15 Therapy Apps That Are Actually Worth It

As mental health becomes more mainstream — thanks to reduced stigma and increased awareness — its importance on our overall health is better understood. Whether we're experiencing a momentary mental health hiccup or an ongoing issue, a check-in with ourselves or a counselor can have powerful results. But for many of us, penciling in the time to visit a therapist's office or meditation class can feel as insurmountable as the issues that made us consider therapy in the first place. 

That's where mental health apps come in. They're quick, convenient, and cover a breadth of issues: cultivating gratitude, recovering from addiction, sleeping better, or getting a well-being boost. They also tend to cost less than face-to-face therapy or coaching, another mental health barrier. Talk therapy apps (where you chat with a professional in real-time) are usually the most expensive option. However, insurance may provide some coverage, depending on the app, your plan, and location.

There are a few instances when you should seek the help of a therapist IRL: if you are feeling suicidal or threatening self-harm, if you are in an abusive relationship, or if your symptoms are extreme (as opposed to mild or moderate). Located in the U.S. and need help now? Visit the American Psychological Association for a list of crisis lines, or dial 988, day or night, to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Benefits and effectiveness of therapy apps

There are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 wellness apps currently available, and as we might expect, they're all tackling mental health a little differently. That can make them difficult to compare, and as of yet, not nearly enough research has been done on their effectiveness.

But that doesn't mean they're not getting results, and the preliminary research is hopeful. According to a study by mHealth, "Mobile apps have significant potential to deliver high-efficacy mental health interventions." Professor Rajani Sadasivam of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School points out to STAT News that consumer cost and accessibility are important factors in assessing app effectiveness. In other words, a real-life counseling session may yield better results, but therapy apps are far more accessible, which is important to factor in, too (via STAT News).

Keep in mind that a lot of different apps exist: ones that connect you with a therapist directly and others that turn wellness into a game (surprisingly effective!). Consider what you need and the potential downsides of online therapy before diving in. Privacy is another factor to consider, as is price. Therapy apps (where you chat with a provider) may be cheaper than face-to-face therapy, but they are not, strictly speaking, cheap. Many have free trials, so go ahead and try before you buy.

Best talk therapy apps

If you want to talk to a therapist directly for one-on-one support, there's an app for that. Actually, many of the existing mental wellness apps link you directly to a licensed therapist. 

Drawing from a pool of over 30,000 professionals, BetterHelp supports individuals, couples, and teens. Simply fill out a questionnaire, and they will match you with an available therapist. All their providers have at least three years or 1,000 hours of experience. Once you're matched, you make your own schedule: message day or night, or set up phone or video chats. The messaging feature is great for expressing a thought or feeling in the moment or simply getting something off your chest. Typically, the cost is between $60 and $90 a week, billed monthly, although the final bill will vary based on the frequency of sessions, your location, and other factors.

Talkspace links you to a licensed provider once you've completed a brief evaluation. Like BetterHelp, this app also offers one-on-one, couples, and teen therapy, but Talkspace has the added bonus of psychiatry services for evaluations and medication management, making it a great option for those with more serious concerns. You can connect with your therapist through messaging, live chat, and over the phone. Message your therapist any time, but the other modes of communication need to be scheduled in advance. Prices range from $69 for a messaging-only subscription to $109 per week for a plan that adds on video calls and weekly workshops.

Beneficial couples therapy apps

If your relationship needs a little love (or a lot), ReGain is here to help. In addition to gaining access to a pool of licensed and experienced therapists, all the providers at ReGain have expertise in intimacy and relationships, specifically. Once you're signed up, there are two choices: Opt to receive individual counseling, or participate together in couples counseling. There's a private therapy "room" where you — and your partner, if they are joining — communicate with the therapist. The app offers asynchronous messaging, so you can visit the "room" to leave messages anytime, and you'll be notified when your therapist responds. 

There is also the option to schedule live sessions with the therapist, which can be done one-on-one or as a couple. This app is a convenient choice for couples whose schedules make it difficult to connect. But it's not a good choice for relationships where physical abuse is present (via ReGain). Prices range between $60 to $90 per week, based on your location and preferences.

