The Best Therapy and Mental Health Apps
Because Finding a Therapist Shouldn't Make You *More* Stressed
TBH, one of the hardest parts of adulting is navigating the world of health care. Unfortunately, that includes finding time for, booking, and navigating doctors' office hours and confusing insurance claims. But all that shouldn't keep you from getting some quality time with a therapist if that's what keeps you mentally on-point. (Here's how to know if you could benefit from therapy.)
Luckily, the technological advances of the last few years haven't only brought you interactive Snapchat filters and virtual reality. They've also brought you telemedicine, and it's totally changing the health care landscape. Now you can take the hassle out of the waiting room and onto your smartphone screen, where health care can be much more accessible and less torturous—and doesn't have to break the bank.
Mental health telemedicine, in particular, is starting to shine with the introduction of virtual therapy services and self-help apps that make caring for your mental health as easy as playing Candy Crush or texting your BFF.
Who Tele-Therapy Is Right For
Disclaimer: If you're having a mental health emergency, your best bet is to seek emergency services or call a relevant hotline. Many online therapy services willingly admit that they're not the best choice under certain circumstances, such as if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, are a minor, have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, have been advised to be in psychological supervision or psychiatric care, or were required to undergo therapy or counseling by a court order or by any other authority.
However, if you're dealing with common mental health issue (like stress, addiction, anxiety, relationship troubles, parenting issues, depression, anger, LGBT matters, grief, religion, self-esteem, etc.), want to give therapy a try, or just need an easier way to talk it out, then these online services might be a great fit for you.
New to therapy? If you're one of the many millennial women who made self-care their New Year's resolution for 2018, this is the perfect place to start. (But if you're using workouts as your "therapy," you need to read this.)
For Traditional Therapy, Minus the Waiting Room: LARKR
LARKR is a therapy app that connects you with a licensed therapist via livestream video chat. Plus, they have professionals with specific expertise in addiction, anxiety, mood disorders, relationship issues, LGBT, PTSD, depression, and more. So you can get all the perks of having an IRL couch session—without the hassle of traveling or finding a therapist who "fits" you in your area. Each 50-minute session will run you $85, and LARKR has streamlined the billing process to make it easy to apply for insurance reimbursement if you choose.
For Millennial-Style Communication: Talkspace
When shit goes down with your boyfriend at 2 a.m., you probably don't want to wait until a scheduled appointment to let your feelings loose.
That's where Talkspace comes in; it's an app (for your phone, tablet, or computer) that first matches you with a relevant licensed therapist, then allows you to send messages (text, voice message, video message, or photo) directly to them any time of day or night. Your therapist won't necessarily respond immediately, but you have the ability to bring up an issue whenever it suits you, which is a huge plus. And being able to choose your type of message means that you can either video word vomit or take your time to write it out.
Sounds easy, right? It's even easier on your wallet; unlimited chat therapy starts at just $32/week. Need more support? You can also opt for weekly video chat therapy or even couples' therapy.
For a Chiller Version of Therapy: Basis
If yoga/meditation/journaling just aren't doing it for you but therapy still feels too aggressive, Basis might be your perfect match. Through both the website and app, you can sign up and schedule a 45-minute, $35-dollar session to speak with a trained specialist over the phone or video chat. While they aren't licensed medical pros or therapists, each person has completed a comprehensive training program developed by former Stanford psychologists, including Basis co-founder Lindsay Trent, Ph.D. During a session, the specialist will walk you through a guided conversation that utilizes research-backed strategies to work through whatever stuff is bogging you down. Think: It's like the chatting with a BFF who actually has the time, patience, and counseling skills to help you deal with life's muck.
Need help sooner rather than later? You don't need to schedule ahead or stick to traditional business hours. The Basis specialists are available on weekends, mornings, and evenings and you can same-day snag some time with one whenever you need it. Chose to see the same person every time, or switch it up for a different point of view.
For When You Just Want to Talk: 7 Cups
Maybe you don't think you need a full-blown therapy sesh, but you need to talk it out with someone who can give you a caring, compassionate, and objective view. The 7 Cups app and website offers anonymous instant messaging right this second (no appointment necessary) with a trained volunteer "active listener" or an online counselor that you can choose yourself. (They each post a bio with their style, life experiences, and/or affiliations.) You can pop into a virtual support group, where you can join guided discussions or open-ended forums to chat with people going through similar issues. Best part? All of these services are free.
If you don't love the idea of chatting with a stranger or are looking for more legit help, there's good news: 7 Cups can also connect you with a licensed therapist right on their platform (though this service does cost $$).
For All-Inclusive, Unlimited Therapy: BetterHelp
With more than 1,500 licensed therapists on board, BetterHelp is the world's largest e-counseling platform. And it's not just one type of counseling: You can choose to message, chat live, hop on the phone, or video chat with your therapist an unlimited number of times per week.
It's affordable, too: Prices range from $35 to $70 per week for unlimited communication with your counselor. (However, the company notes that services offered using the site are generally not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, but are likely comparable to or less than what an insurance co-pay would be.) Not sure if it's right for you? Read some of their 11,000 public testimonials and reviews.
For Doing It Yourself: Pacifica
If talking to a therapist isn't your jam (either IRL or virtually), there are plenty of apps for solo exploration too. Take Pacifica, a self-help mental health app that taps into the science of cognitive behavioral therapy, for example. Choose from psychologist-designed guided self-help "paths" made up of audio lessons and activities, mood and health tracking, or relaxation techniques to suit whatever you need at the moment. Even though you're not chatting with a therapist, the app doesn't mean you're totally alone; you can interact with peer support communities to share stories, ask for advice, or discuss common issues. Best of all? It's totally free.
For Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously: SuperBetter
If self-help books and talking about your feelings make you feel worse instead of better, you just might love SuperBetter, a game app that helps you play your way to better mental health. SuperBetter presents you with tasks and challenges designed to increase your resilience and ability to stay strong, motivated, and optimistic even in the face of difficult obstacles. The idea: Developing these skills inside the game will translate to the same skills IRL. Over 30 days, SuperBetter may help improve mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increase self-confidence in goal-crushing, according to a small study at the University of Pennsylvania. (Also consider taking an impromptu trip for a mental health boost.)