Mental Health Apps Recommended By Actual Therapists

Apps recommended by actual therapists

Joe Borders, MFTBy Joe Borders,

Marriage and Family Therapist

In Roseville and Sacramento

April 23, 2019

Mental Health Apps Recommended By Actual Therapists

There are a lot of mental health related apps out there. Some of them are pretty popular, and you may have heard of them. Recently I was in a session, talking with a client about a couple of mental health apps and I thought it might be good to compile a list of some good ones. I personally hadn’t tried too many at that point, so I decided to reach out to some colleagues and ask them which apps they recommend. The following are those apps.

*disclaimer* These apps are intended as tools to help facilitate mental health, self-care, and general well-being. they are not intended to take the place of therapy. If you are in a hard place, you might consider looking for a therapist. SacWellness is home to well over 140 therapists in the greater Sacramento area. Take a look around the site and see if you find someone who seems like a good fit.

As far as I’m aware, all of these apps are available in both Android and Apple versions, unless otherwise noted. All apps listed below are either free or free to try.

……this ended up being a much larger list than I originally intended. Because of this, I structured jump links into this article. You can click any of the following links to jump to the corresponding section of the article:

General mental health assistants

  • Youper
  • Super Better

Count down apps

  • Days Until
  • Countdown
  • Countdown Days


  • Calm
  • Headspace
  • Insight Timer
  • Aura
  • Buddhify


  • Gottman Card Decks


  • Self Help For Trauma
  • PTSD Coach


  • Calm Harm
  • My3App


  • Reach Out Worry Time

Mood and thought journals

  • Year in Pixels
  • My Life, My Voice
  • Daylio

Teens/young adults

  • Mind Shift
  • Booster Buddy

Eating Problems

  • Recovery Record


  • DBT911


General Mental Health Assistants


Youper bills itself as an “emotional health assistant”.

from their website:
“Youper is the first AI-powered assistant to monitor and improve your emotional health. It helps you feel your best with quick conversations based on various psychological techniques personalized to your needs and style.

It’s designed to be a self-care, self-help tool to empower you to take control of your emotional health and have better conversations with your doctor or health provider. It does not provide diagnosis, medical or professional care.”

Super Better

Super Better is an App I’ve been interested in for years, but haven’t actually gotten the chance to thoroughly try out. Its a self help app designed around the principles of game theory. Its aim is to function kind of like an RPG (role playing game) where you have a large goal that is broken up into smaller goals. In an RPG (and Super Better) players progress through smaller goals on their way to their larger end goals and achieve points, milestones, and rewards. Super Better does all of this through helping you to structure your goals and encouraging you to bring in “allies” who can support you on your way. The following is a video of a presentation the creator did at TED Talks several years ago.

Count Down Apps

I’ve had a couple of clients over the last couple of months talk about finding motivation through the use of various count down apps. Having a count down to something you’re looking forward to can help you to stay focused and push through hard times, with the knowledge that good things are coming.

In asking around about recommended Apps, I got a couple of different ones recommended to me. Rather than choosing one I figured I should just mention the idea in general and list a couple that have been mentioned to me:

Days Until


Countdown Days

Relaxation / Mindfulness

Honestly, as a therapist, I recommend that everyone find some form of mindfulness / relaxation exercise that works for them. When we get stressed, angry, or anxious, our bodies’ automatic fight or flight responses kick in and we often find ourselves in a place of battling a disconnect between our conscious thoughts and our bodies’ physiological responses to stress. Mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing exercises help us to bridge that gap between our conscious mind and our bodies’ automatic responses. You can read more about this is one of our recent blog posts about the the effects of stress and anxiety on the body and ways to cope.


You’ve probably heard of Calm before. I know I’ve been hearing and seeing their ads recently on various media platforms. Calm bills itself as a resource for meditation techniques for sleep and distress tolerance.

From their website:
“Calm is the #1 app for meditation and mindfulness. Enjoy 100+ guided meditations to help you manage anxiety, lower stress and sleep better. Calm is the perfect mindfulness app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users.”


Headspace is another one that has been getting a lot of talk and advertising.

