What options are available to you if you want to receive expert counseling?
What if you do not want to, or cannot, meet a counselor face-to-face?
With the increasing use of technology, people can find 24/7/365 counseling support worldwide, and that is only one of the benefits.
The cost of delivering this type of counseling is much less, making it a realistic, affordable option for many more people.
Here you can explore some of the best apps for various types of counseling. Some are free, while others require a monthly subscription. Regardless, there is something for everyone. See also: 19 Helpful Coaching Apps and Software to Upgrade Your Practice.
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4 Best Counseling Apps
Highlighted here are services that connect people to licensed counselors and therapists. All of these are available 24/7/365. These first three are not apps per se but are technology-driven approaches that do not require in-person contact.
Talkspace provides access to licensed therapists in a confidential, HIPAA-compliant online environment.
Users are matched with therapists in their state of residence. Support is accomplished through secure messaging and live video sessions. To start, users complete a brief online assessment.
This is a subscription-based service with no contracts and three pricing tiers. All amounts are in USD.
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: Includes text, video & audio messaging. Your therapist responds to messages daily, five days/week—entry-level package.
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: Includes text, video & audio messaging + 1 Live Session/month. Your therapist responds to messages daily, five days/week—mid-level package.
- LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate: Includes text, video & audio messaging + 4 Live Sessions/month. Your therapist responds to messages daily, five days/week—top-level package.
Note that couples’ therapy is also available, as are additional video sessions for a fee. Talkspace works with employee assistance programs, so inquire with the benefits coordinator at your place of employment.
The Talkspace services are available outside of the United States, but clients need to keep in mind that most of the therapists are US-based.
2. Better Help
Better Help is another online counseling option. The licensed therapists can work with everything from depression and anxiety to relationships, anger, self-esteem, and more.
All a person needs to do to begin is:
- Answer a few questions about yourself and the challenges you are currently facing.
- Create a private username and password to get access to the system.
- Enter payment information. Plans start at a set fee per week, and you can apply for financial aid.
- Based on your needs, they will match you with a qualified licensed professional counselor. If you are not satisfied, you can switch at any time.
- Begin the counseling process in any way that you want: text, phone, or video.
Like the previous two, MDLive offers access to resources, including licensed therapists.
Unlike the others, users can communicate with medical, mental health, and dermatology providers. Counseling services are only available in the United States.
The exception in this list is MoodKit. While the above may have apps that are used to connect the client with a provider, MoodKit does not.
This app, like all of the remaining apps in this article, is self-service approaches to mental health and wellness.
MoodKit is available in the App Store, but not Google Play. It utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help a person cope with negative thinking patterns.
This app has a journal, thought checker, activities to try, and a mood tracker. It is reasonably affordable. There are no text, video, or chat interactions with a licensed therapist or counselor.
For Career Counseling
If you are looking for ways to advance your career, mentoring is a great thing to do.
Edggi is a free career and mentoring app that helps users connect with experienced professionals in a variety of fields and industries. Participants can chat, voice or video call each other.
Available in the Google Play Store.
2. Career & Ability Tests
Someone who is new to the professional working environment or changing careers will find the Career & Ability Tests developed by Frozen Leaf Creations helpful.
You can explore and learn more about yourself through a personality, career/aptitude, and an ability test.
Available in the Google Play Store.
3. Career Guide
Navigating the work world can be daunting, especially for students.
The Career Guide app offers information and descriptions about 200 career options and courses. It includes basic salary details, work hours, and additional education requirements.
Available in the Google Play Store.
4. Coach Accountable
People seeking career counseling also can connect with a life coach or executive coach.
Some coaches use tools like Coach Accountable to assist clients in achieving their goals.
To use this application, the coach must add the client by invitation. Inside the app, users access journals, complete assignments and actions, and track goals using a visually-appealing metrics tool.
They also can schedule appointments with their coach.
Apps for Relationship and Marriage Counseling
Shine self-care app
Improving any relationship involves working on oneself first.
The Shine self-care app designed by Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey in collaboration with psychologist, Anna Rowley, assists users to do this. The key areas addressed by the app are learning how to manage stress better and calm oneself.
Shine offers two tiers: free and premium. Both include motivational messages and research-backed strategies for stress-reduction, increasing confidence, and becoming more productive. Shine Talks are meditations to help users learn to speak more compassionately to themselves.
The free version has a few of these each week, but the premium version has more than 500, plus challenges designed to help people in specific areas like confidence and burnout. There also is gratitude tracking, journaling, and an emotion check-in feature, though the availability depends on which version you use.
Gottman Card Decks
Gottman Card Decks, developed by The Gottman Institute, helps couples connect through a series of cards divided into categories within the app. Each category contains questions, statements, and ideas for improving your relationship.
You can explore:
- Love Maps
- Open-ended Questions
- Rituals of Connection
- Sex Questions to ask a Man
- Sex Questions to ask a Woman
- Give Appreciation
- I feel
- Salsa (mild)
- Salsa (medium)
- Salsa (hot)
- Expressing needs
- Expressing empathy
- Great listening
The information included in the app comes from “40 years of research with more than 3000 couples” who have participated in The Art and Science of Love weekend workshop. Research resulting from the workshops demonstrates that four conditions lead to increased marital satisfaction and decreased problems with friendships and destructive conflict at one-year follow-up (Babcock, Gottman, Ryan, & Gottman, 2013).
