Need a little help anytime, anywhere? There’s an app for that.

By Lisa Milbrand
Updated March 02, 2020
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While smartphones are chock-full of effective health apps to track sleep, monitor your exercise, and remind you to stand every hour, finding apps that really help with your mental health can be harder—and sometimes meditation apps aren’t enough. Enter therapy apps and apps for anxiety and depression.

Approach these so-called therapy apps cautiously. “An app can only go so far in helping you boost your mood,” says registered psychologist Vanessa Lapointe, from British Columbia, Canada. “Most of our thoughts in a depressed or anxious state can be ultimately reduced to fears related to separation, loss, or disconnection. Which means that connection is an antidote to anxiety and depression.”

For that type of connection, a smartphone app—even if it’s presented as an app for anxiety or depression—may not be the ideal solution. (Learning how to find a therapist can help where depression apps can’t.) But that hasn’t stopped app developers from trying to create apps for depression and anxiety that can help in ways that a traditional therapist can’t—in fact, there are more than 10,000 mental health and therapy apps out there.

So how do you wade through the clutter and find therapy apps that can support the work of your therapist or help keep minor anxiety issues or signs of depression from spiraling out of control? Try some of these therapy apps (along with the types of therapy that most interest you) to help you manage your mental health.

Therapy apps for anxiety and depression

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MoodKit uses cognitive behavioral therapy approaches to address mood issues, with daily activities to help you boost your mood, a thought checker to help you ID and modify negative thoughts, a mood tracker to monitor your progress over time, and an online journal to record your thoughts.

To buy: $5; available on iOS devices.

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If traditional therapy isn’t in the cards, Talkspace might be the answer. This therapy app matches you with a therapist licensed in your state who can connect with you via text, voice, or video messaging to provide guidance and support. It could be especially helpful for people who need more frequent support than the traditional once-a-week session (Talkspace therapists can get in touch with you once or twice per day or who don’t feel comfortable talking through their issues face to face.

To buy: Free to download, with plans starting at $65 per week; available on iOS and Android devices.

RELATED: This Is How Much Exercise You Need to Beat Seasonal Depression

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Meditation apps are a perfect complement to traditional therapy. “Meditation definitely helps with both depression and anxiety by creating space in the mind and by helping us to realize we are not our thoughts,” Dr. Lapointe says. “Supporting yourself in that with meditation apps is a great way to establish this kind of daily practice.” And perhaps the most-loved one is Headspace, which offers guided meditations tailored to different needs—whether you’re looking to destress at work or manage your anxiety.

To buy: Free to download, with a two-week free trial basics course and a $70 annual subscription; available on iOS and Android devices.

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Free therapy apps are hard to come by, but this free meditation app from Australia offers a selection of meditations to help you find your inner peace. Smiling Mind offers kid-friendly meditations, an option to bookmark favorite meditations, and charts to track your mindfulness progress.

To buy: Free to download; available on iOS and Android devices.

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Learn better coping skills with this simple therapy app developed by researchers from Monash University. At each check-in, you let them know whether you’re feeling anxious or depressed, and you’re given a selection of research-backed “missions” to choose from, such as short meditations or just the suggestion to walk around the block. MoodMission will share why that particular mission will help with your mood to help teach better coping skills.

To buy: Free to download, with in-app purchases of specific programs for dealing with anxiety around flying, spiders, and public speaking; available on iOS and Android devices.

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This app is perfect for encouraging self-care, with assignments and activities geared toward improving your mood and your life. After you take an assessment to determine your areas of interest, Happify recommends a few tasks for you each day, each taking just a few minutes to accomplish—with the reason the task works.

To buy: Free to download and use the basic features, or $15 per month for the premium version with unlimited access to tracks; available on iOS and Android devices.

Related: Try These Scientifically Backed Mood Boosters

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Formerly known as Pacifica, this app was built with meaty tools for managing your mood—and in randomized trials, it decreased symptoms for people with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Sanvello offers master classes to help you learn to meditate or reframe negative thoughts, along with coping tools, a daily mood tracker, and weekly assessments. It integrates with other apps like Apple Health to pull in your sleep and exercise stats, and premium access ($200 for a lifetime subscription) is covered by many insurance companies.

To buy: Free to download and use the basic features, or $9 per month for the premium version with unlimited access; available on iOS and Android devices.

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Build resilience with this free happiness app based on research and a bestselling book by the same name. SuperBetter turns building stronger mental health into a game. Every day it sets you on a different quest to help you improve your optimism and life satisfaction—and researchers found that using the app can help reduce anxiety and depression.

To buy: Free to download; available on iOS and Android devices.