From their website:
“Headspace is about giving yourself an opportunity to turn your attention inwards and to view the mind from a different perspective. It is the ability to develop a sense of acceptance and appreciation for whatever may arise in your experience. By introducing you to some of the fundamental principles of meditation, in time we can become more aware of ourselves and others and begin to see things with more clarity, ultimately enhancing our experience of everyday life.”

Insight Timer

Insight timer is one I’ve heard a lot of therapists talk about. They offer hundreds of guided meditations through their app. I’ve heard some people describe it as being less introductory to mindfulness and meditation than other apps like Calm and Headspace, but it seems to provide more content than the others.


Aura is another meditation/relaxation app that I recently heard about.

from their website:

“Aura understands your emotions and helps you feel better.

Whenever you’re stressed & anxious or having trouble sleeping, Aura will find mindfulness meditations, life coaching, stories, and music, created by the best therapists and coaches, personalized just for you.

It takes just 3 minutes to feel better, and Aura will continuously learn about what helps you and improve the recommendations.”


Buddhify is a relatively new app that I’ve heard a lot of good things about ^_^. It seems simpler to use than some other apps and aims to integrate itself into whatever you’re doing in your day, rather than you needing to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for mindfulness/meditation.

From their website:

“The central idea in buddhify is that you don’t have to find time for meditation, instead it comes to you. That is why all our meditations are categorised by what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. So you’ll find guided meditations for Walking, Stress & Difficult Emotion, Work Break, Going to Sleep, Waking Up and many other different categories. Written and voiced by our range of hand-picked teachers, the sessions last from 4 minutes all the way through to 30 minutes.”

Couples / Relationships

Gottman Card Decks

Gottman Card Decks is a free app created by the Gottman Institute; a leading source for research into couples’ relationships and creator of one of the leading couples therapy approaches.

From their website:

“Inspired by the popular card decks from The Art and Science of Love weekend workshop for couples, this fun app offers helpful questions, statements, and ideas for improving your relationship.”

PTSD / Trauma

Self Help For Trauma

This app uses a form of tapping similar to emotional freedom technique to help people struggling with PTSD/Trauma to ground themselves and calm when triggered.

From the description on the Google Play Store page:

“The Trauma Tapping Technique (TTT) is a self-help method we have developed* together with trauma experts, psychologists, psychiatrists and survivors of stress and trauma. It is a First Aid technique everybody can use. It is simple and it has provided amazing and lasting results for thousands of people. It will take less than 10 minutes to find out what it can do for you.”

PTSD Coach

From their website:

“PTSD Coach was designed for those who have, or may have, posttraumatic 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.”

Self Harm

Calm Harm

From their website:

“Calm Harm is an award-winning app developed for teenage mental health charity stem4 by Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, using the basic principles of an evidence-based therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).

Calm Harm provides tasks to help you resist or manage the urge to self-harm. You can make it private by setting a password, and personalise the app if you so wish. You will be able to track your progress and notice change.”


This app is designed to help people who are in danger of suicide. It asks users to identify 3 people that they can contact if they are in danger. In addition to this, the app provides resources, helps users create a safety plan, and can directly get the user in touch with 911 and/or the national suicide prevention lifeline.


Reach Out Worry Time

Reach Out Worry Time uses a concept that some therapists have been using for years. It asks users to log their worries when they come up and set a time to worry about them later. This might sound kind of weird, but it can be helpful to have a designated “worry time” in your day. Doing so can help some people to feel more comfortable and become more familiar with the idea of setting aside worry as natural thoughts that occur to all of us throughout the day. You may even find that when you come back to your worries later in the day you may have solved them or they may have become less of a problem.

Mood and Thought Journals

Year In Pixels

I was recently introduced to this by one of my clients and started using it myself. Year in pixels is a simplified mood journal that adds an easy, straight forward visual element. Basically you input how you are feeling each day and the app records it through various colors that you can set. Each day then gets represented by different colored pixels depending on how you felt that day.

What you end up with is a calendar that visually shows you how you’ve been feeling over the year(s). I think this can be really beneficial for a lot of people because it can help to see that bad times are temporary. I know that sometimes when I’m in a bad place it’s hard not to get lost in the idea that everything is terrible and things have always been bad or are going to stay bad. Having something like this can help you to get a look at the bigger picture.

