The Best Mental Health Apps to Help You Care for Your Mind

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Looking to build better habits, stop those cycles of negative thinking, or manage your anxiety? Mental health apps might just be the first step to becoming a healthier you. More people than ever now report symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, so it’s no wonder that apps aimed at improving emotional wellness and building resilience are attracting millions of users each year. 

To help, we chose a variety of highly-rated mental health apps, most of which are either free or relatively inexpensive. We’ve included those that can put you in touch with licensed therapists almost immediately, as well as others that can help you make a shift toward greater optimism and positivity. And better yet? We featured programs you can use to track your progress in between therapy sessions.

With that in mind, here are our top picks.

The 7 Best Mental Health Apps of 2021

Best Overall: Happify

Happify

Happify

Why We Chose It: Happify is our top pick because it’s so versatile, personalized, and jam-packed with evidence-based content. It also offers more digital accessibility features than many other mental health apps.

What We Like

  • Customizable “happiness tracks”
  • Sophisticated insights to track your progress into positivity 
  • Fun, interactive games and brain-training exercises
  • Wide variety of activities and features
  • Works on any device

What We Don't Like

  • Premium version, Happify Plus, is more expensive than other apps
  • Might be overwhelming for users who are stressed or in crisis
  • Not geared toward people with specific diagnoses, like depression or mood disorders

Developed by a team of research scientists, mental health practitioners, and other experts, Happify uses the principles behind positive psychology to help users boost overall happiness, productivity, and sense of well-being. The app boasts science-backed activities like brain-training games to help you reach your goals in terms of mental health, habit-building, and positive thinking. 

Here’s how it works: You’ll find out your “happiness score” based on an initial assessment. Then, you’ll choose a unique “happiness track” based on six major skills (Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, Empathize, and Revive) that are proven to improve optimism and self-esteem. 

From there, you’ll start your journey by honing in on a specific habit you want to break or build—such as conquering negative thoughts or exercising more often. Along the way, chat with digital coaches, take mini-classes, complete challenges and guided meditations, and fill out regular quizzes to chart your progress. 

The app also gives you the option of completing tracks privately or in more of a community setting. With the latter, you can congratulate others on their success and get some kudos for your own. 

While there’s a free version of Happify, you can get additional features with Happify Plus. The premium version of Happify costs roughly $15 per month or about $140 per year.

Best Live: BetterHelp

Young Woman With Face Obscured Holding Cell Phone and Using It Outside.
This app could help you save more money, but is it right for you?.

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Why We Chose It:
Sometimes, there’s just nothing better than making a direct connection with a licensed therapist. BetterHelp gives you a chance to talk to a professional, accredited counselor at almost any time of day or night.

What We Like

  • More affordable than most in-person therapy
  • Access to licensed therapists 
  • Ability to change therapists quickly 
  • Free 7-day trial 

What We Don't Like

  • Therapists can’t prescribe medication
  • Sessions aren’t normally covered by insurance plans
  • Therapists can’t officially diagnose you 

BetterHelp is a mobile therapy app that puts you in touch with a range of licensed, accredited counselors in just a few clicks. 

After you sign up, you’ll fill out an assessment to be set up with a good match. Finding the right therapist might take a few days (although it often takes just a few hours), but you won’t start getting billed for your subscription until you’ve found your clinician. 

Once you’re matched, you can message your therapist anytime you want in your dedicated private digital room. You can also make appointments for live sessions with your therapist via phone, video conferencing, or chat. Not vibing with your therapist? No problem. You switch to someone new anytime. 

It’s important to note that BetterHelp isn’t always a substitute for in-person therapy in every case. Therapists can’t prescribe medication, give you an official diagnosis, or fulfill court orders through the app. It’s a better choice if you’re curious about therapy and hoping to try it out, or if you’re managing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety, stress, or depression. 

