Choosing the best mental health app in 2023

Published on February 15th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether you’re looking for an app to track your mood or to help when an anxiety attack hits, mental health apps are on the rise. It’s thought there’s up to 20,000 mental health apps to help on the market, so knowing which one will actually help and which will just take up data storage is important. Let’s take a look at how to choose the best mental health app for your health in 2023.

What are the different types of mental health apps? 

There are lots of different types of mental health apps on the market. Some of these apps are designed to help you understand your mental health better and others are specifically designed to help you adapt self-management strategies to cope. These apps include:

Mental health tracking apps.
These apps allow you to easily track your mood. Not only is this a great way to get an overall picture of your mental health over a longer period of time but you can also gain insights into how certain triggers or life events impact your mental health.

Journaling apps.
Journaling apps allow you to write down your feelings in one safe space. Some people use journaling apps for prompts to write in a physical journal, whilst others choose to record it all in the app. There are different types of journals. For example, you might use a gratitude journal to record the things you’re grateful for at the beginning of the day or a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy journal) to help you challenge negative thoughts.

Counselling apps.
Counselling apps allow you to connect directly with therapists. The counselling may be done via phone, online chat or even email messages. Counselling apps may be used alongside regular therapy or to replace it, especially if you can’t access face-to-face therapy right now.

General self-care apps.
There are lots of general self-care apps that can also be beneficial to your overall mental well-being. These might include apps that feature mindfulness activities, general self-care prompts or even a specific type of self-care, such as colouring, manifestation prompts or brain busy tasks like word searches.

What should I look for in a mental health app?

There are several things to consider when looking for a mental health app to download. The first is to look for an app that offers flexibility and customisation. Whilst you may want to just rate your mood on a sliding scale, look for an app that allows you to add extra notes to get a clearer picture.

Another thing to look for is shareability. You might choose to share the app with your therapist or GP to get an idea if you need extra support. If you are taking antidepressants, you may want to share information with your doctor so they can alter your dose going forward. 

Privacy & Security.
Firstly, let’s talk about privacy. If you’re thinking of using a mental health app, you want to make sure that your data is as private and secure as possible. 

Both the Apple App Store and Android Play Store make it easy to review the measures taken by an app to keep your data private and secure. These measures include an explanation of:

    • What data is being collected
    • What data is being shared
    • Why this data is being collected
    • Whether collecting the data is optional
    • The security practices of the App

Some important things to look out for are:

    • Can your data be deleted?
    • How much Personally Identifiable Data (PII) is being collected and for what reason?
    • Is your data encrypted?

If you’re unsure about the privacy and security of your health data it could also be helpful to read the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy or you could even contact the developers directly. 

Note. If you live in the US and are concerned about details of your reproductive health being shared with law enforcement officials, you can look for apps that are based outside of the US and that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the US legal system.

One of the best ways to determine which mental health app is right for you is to read other people’s testimonials. Specifically looking for reviews written by people with similar mental health conditions. If using a counselling app, it’s important to ensure the therapists are accredited and qualified.

Insights & Reports.
One of the unique benefits of mental health apps is you can use them to identify what may help and worsen your mental health. For example…

    • Mood trends so you can understand how certain triggers impact your mental well-being.
    • Correlations between your mental health and medication or therapy.
    • How a specific event or change may be impacting your overall mood score.

How can I choose the right mental health app for me?

There are several things to consider when choosing the right mental health app for you. Firstly, consider why you’re planning to use an app. If it’s to get a clearer overall picture of your mental health, then choose an app that allows you to track this over longer time periods, in relation to other triggers (such as stress level or sleep). Make sure the app allows you to track in a way that works for you (e.g. a simple scoring system or taking more detailed notes). If you are receiving treatment for your mental health, you may look for a mental health app that allows you to share this information easily with your therapist or GP. 

