BEST FOR THERAPY AND JOURNALING
- Offers individual therapy and support groups
- Provides prompts for guided journaling
BEST FOR THERAPY AND MEDICATION
- Can prescribe antidepressants and provide therapy
- Tracks your anxiety and depression symptoms
BEST FOR SELF-HELP
- Therapists lead live and on-demand workshops
- Includes self-paced mental health courses
BEST FOR GUIDED MEDITATION
- Therapists lead live and on-demand workshops
- Includes self-paced mental health courses
Whether you want to wind down before sleep, reflect on your feelings, or work through your problems with a therapist online, mental health apps offer an accessible and convenient way to use your screen time on activities that support your well-being.
Our reviews team mystery shopped different mental health apps, identifying the best options for meditation, mental health tracking, online therapy, journaling, and more.
What Are Mental Health Apps?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) puts mental health apps into different categories: self-management, cognition improvement, skills training, social support, symptom tracking.
There are a variety of mental health apps on the market. Some apps help users relax, sleep better, or improve memory. Others help users connect to a peer counselor or a healthcare professional. Apps like BetterHelp and Brightside are intended for use with a therapy or psychiatry subscription.
Unless you use a mental health app to attend therapy or see a psychiatrist, they are not intended to diagnose, evaluate, or treat a mental illness.
*As of January 2023
Why You Can Trust Our Best Mental Health Apps Review
We independently investigate and recommend products and services we believe will enrich the lives of our readers and meet their specific needs. We’ve spent many hours carrying out in-depth research on the mental health apps market. You can trust our review because we did the legwork for you in these specific ways:
- Engaged in ongoing independent research
- Spent over 250 hours testing eight brands, deployed surveys that included over 200 participants each, and interviewed focus groups
- Went behind the paywall for two months with eight brands to mystery shop our best mental health app choices
- Contacted the brands’ customer service teams to ask questions and gauge responsiveness
- Consulted six leading psychologists and psychiatrists
- Became customers of mental health app providers ourselves
- Reviewed academic research about the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy
- Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot
Best for Therapy and Journaling: BetterHelp
- Offers writing prompts to help you journal your thoughts and feelings
- Subscriptions include weekly therapy and support group sessions
- Offers financial aid to those who qualify
- Doesn’t accept insurance
- Exact pricing depends on your location, therapist preferences, and therapist availability
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that offers an app that subscribers can download from Google Play or the App Store. The app allows you to attend weekly therapy sessions using live chat, video, or audio only. The app’s journal feature lets you keep track of your thoughts and goals. For therapy with a journaling option, BetterHelp is our top pick.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says journaling is one of the most effective and simplest coping mechanisms for managing mental illness. Of the 200 people who responded to our reviews team’s January 2023 BetterHelp survey, 61 percent said that they liked the online journal and used it often.
Our reviews team counted close to 75 journal prompts, related to topics like depression, anxiety, and relationships, as well as general questions about how the user is doing. The journal also provides an option to write on an empty page if you don’t want to use a prompt.
Every BetterHelp subscription includes one 30- to 45-minute therapy session per week, with the length of each session depending on your needs and your therapist’s schedule.
On BetterHelp, you and your therapist can incorporate journaling into therapy sessions, or you can use them as part of a self-care routine.
You can also attend one of 200 weekly 90-minute support group sessions that are moderated by BetterHelp therapists. With your subscription, you’re allowed to join one group. Sessions are held at the same time weekly and with the same participants unless someone joins or leaves the group. According to our January 2023 survey of 200 BetterHelp users, group sessions are a popular add-on to online therapy, with 94 percent of respondents saying they attended a group session at least once a month.
BetterHelp costs between $240 and $360 per month, with the exact cost depending on your location, therapist availability, and therapist preferences. It doesn’t accept insurance, but it accepts flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) dollars. One focus group participant said BetterHelp ended up being cheaper than mental health care through her insurance, so it’s worth comparing costs to make sure you get the best deal.