BetterHelp services also aren’t usually covered by insurance. However, subscribing to the app is more affordable than most in-person, therapy sessions. The app costs about $80 per week, roughly $260 per month, or around $1,820 per year.

Best for Mood Tracking: MoodKit

MoodKit

MoodKit


Why We Chose It:
MoodKit helps you curb negative thoughts and allows you to practice cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) skills on your own, working as a helpful supplement between your therapy appointments.

What We Like

  • Specifically targets negative thinking patterns
  • Seamlessly introduces the concepts of CBT 
  • Useful as practice or “maintenance” in between sessions
  • Charts and journals can be emailed to your clinician
  • Privacy feature on mood journal 

What We Don't Like

  • More self-directed than guided
  • Focuses only on CBT techniques
  • Might not be useful for people with severe anxiety or depression

Cognitive behavior therapy is one of the most widely-used and effective forms of treatment available for people experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. And MoodKit is an app that can help you practice CBT skills—like becoming aware of distorted negative thinking patterns, regulating your moods, and working on relaxation and stress reduction techniques. You can work your own or with the help of a therapist. 

One of the most helpful MoodKit tools is the Thought Checker, which guides you through the practice of identifying your negative or stress-inducing thoughts and teaches you how to change them. The app also includes wellness exercises to help you boost your mood when you’re down, as well as a private journal feature and advice on building healthy habits.

You can also use MoodKit, which costs about $5 per month, to track your moods across time by taking notes on them during particular activities or in certain situations in order to identify sources of stress or sadness. Showing this to your therapist might help you with your overall emotional regulation. 

Best for Sleep: Calm

calm app

Courtesy of Calm


Why We Chose It:
Sleep is a cornerstone of improving your mental health, and Calm provides a welcome respite for insomnia sufferers and toss-and-turners. The app’s unique approaches to soothing and stress reduction earned it a spot on our list. Plus, it’s just plain visually gorgeous and, well, calming.

What We Like

  • New music, stories, and meditations added regularly
  • Beautiful, soothing visuals
  • Includes programs for body, mind, and spirit 
  • Sleep stories narrated by celebrities 

What We Don't Like

  • More expensive option  
  • The free version doesn’t have many features
  • Signing up is a bit of a process
  • Not geared toward managing specific mental health symptoms
  • Mostly self-directed

Calm is one of the best mental health apps geared toward stress reduction, mindfulness, and better sleep. With dreamy visuals, an exclusive ambient music library, and a unique collection of “sleep stories” for adults—narrated by celebrities like Mandy Moore, Kate Winslet, and Idris Elba—you can set the tone for an insomnia-free night. 

In addition to its sleep-themed features, Calm also offers meditation tools (like rainy soundscapes and other Zen backdrops) and guided meditation sessions. Some of Calm’s meditation tools are better suited for advanced mindfulness practitioners, as they’re more free-form than step-by-step. 

With Calm Body—the app's guide to mindful movement—you can adopt some gentle stretching and yoga practices to connect your mind and body. Masterclasses from mindfulness experts on everything from radical self-compassion to developing a healthier daily routine round out Calm’s library of options. 

After a 7-day free trial, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Calm Premium, which costs roughly $70 per year. However, if you’re sure you’ll keep using the app, you can spring for Calm for Life, which costs about $400 for a lifetime membership.

Best for Anxiety: Worry Watch

worry watch

Courtesy of Worry Watch

Why We Chose It: Worry Watch is unbeatable in the data department. After tracking your anxiety patterns for a while, you’ll see everything from color-coded worry logs to pie charts and bar graphs about your specific panic-inducing tendencies. Over time, the statistics can help you stop unwarranted worrying in its tracks.