If you are using an app to help your overall mental health, consider what strategies have proven useful for you in the past. If you know you struggle to sit still for ten minutes, don’t download a mindfulness app that will expect you to do just that. Consider how much time you have to dedicate to your mental well-being. There are some simple mental health apps that allow you to record a gratitude prompt in just a minute, whilst if you have more time to spend, you may choose to download a journaling app.

Finally, consider if you will use this app to replace or exist alongside current therapy. If the former, it’s really important to ensure the app provides a type of therapy that is comprehensive and delivered by a qualified professional.

What are the benefits of mental health apps?

There are many benefits to using a mental health app-both for doctors and their patients.

Better insight into mental health.
The most obvious one is that mental health apps can give you more insight into mental health to understand it better. The simple act of recording your mood scores and mental well-being over a set period of time can help get a clearer picture of your overall mental health. Sometimes we don’t realise we’re spiralling until our symptoms worsen significantly so ultimately this could allow you to access earlier intervention.

Overall benefits on your mental wellbeing.
Mental health apps can also allow you to understand if certain things worsen your mental health so you can act accordingly. For example, you may notice that caffeine is making your anxiety worse or meditation has a really positive effect on your depression. Apps with self-monitoring features are thought to help your emotional self-awareness which can in turn reduce mental illness symptoms and improve coping skills.

Help with specific mental health symptoms.
Mental health apps can also help with specific mental health symptoms. For example, CBT apps may help you deal with negative thoughts whilst gratitude apps may help with low moods. There’s evidence that technology can be just as helpful with mental health symptoms as face-to-face therapy. For example, online CBT has been found to help various disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder and OCD. Whilst we know interventions don’t need to be in person to be effective, there’s not much scientific evidence yet on mental health apps specifically as they’re a relatively new phenomenon. This shouldn’t discourage you from using them, especially if they’re the only option available to you. However, you might benefit from tracking the impact on your symptoms and well-being over time to ensure that it’s having a positive impact. When possible you might also benefit from also speaking with your doctor about your use of the app.

When do therapists recommend using a mental health app?

Many therapists say using mental health apps can complement their existing services and ensure the patient can work on their mental well-being 24/7. “Mental health apps can encourage users to manage their mental health independently outside their sessions, which can give them a greater sense of autonomy,” says Psychotherapist Rachel Rushe of CYP Wellbeing, which provides well-being for children and young people.

Therapists also appreciate using mental health apps to get a wider sense of their patient’s mental health. “Mental health apps are also brilliant in helping users track patterns and themes with regard to mental health. It’s often helpful to bring these recognised patterns to therapy sessions to discuss strategies to use, break cycles and overcome and self-sabotaging habits,” she adds.

What do users want from a mental health app?

Many mental health users want an app that is simple to use but creates a big impact. “I look for an app to help me simply log three good things every night before bed. I focus on things that I’m grateful for and it creates a positive reaction in my brain. Going to sleep with happy thoughts makes for a better night’s sleep!” says Kristen Whitehouse, a mental health app user and women’s fitness expert. 

Others look for mental health apps with more space to record their thoughts. “I use an app to help my mind declutter. I struggle with panic attacks and too much information in my mind can give me anxiety. I use a mental health app to write down my thoughts-good or bad-to improve my own well-being,” says Robert Bolohan, a language translator.

Some patients find apps with insights useful. “I can find myself feeling particularly low some days and can’t always pinpoint. So I will use a mental health app which reminds me where I am in my cycle. It’s reassuring to match my mood to my hormones,” says Sarah Birchall.

Finally, some use apps to help keep track of simple self-care habits. “I use a habit tracker app to help motivate me to keep up with better self-care habits. I set goals and find it helps to have a visual record of my progress,” says Stacie Swift.


    • There’s a huge range of mental health apps, so consider if you need a mood tracker, mental health self-management tools or both.

    • Consider how much time you have to commit to using mental health apps: features range from entering a numerical value to having space to write down your innermost thoughts.

    • Consider how mental health apps can support your existing treatment. It may be worth chatting with your therapist to see what they recommend.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.