My Life, My Voice

From their website:

“Choose from a variety of animated emoticons to help identify your mood. Add details to your entry by writing, recording your voice, or attaching a photo about what’s going on. Whatever mood, feeling or experience you’re going through, this is a great way to help you track your changing moods and behavioral triggers by journaling within the app. You can review a report of your tracked moods over a period of time, and you can also get life tips on ways to help turn your mood around ​when you’re feeling down or stressed out!”


Daylio is a simple, easy to use mood tracker that asks users each day to identify how they’re feeling and choose from a variety of activities that they did in that day. This makes it easy to track and see potential correlations between activities and mood. This is useful when making any conscious change in your life. Sometimes it can be hard to see how things like going to the gym or spending time with friends are affecting your mood.

Teens / Young Adults

Mind Shift

From their website:

MindShift™ is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.

MindShift™ will help you learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help you take charge of your anxiety. This app includes strategies to deal with everyday anxiety, as well as specific tools to tackle:

    • Making Sleep Count
    • Riding Out Intense Emotions
    • Test Anxiety
    • Perfectionism
    • Social Anxiety
    • Performance Anxiety
    • Worry
    • Panic
    • Conflict”

Booster Buddy

Booster Buddy, like Super Better, uses game theory to help motivate and guide people towards mental health and self actualization.

From their website:

“BoosterBuddy provides a choice of three companion characters, or buddies. The buddy falls asleep every day and the user has to interact with the app to wake up their buddy. When they do this they are also taking steps to manage their own wellness.

Waking up their buddy includes checking-in with how they are feeling that day and completing three “quests”, or real-life activities, in order to wake up their buddy. Quests are tailored to match how the user it feeling. If they are struggling, the quest will be a coping skill aimed at what is bothering them the most: anxiety, depression, psychosis, drug or alcohol misuse or other problems. If they are feeling better, the quest will be a more challenging task: taking a walk, phoning a friend, eating something healthy or many others. All the quests aim to give users a boost to get started on healthy activities.

Besides the daily jump-start, BoosterBuddy has other wellness management tools including:

  • medication reminders,
  • appointment and to-do list reminders,
  • a crisis management plan,
  • an extensive library of coping skills,
  • and a calendar function for reviewing accomplishments and wellbeing over time.

BoosterBuddy doesn’t just provide wellness management tools. It is designed to give users a sense of progress and encouragement along the way. First, when they wake up their buddy each day he gives the user a pep-talk and an inspirational quote. Secondly, when completing quests, taking medications, attending appointments or completing to-do items, users earn virtual coins and move through levels. Finally, they can use coins to purchase accessories to dress up their buddy and individualize him.”

Eating Problems

Recovery record

Recovery record is an app designed to help people struggling with eating disorders. It is designed with the ability to share clients’ activity on the app with their treatment team, such as a therapist and/or dietitian…..but as far as I can tell, it can also be effectively used without connecting with a treatment team. Either way, it looks like a potentially useful app to track eating patterns, moods and emotions associated with eating, reward healthy behavior, and connect people with others struggling with eating issues.



DBT 911 is an app that uses the principles behind Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT helps people through focusing on four primary “modules” central to the approach: Distress tolerance, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. DBT911 incorporates these 4 modules in its exercises.



Clearly there are lots of apps available and more are being designed daily. It will be interesting to see what kind of ways apps come to help us with mental health. These have been several apps that I have either had personal experience with or have had recommended to me by other therapists. It’s important to know that no app can take the place of therapy and good self-care. They can only support these things. If you are in a hard place and needing some help, it might be time to consider looking into therapy. Check out some of the therapists listed on SacWellness to find therapy in the greater Sacramento area.

About the Author

Joe Borders, MFTJoe Borders is a marriage and family therapist located in Roseville and Sacramento. He is primarily a sex positive gender therapist, but also specializes in working with couples, teens, addiction, and the LGBTQ community. Joe is also the owner and founder of SacWellness. You can find out more about him by visiting his sacwellness listing or by visiting his website: therapy and counseling in Roseville and Sacramento



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