Therapy app for the LGBTQ+ community

If you want the peace of mind that your therapist will be LGBTQ+–friendly, there are apps like Pride Counseling. Run by the folks at BetterHelp, this platform has therapists that are fully equipped (with at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience), plus have all the necessary training to offer support on LGBTQ+ issues — such as identity or relationships. Of course, your reasons for seeking a therapist don't have to be related to identity or orientation. The therapists on this platform are there to support users with any mental health issue. 

Like many other talk therapy apps, Pride Counseling has a therapy "room" where you connect with a therapist any time — write messages, ask questions, and more — and you'll be notified when they respond. Or you can set a time for a live chat, phone call, or video conference call. A few factors, including how often you connect with your therapist, will determine the cost, which is usually between $60 and $90 per week, billed monthly.

BIPOC-focused therapy apps

Marginalized groups have their own unique mental health experiences, and Shine was created with that in mind. According to Shine's own website: Black people, women, and LGBTQ+ adults are all more likely to suffer from psychological distress and mental health conditions than their white, male, and heterosexual counterparts. That makes this app a powerful tool for those in underrepresented communities. The app features an instant messaging platform, so users can find their specific community. There are also weekday motivational messages, daily meditations tailored to your goals, a gratitude check-in, and more — all included in the free version of the app. 

A premium membership adds access to self-care programs, a library of 1000+ meditations, sleep aids (aka boring retellings of movie plots, which we are definitely here for), and an invitation to join the Shine Squad digital community. Premium costs either $65 a year or $14.99 billed monthly. The meditations and self-care strategies feature diverse voices, ranging from Latinx to Black to LGBTQ+. In short: When it comes to self-care, Shine has found your people.

Therapy apps based on CBT principles

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) says that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all connected — once we have more positive thought patterns, we'll feel (and behave) more positively, too. According to the American Psychological Association (APA): "Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life."

Moodkit takes CBT principles and helps users apply them to everyday life, specifically targeting mood elevation and stress management. Over 200 activities help boost your mood and diminish negative thoughts. Understanding the why and when of your thoughts is the first step in changing them. A Mood Tracker, Thought Checker, and journaling feature work together to develop self-awareness, track progress, and identify negative thoughts. Once patterns emerge, users can start reducing distressing thoughts and improving their moods. Get it for a one-time fee of $6.99.

Bloom refers to its CBT techniques as "self-therapy." But don't get confused: This isn't traditional face-to-face therapy. The idea is to take your treatment into your own hands, and Bloom encourages that with a library of 500+ education sessions, journaling, and mindfulness exercises. It's helpful for those wanting to test the CBT waters or for anyone experiencing mild symptoms (for instance, negative or anxious thoughts). Video sessions cover everything from self-esteem to anxiety to facing fears and are meant to help you with your mental health journey. A free 7-day trial lets users test the waters before committing to $14.49 a month or $59.99 a year.

Best mindfulness apps

Wellness app Headspace has some lofty goals: "to improve the health and happiness of the world." Whether your goals are lofty, or more down to earth, this popular app — with more than 65 million downloads — focuses on mindfulness and meditation to help users manage their mood, tame anxiety, get better sleep, and increase productivity. It's all done through guided meditations, "sleepcasts" and restful music, exercise videos (like "Stress Release" or the "Reframing Anxiety Workout"), inspiring stories, and targeted playlists to help users focus or relax. It's especially suited to those new to meditation or returning to a meditation practice with meditations even suitable for kids. Get a monthly ($13) or yearly ($70) subscription — both include a free trial.

If games and activities are your jam, then go ahead and gamify your mood with Happify. After filling out a short questionnaire, the app will suggest a "track" that includes a suite of evidence-based games and activities. The app combines positive psychology, mindfulness, and CBT to help you achieve your goals, whether that is conquering negative thoughts, reducing stress, building confidence, or nearly anything else. There are more than 65 "tracks" to choose from. The games, activities, and exercises can be completed in just a few minutes a day, plus they're fun. There is a free version, but for $14.99 a month (or $139.99 a year), you upgrade to Happify Plus for unlimited access to all the tracks and meditations, plus a character report, and daily progress tracking.