BetterHelp App Reviews
On the App Store, BetterHelp gets 4.8 out of 5 stars from close to 95,000 ratings. On Google Play, it gets 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 36,000 ratings. Positive reviews mention the convenience of the app for live therapy sessions, group sessions, and journaling. Negative reviews mention that the app can be slow and crash at times. According to our January 2023 survey of 200 BetterHelp users, 66 percent of respondents said they were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their experience, 13 percent felt neutral about it, and 21 percent said they were dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with their experience.
Best for Therapy and Medication: Brightside
- Offers options for medication management and online therapy
- Tracks your anxiety and depression symptoms using evidence-based methods
- Accepts insurance
- Available on the App Store only, not on Google Play
- Only offers video therapy, not audio or chat sessions
With Brightside, you can meet with your therapist every week, receive ongoing psychiatric care, and watch self-care videos, making it one of the best apps for mental health. Because it monitors your anxiety and depression over time, it might be a good choice for those looking for a mental health tracker app, too. The app is only available on the App Store for Apple devices, although our reviews team confirmed that its development team is working on an Android app.
There are three subscription options:
- The Brightside Therapy Plan includes four 30-minute video therapy sessions for $299 per month.
- The Brightside Psychiatry Plan includes an initial psychiatric consultation, medication management for any symptoms you’re having, and ongoing care through unlimited video follow-up appointments for $95 per month. Any medication prescribed costs $15, including shipping, or your pharmacy copay if using insurance.
- The Brightside Psychiatry Plus Therapy Plan includes the features of the therapy and medication management plan for $349 per month.
Brightside uses periodic mental health questionnaires to assess your mental health symptoms and determine whether your treatments are working. To evaluate your anxiety, it uses the GAD-7 assessment, which according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is an accurate way to measure the severity of anxiety. To evaluate your depression, it uses the PHQ-9, which according to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is a credible way to measure the severity of depression.
When we surveyed 200 Brightside users in January 2023, 75 percent of respondents said they liked the self-tracking tool and found it useful. Self-care videos were also well liked, with 65 percent of respondents saying they enjoyed them and used them often.
Brightside is in-network with Cigna, Aetna, and United Healthcare. It's also in-network with certain regional insurance carriers. You can use its insurance checker tool to see whether it is in-network with your insurance. Brightside accepts HSA/FSA dollars. In our survey of Brightside users, 56 percent said they used HSA/FSA dollars to pay for services. Additionally, 76.5 percent of respondents said they had health insurance and used it to pay for Brightside therapy, while 21 percent said they had health insurance but didn’t use it.
Brightside App Reviews
The App Store gives Brightside Health 4.6 out of 5 stars, from about 50 ratings. Positive reviews mentioned the ease of booking sessions and the ability to chat with a therapist. Negative reviews mention the app not functioning properly. The app is not yet available on Google Play.
Best for Self-Help: Talkspace: Self-Guided
- Therapist-led live and on-demand workshops
- Includes guided learning programs on mental health topics
- Ability to set reminders to stay accountable for healthy habits
- Offers a free seven-day trial
- App not included with Talkspace therapy subscriptions
The Talkspace: Self-Guided app offers therapist-led workshops, guided learning courses on mental health topics, opportunities for daily reflection, and meditations to help users gain confidence, connect with others, and achieve personal goals at their own pace. Talkspace: Self-Guided is available on the App Store and Google Play.
One of the biggest draws of Talkspace: Self-Guided app is its selection of self-paced courses on topics like anxiety, depression, body image, work stress, postpartum depression, and communication. Within each topic, lessons provide opportunities for users to read about issues and follow up by answering questions about how their lives are affected by them.
You can also attend therapist-led live or on-demand classes on subjects like trauma, sexuality, personal growth, diversity, equity, and inclusion. When we surveyed 200 Talkspace users in January 2023, 96 percent of respondents said they attended workshops at least once a month. While most classes are geared toward individuals, there are also classes for couples and families.
For live sessions, you join the workshop through Zoom. The therapist who hosts the session gives an overview of the topic and conducts exercises to help you practice what you’ve learned. At the end of the session, they open the class up for discussion.
Talkspace: Self-Guided costs $29.99 per month. If you experiment with the app and like it, you may want to consider signing up for a Talkspace subscription for one-on-one care. It offers three therapy plans and one psychiatry plan, which includes medication management with a licensed psychiatrist. Costs are as follows:
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy starts at $276 per month and includes unlimited messaging with your therapist but no live therapy sessions.