- friendship enhancement alone,
- conflict management alone,
- combined friendship enhancement + conflict management; or,
Through the use of brief, 5-minute sessions, couples use the Lasting app to strengthen their relationship. Three principles guide the creation of all the sessions. They are:
- Emotional connection is the foundation of a healthy, lifelong marriage
- Your ‘inner world’ is the foundation of healthy marriage communication
- Selfless, “we-inspired” actions protect and enhance your marriage health
All of the content is based on marriage research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, Dr. Sue Johnson, Dr. Lesley Verhofstadt, Dr. Ted L. Huston, Dr. Renate M. Houts, Dr. Robert Levenson, Dr. Clifford Notarius, Dr. Howard Markman, Dr. Thomas Bradbury, Dr. Frank Fincham, and others (Lasting, n.d.). To begin using the app, complete a relationship quiz.
The Foundations sessions are free, but anything beyond that is for a fixed fee per month after a 7-day free trial.
Regain offers professional counseling from state-certified therapists. Each partner shares the same account and communicates together or independently with the therapist. Accessible, convenient, and discreet, this type of application makes achieving your relationship goals easier.
All information is confidential. To use the system, users can opt to provide a nickname that is seen by the therapist and partner. Emergency contact information is requested and made available to the counselor if a need arises.
Counseling costs through Regain varies per week and are billed monthly.
Happy Couple is a fun game app created to improve communication. Partners earn points and achieve levels by correctly answering questions to daily quizzes.
Partners do not necessarily receive the same questions in their daily quizzes. This keeps things exciting and fresh.
Each partner answers five questions and guesses their partner’s response. You also receive daily tips and personalized challenges. The app is designed to spark conversation through gamification. Users can even comment on each other’s responses using GIFs.
2 Apps for Kids and Teens
Mightier by Neuromotion Labs includes a heart rate monitor, tablet loaded with interactive games, and monthly consultations.
Developed by leading researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical school, the games help children gain self-regulation skills.
As children engage with the games, the wristband monitors their heart rate. If their heart rate exceeds a predetermined level, the game stops, allowing the child or teen to practice specific calming techniques. Neuromotion Labs (n.d.) tested their system in “four trials, including two double-blind, randomized controlled trials.” Their research has shown the following results:
- 40% less oppositional behaviors
- 19% lower parent stress
- 62% reduced child outbursts
For parents, Mightier is used to track and set goals for their child and interact with a larger community of parents. Each parent also receives clinical support through coaching.
The gaming library includes 25+ games designed to entertain and teach. There are racing, problem-solving, pattern recognition, and adventure games. Mightier is designed and tested for children aged six to fourteen, but it also can be used by the entire family. The games address emotional control challenges faced by individuals with:
- Tantrums & Meltdowns
Neuromotion Labs offers a 30-day, risk-free trial. It is available internationally.
The NotOk app designed by sister-brother duo, Hannah and Charlie Lucas, connects the user with trusted contacts in times of overwhelm.
It is a digital panic button to get the person immediate help when they need it most, but might otherwise not reach out. It is based on the premise that peer support, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) (n.d.):
- Yields improvement in psychiatric symptoms and decreased hospitalization (Galanter, 1988);
- Leads to more extensive social support networks (Rappaport et al., 1992);
- Enhances self-esteem and social functioning (Markowtiz, DeMasi, Knight, & Solka, 1996); and,
- Leads to decreased lengths of hospital stays, as well as lower services costs overall (Dumont & Jones, 2002).
To set things up, the person adds up to five trusted contacts. The contacts can choose to accept or decline. After the contact accepts, all the user needs to do is tap the red notOK button. From there the following message is sent:
“Hey, I’m notOK! Please call, text, or come find me.”
Features include a simple message that is immediately sent to the person’s trusted contacts, along with an accurate GPS location. Trusted contacts do not need to download the app to assist the person.
Although this app is intended for teens, it can be used by anyone who needs added support.
A Look at 3 Free Counseling Apps
What’s Up helps you combat negative thinking patterns through the use of CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods. These approaches are utilized to manage depression, anxiety, anger, and stress.
The app includes a diary, habit tracker, catastrophe scale, a grounding game, and three easy-to-learn breathing techniques. Users learn simple tools to manage twelve of the most common negative thinking patterns.
Mindshift (™) CBT developed by Anxiety Canada is a scientifically-based anxiety tool that also uses CBT techniques.
Included are quick relief activities, a thought journal, coping cards, belief experiments, facing fears and expanding your comfort zone activities, a chill zone to listen to guided meditations, a check-in, tips for creating healthy habits, and goal-setting tools.
MoodTools is a free app, contains no advertisements, and was created by a non-profit. You can use it to track your thoughts, activities, develop a safety plan, take the PHQ-9 depression questionnaire, and discover useful YouTube videos.
All of the suggested activities are based on Behavioral Activation Therapy.
A Take-Home Message
While no counseling app can replace face-to-face counseling, each of these still offers substantial benefits, including 24/7/365 access, confidentiality, gamification, licensed therapists, and research-backed material.
If you are isolated at home, pressed for time, money, or prefer anonymity, using apps is a viable option.
What apps would you recommend?
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.
- Babcock, J.C., Gottman, J. M., Ryan, K.D., & Gottman, J.S. (July 16, 2013). A component analysis of a brief psycho‐educational couples’ workshop: one‐year follow‐up results. Journal of Family Therapy, 35(3), 252-280.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (n.d.). Peer support research: A promising new approach. Retrieved March 10, 2020, from https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/clinicians/research-studies/peer-support-research/
- Neuromotion Labs (n.d.). Mightier scientific overview. Retrieved March 10, 2020, from https://www.mightier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/ScientificOverview.pdf