10 years ago, there was a certain degree of stigma attached to seeing a therapist. It invoked a mental image of you lying on a velvet couch describing your childhood and it was assumed it meant you had serious psychological issues.
Now, it’s far more well accepted that seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re ‘crazy’. Since a certain amount of therapy sessions became rebatable through Medicare in 2006, more than 1.5 million Australians have visited a psychologist for a range of mental health issues.
In recent years, there’s also been a shift away from the idea that there actually has to be something ‘wrong’ with you to see a therapist. In places like LA and NYC, many people are extremely proactive about their mental wellbeing. They regular visit a therapist to to discuss anything from relationship issues to work stress — and it’s considered as normal as having a GP or personal trainer.
This attitude is slowly becoming more common in Australia, with people realising it’s sometimes just helpful to get an unbiased perspective on a situation — and there’s only so much venting your hairdresser or barista can take! A growing number of therapy apps are making it even easier to do just that. But what do these apps actually do and can they replace seeing a psychologist face to face?
What are therapy apps?
Put simply, therapy apps provide mental health assistance to people who don’t have the means to see a psychologist face-to-face — whether it’s because they can’t afford it, live in a rural area or their regular therapist is out of town. They work in a variety of different ways, depending on the app. Some work by being like a therapist in your pocket, allowing you to communicate with a licensed psychologist via video chat or text message at any time. Others are more like a mental health tracker or ongoing self-help program.
As for whether these apps can actually be considered a decent alternative to seeing a therapist in person? The psychology world can’t quite seem to agree on that. While some psychologists praise therapy apps for making mental health cheaper and more accessible, others argue that you don’t get the same level of care and individual attention as you would in person.
However, there is one thing they all agree on — therapy apps can’t completely replace ongoing, face-to-face sessions when it comes to more complicated and severe mental health issues. If you think what you’re experiencing is more than just a blue mood or a bit of stress, it’s worth chatting to your GP to figure out how best to proceed. But if you believe a mental health app could be useful for you, scroll through the gallery to find out which one best suits your needs.
Mindsail is like having your own personal life coach at your fingertips. Their on-demand programs cover everything from stress and sleep to relationships and include bite-sized coaching sessions, visualisations and breathing exercises. We also love the MoodBoost feature: 5 minute meditatuons that help change a negative mindset into a positive one. Perfect for before a job interview or big work meeting!
If you’re a chronic worrywart (guilty!) this free app from ReachOut is about to become your new best friend. Unlike well-meaning loved ones it won’t tell you to simply ‘stop worrying’. Instead, you add in what’s worrying you and it gives you a designated ‘worry time’ — during which you’ll allowed to fret. After that has passed, you have to move on with your life! It’s a simple tool that goes a long way when it come to getting some mental distance from your troubles.
With Talkspace, you answer a questionnaire and are matched with a virtual counsellor based on your individual needs. For $32 per week, you then can chat to them via text up to two times per day, with the option to also schedule video calls. There are also unlimited messaging options for a higher price, as well as a couple’s therapy version.
Moodnotes is like a fitness tracker for your emotions. Each day, it asks you to rate how you’re feeling and depending on your answer, it may ask you to dig a little deeper into you’re feeling that way. Its based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, so it’s all about uncovering patterns in your thoughts and feelings in order to change them for the better.
Download here (iPhone)
5. Smiling Mind
There are lots of great meditation apps out there, but Smiling Mind has been specifically developed by psychologists to address mental health issues like stress and anxiety. It also has an in-built mood tracker, which encourages you to compare your mood before and after meditation.