- Video and Messaging Therapy starts at $396 per month and includes unlimited messaging with your therapist and four live video therapy sessions per month.
- Video and Messaging and Workshops starts at $436 per month and includes unlimited messaging, four monthly video sessions, and group workshops that cover a variety of topics and are held via Zoom.
- Talkspace Psychiatry starts at $299 for an initial psychiatry consultation. Follow-up sessions cost $175.
Your exact cost may vary and depends on your geographic location. Talkspace accepts insurance, but you may want to compare the cost of therapy with insurance versus without insurance. Of the 200 Talkspace users we surveyed, 60 percent said they opted to pay for therapy with their insurance, while 30 percent said they had insurance but chose to pay without it. Additionally, 49 percent of respondents said they used FSA or HSA dollars to help cover therapy through Talkspace.
Talkspace Self-Guided App Reviews
On the App Store, Talkspace Self-Guided gets 4.6 out of 5 stars from approximately 290 ratings at the time this article was written. On Google Play, it gets 4.4 out of 5 stars from approximately 165 ratings. Positive reviews praise the app as a lower-cost alternative to therapy. Negative reviews mention being charged after the free trial despite canceling. Some reviewers thought that the courses were too text-heavy for an app.
Best for Guided Meditation: Headspace
- Recommends daily meditations
- Offers mindfulness courses, focus music, and mindful movement videos
- Offers a free seven-day trial
- Teachers and teens get free access
- Many videos are geared toward beginners, which may not be the best fit for more experienced meditators.
- Some Google Play reviews mention that the app interface can be confusing.
According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, there is moderate evidence to support the effect of meditation and mindfulness programs on reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and pain. Headspace has more than 500 meditations, including three-minute “mini” meditations, walking meditations, and advanced meditations. Headspace is available on the App Store and Google Play.
Each day, the Headspace app curates a list of meditations and mindful activities for you, including a “sleepcast” to help end your day. A sleepcast is a 45- to 55-minute audio segment you listen to before bed that starts with a meditation or breathing exercise to help you wind down, followed by a bedtime story. The narrator walks you through different places, such as an aquarium or treehouse, while describing the imagery with soothing speech and calming music in the background. Headspace remixes each of its 71 sleepcasts every night, so they are always a little different each time you listen.
Headspace also offers a library of narrated mindful movement videos for yoga, dance, and cardio, to train your body along with your mind. Every video is unique, but the narrators focus on common themes, such as setting intentions for the activity, staying present in your body, focusing on your breath, and practicing self-compassion.
Headspace costs $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year. For a family plan supporting up to six accounts, it costs $99.99 per year. If you aren’t ready to commit to a subscription, you can sample its services during a free seven-day trial. If you’re an adult student at a post-secondary college or university, you can get a discounted student membership that costs $9.99 per year.
Headspace offers free memberships to educators who live in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Teenagers ages 13 to 18 also get free access to Headspace through its partner Peer Health Exchange.
Headspace App Reviews
On the App Store, Headspace gets 4.8 out of 5 stars from more than 922,000 ratings. On Google Play, it gets 4.4 out of 5 stars from more than 292,000 ratings. Reviewers mention that they find the app useful but that it doesn’t always work as it should. They also mention difficulty navigating the app interface after recent updates.
Is a Mental Health App Right for Me?
Mental health apps offer convenient support for those with barriers to in-person resources. When our reviews team surveyed 1,000 online therapy users in June 2023, 62 percent of respondents said the convenience of being at home was the top reason for choosing online mental health resources.
In the same survey, 42.1 percent of respondents said they would try self-help strategies such as a self-guided app, meditation, or exercise if they couldn’t access online therapy.
According to the NIMH, mental health apps can offer introductory or supplemental care alongside traditional therapy. Since your app options vary widely, consider which features suit your needs:
- Sleep aids, like music
- Online therapy
- Peer counseling
- Guided journaling
- Memory improvement
- Mood tracking
- Therapist-led workshops
- Medication management
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Mental health and self-care courses
Guide to Choosing the Best Mental Health App
According to the NIMH, there are a few things you can do when choosing a mental health app:
- See if it offers a free trial. Test whether you like the app. The best mental health app is one that you will use.