Apps that help you sleep better

If Matthew McConaughey or Priyanka Chopra-Jonas telling you a bedtime story sounds like a dream, then add Calm to your app arsenal. It's a favorite for improving sleep, but the mindfulness meditations and Calm Masterclasses also tackle stress, anxiety, and depression. For sleep and insomnia, this app has a few strategies: Over 250 bedtime stories, sleep music, nature soundscapes, and guided meditations help guide you into slumber. If daily stress affects your sleep, add mindful movement to your routine with Daily Move, or try 7- and 21-day mindfulness courses, breathing exercises, and more. For those star-studded Sleep Stories narrated by the likes of LeBron James and Lucy Liu, you'll need to upgrade to a $69.99 annual version.

BetterSleep promises to help guide your journey into dreamland. Kicking off your sleepy-time sojourn are the SleepMoves exercises, a series of relaxation techniques tailored to the evening wind-down routine. Next, settle in for a bedtime story — there are over 100 in a variety of genres from fairytales to non-fiction. Stories are accompanied by a curated soundscape with a choice of sounds, music, and beats. To go even deeper, try guided Sleep Hypnosis. The app also helps address the daytime stress and sleep anxiety that might be keeping you awake with guided meditations and breathing exercises. It has 4.8 stars from over 270,000 ratings in Apple's App Store. Much of the app's content is free, but full access costs $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year.

Therapy apps for people with anxiety

Sanvello combines the CBT principles with an online community and coaching to help users suffering from anxiety (not just stress) and depression. Daily mood tracking monitors how you're feeling and personal goals (like exercise, caffeine intake, and sleep) illuminate what's making you feel good — and what isn't. The Guided Journeys are a popular feature with CBT techniques, but there are meditation activities, a Hope Board, and goal setting. The online community is great for connections, or there's one-on-one coaching or therapy. There is a free version, but you'll need a membership to access most features for $8.99 a month or $53.99 a year. Coaching and therapy cost extra, depending on location and insurance coverage.

MindShift is doing its part to ensure that anxiety relief is accessible to everyone with a fully free therapy app (the only one on this list). Like Sanvello, this app uses CBT techniques to tackle mental health issues, such as anxiety, perfectionism, panic, and phobias. It gives users the tools to "Chill Out" with meditation and relaxation techniques or "Active Steps" designed to prevent future anxiety. They also have "Quick Relief" for when you need help right now and a community forum for peer support and connection. A Thought Journal, mood tracking, tips for healthier habits, and goal setting all support positive changes toward a (hopefully) less anxious you. This app is intended for a teenage or young adult audience, but the CBT techniques have a lot of evidence to support them.

Addiction recovery therapy apps

Down to the second — that's how precisely the I Am Sober app tracks how long you've been substance- or habit-free. It also connects users to a larger sober community, so there's accountability and a supportive group of people who know exactly what you're going through. The app makes sure you stay motivated through your journey. In addition to counting days (and seconds), you can also add photos and reasons to remind you why it's so important to get clean. 

There's even a sobriety calculator that logs the time and money saved by the positive lifestyle shift. And the daily recap can help users identify triggers, so they can be avoided next time. This app is largely geared toward overcoming alcohol addiction, but if you opt for the Sober Plus subscription for $9.99 a month, you get access to sobriety counters and recovery groups for different addictions — or simply create your own group.

Best habit trackers to improve mental health

Improve your routine with Fabulous. The app operates under a pretty simple (and science-backed) idea: Even small changes to our daily habits can create a huge impact on our lives. It's useful for those working through issues like anxiety or sleeplessness, or those who simply want to make positive changes in their life, like increased productivity. A library of coaching videos, guided daily routines, and a community of members to connect with help cultivate small, manageable changes to users' habits. You can even book a one-on-one session with a coach (yes, a real, live human one). 

Fabulous uses evidence-backed behavioral science to build healthy habits through repetitive tasks. According to Healthline, the app uses a behavioral principle called "habit stacking." It's a technique used to build sustainable routines and works by adding new habits gradually over time. Once a habit is established, another can be added until you eventually have a whole new routine. Users get limited access to the app for free, but for all the features, a premium subscription costs $39.99 a year.