What We Like

  • Helps you recognize unhelpful worry patterns with personalized data
  • Specifically targets symptoms of anxiety and OCD
  • The app doesn’t store your data
  • Face ID, Touch ID, and passcode-protected for your security 
  • Customizable themes, fonts, and color schemes

What We Don't Like

  • Relies on user’s initiative and motivation
  • Might be stressful to use without the aid of a therapist
  • Some users find the interface confusing 

Anyone with a mental health condition like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or OCD is all too familiar with the downward spiral of irrational worrying. It starts out as just a thought, but soon, it’s driving your actions—only to be replaced by another worry when it doesn’t come true. 

Worry Watch helps you recognize, work through, and curb those patterns over time. You’ll start by sorting your most common worries into categories—like “job search,” “money,” or “dating”—and track them as they come up. 

The app will prompt you to revisit that anxiety here and there in order to reflect on it. Did it come true? Was it partly founded? Did it lead to other negative thoughts or actions?

Worry Watch, at about $4, compiles this information into your statistics dashboard, where you can see whether the outcome of each worry was really all that bad. With the help of some perspective, you might just start to realize that some of your bothersome thoughts can be discarded. 

One word of caution: You might want to use Worry Watch under the guidance of a therapist if you have OCD or are prone to panic attacks. They can help you use it in a healthy, balanced way.

Best for Mindfulness: Headspace

meditation apps

knape / Getty Images


Why We Chose It:
Headspace is especially welcoming for mindfulness beginners. You’ll find the structured guided meditations doable even if you’ve never meditated before. It’s also versatile, with meditation options for every mood, schedule, and time of day.

What We Like

  • 14-day free trial
  • Offers student and family discount packages
  • Child- and family-friendly Headspace for Kids option 
  • Fun, engaging illustrations and animation
  • Regular reminders and guided prompts to help you improve your mindfulness techniques

What We Don't Like

  • Costly monthly and annual subscriptions
  • The interface can be overwhelming 
  • The narration can be distracting
  • Meditation can bring up stressful thoughts for users with PTSD 

Headspace is regularly recognized as one of the best mental health apps available—especially when it comes to building a regular meditation practice—and for good reason. It offers a friendly, comprehensive introduction to mindfulness, exploding with animated illustrations to enhance the experience. Plus, co-founder Andy Puddicombe infuses his background as a former Buddhist monk into the advice he gives on the app. 

The extensive meditation library on Headspace has guided sessions for every level of practitioner in a wide variety of lengths, styles, and themes. Ambient soundscapes can help you fall asleep, while a super-short, productivity-boosting guided session can be an excellent before-work, pick-me-up. 

You can also use Headspace to adopt practices like mindful eating or walking with prompts and reminders. New meditations are added every day, so you’ll never run out of sessions. Better yet? Children can get in on the action with Headspace for Kids.

A subscription to Headspace Plus costs about $70 per year or roughly $13 per month, but you can try it out beforehand with a 14-day free trial. There are also discounts available for students and families. You can sign up for six linked accounts for around $100 per year under the Headspace Family Plan, which applies to anyone with the same physical address, or for a Headspace Student Plan for approximately $10 per year. 

Best for DBT: DBT Coach

woman on app

David Prado / Stocksy

Why We Chose It: DBT Coach is one of the only apps that focuses specifically on practicing dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills. It includes many of the features offered by other mental health apps, but solely DBT-focused. Plus, the free version is a full-fledged version of the app, not just a preview.

What We Like

  • The free version is extensive and comprehensive
  • Videos break down DBT concepts into digestible pieces
  • One of the only apps to focus on DBT
  • Exercises help you hone in on specific DBT skills 
  • Diary entries and progress charts can be shared with a therapist
  • Users can connect on a community forum

What We Don’t Like

  • Premium features are expensive
  • Can't edit your daily diary entry
  • Has some minor bugs, which may be distracting

Dialectical behavior therapy is one of the most effective treatments for borderline personality disorder (BPD). It can also be used to treat substance abuse and eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD, among other conditions. 

Very few of the best mental health apps focus specifically on DBT skills. That’s why DBT Coach, which offers a comprehensive introduction to DBT concepts, can be such an important app for people with one of the above diagnoses. 