- Consider your mental health needs. For care from a licensed professional, look for an app that offers online therapy.
- Check the claims of the app. Many apps lack published research to support what they claim they can do for mental health.
- Determine whether the app is evidence-based. The NIMH notes that online cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is as effective as in-person therapy for issues such as depression and anxiety.
- Confirm that it lists emergency resources. Mental health apps are not appropriate for mental health crises or emergencies. Apps should clearly list what to do in the event that these circumstances arise.
How We Chose Our Best Mental Health Apps
Our reviews team determined our top picks for the best mental health apps based on the following criteria:
- Cost We chose apps that suit all budgets, with options for paid and free subscriptions.
- Customer Service We contacted each company to gauge their responsiveness and helpfulness. We paid close attention to whether customer service teams answered promptly and worked to resolve our issue.
- Customer Satisfaction We recorded each company’s app store rating and BBB and Trustpilot scores. We also read countless reviews to get a sense of overall customer satisfaction, paying close attention to whether companies responded to complaints and negative reviews, how long it took them to respond, and whether the customers found the resolution satisfactory.
- Modes of Therapy We researched the modes of therapy offered, if any, and favored companies with multiple types of therapy choices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoanalysis.
- Ease of Use The mental health app should be easy to use and intuitive. Apps should be easy to sign up for, and subscriptions should be easy to cancel.
How We Research and Evaluate the Best Mental Health Apps
Our reviews team extensively scrutinizes mental health app platforms to make sure we only recommend those we believe will make a difference to our readers. Together, we’ve researched prominent brands by mystery shopping the platforms, understanding the experiences of real customers, and consulting with independent mental health professionals to better understand why people seek out mental health apps. Our method includes going past the paywall to test online therapy platforms for ourselves, conducting in-depth interviews with focus groups, and deploying surveys to gain real customer insights.
Mental health apps provide a convenient way to access resources that could benefit your mind and body, such as therapy, medication, and meditation. For therapy with journaling, our reviews team recommends BetterHelp. If you have an Apple device and are interested in both therapy, possible treatment with antidepressants, and depression and anxiety tracking, consider Brightside. For a self-help app that involves self-guided mental health programs, therapist-led classes, and reflection exercises, Talkspace: Self-Guided is our pick. If you are looking for an app that offers a variety of guided meditations or a free mental health app for teens and educators, we recommend Headspace.
In Emergency Situations
If you are in crisis, waiting for an online therapy appointment is not safe. In case of an emergency, call 911. That includes plans to harm yourself or others. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Help is available 24/7. You can also send a text message to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. A crisis counselor will respond via text to help you stay calm and make sure you’re safe.
You can also reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). The SAMHSA helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals facing mental or substance use disorders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment. National Institute of Mental Health. April 2021.
- How to Use Journaling as a Coping Tool. National Alliance on Mental Illness. January 30, 2019.
- Online Therapy Focus Group: Current Online Therapy Users. Nine Participants. Conducted Using Google Meet. January 25, 2023.
- BetterHelp Survey. 200 Respondents. Conducted Using Pollfish. Launched January 9, 2023.
- Kroenke K, Spitzer R, Williams J. The PHQ-9. Journal of General Internal Medicine. September 2001.
- Goyal M, Singh S, Siblinga E, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being. JAMA Internal Medicine. March 2014.
- Brightside Survey. 200 Respondents. Conducted Using Pollfish. Launched January 9, 2023.
- Talkspace Survey. 200 Respondents. Conducted Using Pollfish. Launched January 17, 2023.
- Marshall J, Dunstan D, Bartik W. The Digital Psychiatrist: In Search of Evidence-Based Apps for Anxiety and Depression. Frontiers in Psychiatry. November 2019.
- Online Therapy Survey. 200 Respondents. Conducted Using Pollfish. Launched January 9, 2022.
- Small G, Lee J, Kaufman A, et al. Brain Health Consequences of Digital Technology Use. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. June 2020.
- Online Therapy Survey. 1,000 Respondents. Conducted Using Pollfish. Launched June 13, 2023.