There’s an app for that

September 23, 2016

What would we do without our smartphones?  We have become so dependent on our mobile devices, it’s hard to remember life without them.  Finding time to disconnect from our work, social lives, and the media can have many benefits.  Still, we find it impossible at times to put down the mobile devices.  So why not use these same devices to improve our mental health and overall well-being.  There’s a growing market for mobile applications that promise to improve our mood, reduce stress, create healthy habits, help us heal from trauma, become more mindful, and even raise our children.

The wonderful thing about mobile applications is that they have the ability to reach a much wider audience.  Help via a mobile device may be more cost effective and available to those who may not otherwise have the time or energy to read a self-help book.  Some mobile apps may be utilized best to supplement psychological services, as individuals can carry tangible reminders or activities with them that relate to the tools they learn in therapy.  The following is a small list of the countless available apps to address self-improvement.

Anxiety and Depression

Mind Shift – This app is ideal for teens and young adults experiencing anxiety.  It addresses issues with sleep and perfectionism, as well as test, social, and performance anxiety.  The goal of this app is to assist in confronting anxiety provoking situations while also changing your thoughts about such situations.  It utilizes relaxation techniques and various other tools to address anxiety.

Breathing Zone -This is an app that teaches several breathing exercises that vary in length from 5 to 60 minutes.  It includes a breathing analyzer as well as visual and auditory signals to assist with breathing.  It can be utilized with your eyes closed to further enhance relaxation.  One of the primary goals is to reduce your overall heart rate.  The manufacturer even claims that daily use can help to manage high blood pressure.

Breathe2Relax -This app teaches diaphragmatic breathing exercises that can assist with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety reduction.

CBT* ABC way – As featured on the American Psychological Association’s Mobile psychology web page, this app was designed by clinical psychologist Dr. Yvette Tazeau.  It can be used with children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety and depression symptoms.  This app can be used alone or to supplement therapy.  It is designed to teach users to pay attention to negative thoughts, while learning to challenge them with more reasonable and realistic thoughts.  This is based on the theory that negative feelings are connected to negative thoughts, and that by learning to monitor and challenge negative thoughts you can help to reduce negative feelings.

Pacifica – This app has numerous features that attempt to reduce anxiety and improve your overall mood.  It offers various relaxation techniques and assists you in tracking both your mood and daily health habits.  There is also a thought diary option that will aid you in changing negative thinking patterns.

IntelliCare – Includes over ten different applications to address both anxiety and depression.

MoodKit – This app was designed by psychologists in an effort to improve your daily mood.  It features four integrated tools that help you to engage in mood-enhancing activities, identify and change unhealthy thinking patterns, rate and chart your mood over time, and create custom templated journal entries to promote well-being.

Also check out OPTIMISM, MoodPandaT2 Mood Tracker, Live OCD free and Worry Box.


Headspace – This meditation and mindfulness app uses guided and non-guided exercises ranging from two minutes to an hour in length.  You can specify which areas you would like to address such as health, performance, or relationships.

Equanimity – Equanimity is a meditation timer that also features graphical tracking and a journal feature. The meditation timer features simple graphics to minimize distractions during meditation. If users have several stages in their meditation routine, the app can be programmed to chime at the appropriate intervals. Users can view their meditation history in the form of a visually annotated log or a text-based journal. All of the data recorded in the app can be exported as an email or spreadsheet.

BREATHE– Breathe is a mindfulness app that helps you stay calm by sending you gentle deep breathing reminders throughout the day.

HelloMind – The developers of this app describe utilizing “Result Driven Hypnosis” techniques to address numerous areas such as relaxation, motivation, poor sleep, and low self-esteem.

Additional resources for further relaxation include Personal Zen, Hello Mind, and Mindfulness Coach.


Apps for Parents

Behavioral Apps

No More Meltdowns – This app originated from a book by Dr. Jed Baker that was created to assist caregivers in managing and preventing out of control behavior in children.  The app assists parents in tracking behavioral outbursts in order to identify themes and understand the cause and nature of the meltdown.  Strategies are provided as well as assistance creating a plan to address future meltdowns.

Chore Monster – Parents can create scheduled chores with designated point values for chore completion.  Rewards can be correlated to points obtained and children can review their progress while keeping track of potential rewards and how to achieve their goals.

Time Timers – This creative app allows parents to create colorful timers to help children keep track of time while encouraging motivation and on task behavior.

Child Development

Vroom – From birth to age 5, this app can help to promote brain development through everyday activities.  Daily brain building tips are offered and catered to your child’s age.  Each tip is accompanied by a scientific explanation of how the suggestion can assist in brain development.



Divorce App – This app is based off of the book Mango Season Doesn’t Last Forever, by Dr. Robert Woliver.  It is designed to help children recognize that they are not alone when their family is going through such a difficult experience. Specific suggestions are offered for different developmental stages from ages 2-18.  Children’s drawings are utilized to illustrate their stories, feelings, and needs.  The app also includes activities to help children understand the divorce and a quiz for parents to gauge how well they are reacting to their child’s needs.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Coach – Developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, this app was originally created for service members, veterans, and their loved ones.  It provides a self-assessment tool, symptom-tracker, educational materials, and suggests coping skills to address and monitor symptoms.

Suicide Prevention

ReliefLink – This app’s team of creators was led by the American Psychological Association President Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, at Emory University.  The app was recently recognized at the White House by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration where it was awarded first place in the Suicide Prevention: Continuity of Care and Follow-up App Challenge.  ReliefLink includes numerous features, such as a mood tracker, a personalized safety plan, coping strategies, and an emergency button that connects users to friends, hospitals, and other resources.

Operation Reach Out – Designed to prevent suicide among military personnel, veterans, and their loved ones, this app assists in keeping individuals connected to help.


Step Away – This app includes numerous features to assist with alcohol addiction.  For example, it teaches users to become more aware of their triggers, and drinking patterns and assists with setting realistic goals.  The app also offers personalized suggestions for alternative activities, and provides strategies to help with cravings, boredom, and negative moods.  A support team is also set up along with the ability to share progress with others for additional support.

IM Quit – Targeted to treat any addiction, this app allows you to track your behavior over time and share your successes with others.  IM Quit also offers encouraging quotes and suggestions to stay on track with your goals.

12 Steps AA Companion 2 – Designed to be used for alcohol addiction, this app tracks your progress while including much of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book plus personal stories.  Support from other AA members can be found easily with this app.  For example, your smart phone’s GPS system can be used to direct you to a nearby AA support person.

Healthy Habits

Way of Life – With the ability to specify up to ten habits at one time, this app will help you beat unwanted habits or create desired habits.  You can set the amount of reminders you prefer and track your daily progress.

Rewire Goal and Habit Tracker


With an abundance of possibilities when it comes to mobile application use, this list can hopefully get you started in the right direction or encourage you to find an app that fits your personal needs.  For additional applications check out the following sites.

University of South Florida- Mental Wellness Applications

Huffington Post- 8 Ways To Use Your Phone To Benefit Your Mental Health

National Center for Telehealth and Technology



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