DBT Coach breaks down the DBT basics in more than 100 easily digestible, accessible videos and 200 animations. The app also prompts you to practice certain DBT skills—such as modulating emotional intensity, practicing Wise Mind, adopting a non-judgmental perspective, prioritizing goals, and observing the environment—with collections of exercises, quizzes, and homework assignments. You can track your progress over time and share the results with your therapist, making your in-person sessions that much more useful. 

Other features include guided meditation sessions and mental health assessments that you can take periodically for self-evaluation. In the community forum, you can also connect with other people in the same boat as they work toward their own goals. 

There is a free version of DBT Coach, which you can try out before committing to a subscription. Accessing the premium features costs about $12 per month or roughly $60 per year. 

The Bottom Line

The best mental health apps can help you pursue a greater quality of life, whether you’re on-the-go or cozied up at home. Many of these programs can provide you with invaluable tools to improve your mood, manage stress more effectively, and track your symptoms during your journey to improved mental health. 

If you’re looking to work with a licensed therapist, start with BetterHelp. Users who feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed should download DBT Coach or WorryWatch. For mindfulness techniques and sleep improvement, Calm or Headspace is your best bet. To boost your overall mood and improve your sense of well-being, try Happify or MoodKit. 

It’s important to remember that unless you’re using an app to get in touch directly with a licensed therapist, it's a supplement to your overall mental health treatment, not a replacement for it. If you’re already working with a therapist, consider asking them which apps they might recommend.

What Are the Best Mental Health Apps?

Choose the app that works best for you, taking your particular symptoms, diagnosis, and budget into account. A few mental health apps offer live therapy appointments via phone, text, or video chat with a licensed counselor. Some of the best ones focus on helping you practice a single therapy approach, such as CBT or DBT, while others are aimed at people with a particular diagnosed mental illness, such as OCD, PTSD, or depression. 

Other mental health apps are geared toward helping people develop mindfulness or learn to self-soothe in a crisis. Many of these programs offer breathing techniques, guided meditations, or calm-inducing visuals. But other mental health apps can be used as a “starting point” for assessing your current emotional state and helping you decide whether you need to set up an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. 

How Much Do Mental Health Apps Typically Cost?

A few mental health apps are completely free to use. But most charge a weekly, monthly, or yearly subscription fee that generally ranges from $5 to $20 per month, depending on the features offered. Mental health apps that offer sessions with licensed therapists usually cost a bit more, ranging from around $50 to $100 per week to roughly $1,000 to $2,000 per year. 

Annual subscriptions generally have more value than weekly or monthly subscriptions. It's important to keep in mind that you can "try before you buy," as some paid apps offer a 7-day free trial.

Who Should Use Mental Health Apps?

Anyone who has a mobile device can use a mental health app to improve their life. Keep your lifestyle, symptoms, and any budget or time constraints in mind when selecting an app. 

If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, a mindfulness-themed app might help you manage it more effectively. Negative thought patterns are getting you down? A journal-based app might be a helpful tool that allows you to notice distorted thinking cycles and stop them in their tracks. And, if you have a specific diagnosis such as BPD, depression, OCD, anxiety, or PTSD, it might be best to look for a mental health app geared toward users with a specific condition.

It’s also helpful to keep your schedule and learning approach in mind. For example, a visual learner who only has a few minutes a day to work on their mental health should choose an app based on quick games and activities. Meanwhile, someone who needs more consistent, time-intensive therapy might go for an app that offers regular counseling sessions. 

How We Chose the Best Mental Health Apps

We selected the seven best mental health apps for our roundup based on cost, evidence-based techniques, user satisfaction, accessibility, and quality of design. Our other criteria included depth of knowledge, customizability, and the interactivity of the content. Finally, we considered how easy to use these apps' features were. Because mental health app users might already be feeling overwhelmed, it’s especially important for the flow of the design to be intuitive.

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