evolve. Also, the self-management that these apps can provide is beneficial to individuals unable to seek help or treatment face-to-face. If you are still uncertain about downloading a mental health app, there are some questions and concerns you can walk through first in order to feel more comfortable. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Joining

If any of the mental health apps sounded appealing, then you may want to consider joining one. This is a great choice! First, in order to determine what app will best suit you, there is some research you can do. All of these apps can vary in the way their organization and user-friendliness. Therefore, before you join the community, make sure you are downloading an app that will fit your needs. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some questions you can ask about the app before joining the community:  

  • Is the group designed for people with a specific medical condition or a certain stage of disease?  
  • Does the group meet for a set period of time or does it continue indefinitely?  
  • At what times and how often does the group meet?  
  • Is there a facilitator or moderator?  
  • Has the facilitator undergone training?  
  • Is a mental health expert in the group?  
  • What are the guidelines for confidentiality?  
  • Are there set ground rules for group participation?  
  • What is a typical meeting like?  
  • Is it free, and if not, what are the fees? 

It is important to ask these questions and look up answers to see if a specific mental health app will benefit you. A red flag you need to be aware of is excess fees. In fact, if there is any pressure to purchase services or products then do not get involved. Additionally, another red flag is if the app claims they can 100% cure your condition. We do hope the app will help you, however, this kind of promise might be more ‘clickbait’ than reality. It is good to air on the side of caution. However, don’t worry if it takes you some time to find the best fit.

The Strength of Digital Technology

We live in a digital world whether we like it or not. Technology is now an integral part of our work environment, schools, and homes. For better or worse, we have digital technology at our disposal. The good news is, when it comes to mental health and addiction, the world now has tools to reach people all over the world and help them heal.   

An online survey was administered in 2019 called the “Use of Smartphone Apps, Social Media, and Web-Based Resources to Support Mental Health and Well-Being”. It was conducted by Katarzyna Stawarz Ph.D., Chris Preist Ph.D., and David Coyle Ph.D. According to the survey, “a strength of digital technology, smartphones in particular, is its ubiquity and personal nature.” This means that users can access support at the moment, in response to feelings or circumstances, and engage with a therapeutic practice or material when need be.

Having mobile mental health apps for counseling can actually be a strength of the digital age. This kind of mobile availability has the capability to establish positive habits in its users. A benefit of mental health apps that in-person sessions don’t have is this possibility of immediate assistance or guidance. Using this strength of digital technology can help people struggling with mental illness or addiction. For example, a walk through a part of town where you used to drink or do drugs may trigger you, and induce feelings of fear. You can pull out your app and open material to guide you away from the temptation. More so, maybe another person on the app available for you to talk to. This kind of immediate help in a person’s day to day life allows them to focus on their goal of recovery 24/7.  

User Feedback

There is feedback available from patients who are familiar with and utilize mental health or support group type phone applications. A comparative survey study by John Torous, Hannah Wiśniewski, Gang Liu, and Matcheri Keshavan, was called the “Mental Health Mobile Phone App Usage, Concerns, and Benefits Among Psychiatric Outpatients.” The study surveyed 113 patients from a private clinic and 73 from a Department of Mental Health clinic. About 10% of the patients from each clinic were users of a mental health app.  

According to the patient’s feedback, “patients at both clinics were had the most concern about the privacy of mental health apps. Those at the state DMH clinic viewed cost savings as the greatest benefit and those at the private clinic reported time as the greatest benefit”.  

Mental health apps are more cost-effective and more flexible when it comes to time. It is natural for people to worry about privacy settings. Anonymity can be beneficial and harmful. The goal should be to find a happy medium of privacy but not shut yourself off so much that you don’t grow. In a way, an app is more private since you don’t have to show up in person. This sometimes allows patients to be more open because it is easier to share through an app.  

If you are considering seeking treatment call us today. We can help guide you as you look into the multiple options of treatment, therapy, and counseling. The key to healing from mental illness and addiction in relationships! We want to help you find your community of support whether that be in person or on an app. Call us at 405-583-4390 if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery journey.  

 Written by Julia Bashaw 


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