The Best Telemental Health Apps to Get Therapy From Home

James J. Latham

Job loss, impending recession, looming health risks, disrupted wellness routines, confinement to tiny apartments—the COVID-19 pandemic gives even the calmest of people reasons to be anxious. In fact, the non-profit Mental Health America reports they’ve seen a 12 to 19 percent uptick in screening for generalized anxiety disorders since February. The […]

Job loss, impending recession, looming health risks, disrupted wellness routines, confinement to tiny apartments—the COVID-19 pandemic gives even the calmest of people reasons to be anxious. In fact, the non-profit Mental Health America reports they’ve seen a 12 to 19 percent uptick in screening for generalized anxiety disorders since February. The need for some facet of therapy to keep mental health in check has never been greater.

“Traditionally, men express more worry about employment and finances, and COVID-19 is extra hard because there’s such a lack of control and security about the future,” says Mental Health America’s chief program officer, Theresa Nguyen, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

It’s super important for everyone to have a toolbox of ways to cope with all the things the pandemic—or, for that matter, life—throws at them. The easiest way to stock that box right now: apps and digital platforms that support mental health.

We’re not just talking about teletherapy (though that’s definitely an option). There are tons of programs that teach you skills like mindfulness, mood tracking, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies, which you can pull out when your parents ring and report they aren’t feeling well or your boss starts talking about budget cuts.

Here’s what you need to know.

It’s Totally Normal to Feel Off Right Now

“There are a wide range of responses to the pandemic: Some men are feeling intense fear about the virus impacting themselves and their loved ones, while others feel relaxed and are enjoying working from home and having a change of pace,” says Chicago-based therapist Rachel Kazez, LCSW, founder of All Along, which helps connect people with the right kind of therapy for them. “Some feel worried about having just lost their jobs, others may feel bored.”

In Other Words: There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Feel Right Now

What the coronavirus has done is offer a collective experience where we almost have an excuse to bolster our mental health, Nguyen points out. Not that you need one. But the collective temperature of the world has certainly removed any shame or view of self-help as a weakness—because everyone is doing it.

Feeling Off May Look Different Than You Expect

Because we’re around fewer people during self-isolation, it can be hard to recognize classic symptoms of struggle like being withdrawn, irritable, or having unwanted thoughts.

Also, because men generally talk less about their mental state and emotions with one another, you might not realize that depression and anxiety often manifest as anger, aggression, risky behavior, and excessive drinking, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

It doesn’t have to reach that level for you to want to fix it: Nguyen suggests considering your personal thresholds. If it’s normal for you to have, say, three nights of bad sleep a week, but now you’re tossing and turning five out of seven nights, that’s a sign the worries or stress may have escalated. If you’re normally calmed by one or two drinks at night, but now you’re putting back four or five regularly, you may be fighting certain woes and not even realize it. (Though pacifying any qualms with alcohol is not advisable in any amount.)

You also don’t necessarily need a cut-and-dry reason to seek help: “Seeking preventative help is actually the best strategy, since it can teach you tools like breathing or CBT that you then know when you’re having trouble calming down or spiraling with stress over finances,” Nguyen says.

Why Telemental Health?

Well, for starters, our entire lives are going virtual for a little while, so it’s the main form of aid available.

But teletherapy, compared to in-person sessions, can feel especially convenient and safe, Kazez points out. “Going into a therapy office carries some stigma, especially for men in America, whereas having a meeting by phone or video chat is more neutral.”

What’s more, it lets you dabble in being vulnerable without anyone seeing. “Some men are totally comfortable recognizing and talking about their feelings. But if you’re not, telehealth is great because you’re learning how to put words to your emotions—and be comfortable doing so—often with zero financial investment and less of a time commitment since it’s from your couch,” Nguyen says.

The skill-based apps in particular are great because they’ll teach you skills that could not only improve your mental state, but also help benefit your work productivity, romantic relationships, even your workouts, Kazez points out.

So if you feel like your headspace—whether related to the pandemic or just general stresses of life—is starting to affect your ability to live at your happiest day-to-day, telemental health can help.

Here are 14 apps to check out.

Skill Building

Therapy helps you process what you’re feeling, but coping skills help you actually deal with those feelings in the moment. These apps teach the foundational skills that can help dissipate anger, rein in anxiety, and avoid overreactions.

Breathe2Relax
This barebones app centers around one super-basic concept: Diaphragmatic breathing can help manage anxiety, stress, and anger. (It can also boost your workouts.) This platform, developed by a branch of the military’s Defense Health Agency, teaches you different patterns of deep breathing that can get your nervous system under control. It’s pretty basic but offers a no-frills approach to help manage those overwhelming feelings when they pop up.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Moodpath
If you feel off but can’t quite assess how serious it is, check out Moodpath. The app checks in three times a day with questions that adapt to your responses, offering advice and other resources depending on what your mood indicates you need. The statistics help visualize your headspace patterns over the last few weeks, and their resource library provides things like guided meditation and sleep aids to help you cope.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Mindshift CBT
Research shows that over 60 percent of people who learn CBT improve their anxiety. The technique teaches you to recognize unhelpful thought patterns and rewire your response to be more realistic and positive—and that’s exactly what this app from Anxiety Canada helps you learn. In addition to behavioral suggestions and thought journals, the “quick relief” section is super helpful for adjusting your thinking and taking steps to cope, stat.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Sanvello
Sanvello is great to learn the building blocks that help with anxiety, stress, and mood concerns. It teaches you to work in the small ways—providing daily mood check-ins to highlight patterns, lessons on cognitive behavioral techniques, beginner’s visualization and deep-breathing exercises. It’s an awesome tool to add to your work in therapy, or to help you recognize patterns and dabble in self-help. Oh, and the company is offering free premium access to help folks get through the pandemic.
(Free for now; Sanvello.com)

InsightTimer
In case you missed it, meditation can seriously help pretty much every mood concern. InsightTimer offers a free library of guided meditations, long and short, for every kind of situation—coping with anxiety, managing stress, calming kids, and improving sleep.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Community Convos

If you need more personalized support but one-on-one sessions with a therapist sound intimidating, check out peer-to-peer support and group conversations. They can help you realize what you’re feeling is totally normal and discover creative solutions other guys have used to help deal.

Hims Group Talks
Men’s wellness brand Hims has launched free support groups to help guys cope during the pandemic. Every session is led by a therapist and focuses on a different concern, with topics like Coping with Grief in Isolation and Finding Your Focus and Motivation. Guys can even submit questions to the host before the session goes live to address their own burning concerns. And it’s totally anonymous.
(Free; ForHims.com)

TalkLife
Hearing that other people are experiencing the same thoughts and emotions as you can be super helpful, both in dealing with anxiety and depression, as well as combating loneliness in isolation. TalkLife lets you post your woes, message board-style, to their thousands of users who are going through similar struggles. The interface is simple, aesthetically pleasing, and optionally anonymous.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Therapeer
Think of this as an intimate guys group, exclusively for emotional concerns: Therapeer is a platform of tons of different support rooms dedicated to one specific issue (divorce, parenting, anxiety). You and a few peers can post about what you’re going through and offer advice to each other. Each room is limited to three people to keep the support intimate and uber-private, though the messages are also completely anonymous.
(Free; iOS and Android)

FishBowl
This app is not actually about mental health, per se—it’s a professional advice-seeking network. You can post questions big or small, anonymous or not, related to your specific job, company, or industry overall. If your COVID-19 anxiety stems from professional decisions—you were offered a job right as the pandemic hit but can’t decide if staying or going is riskier, or you have to let go of three team members and are paralyzed with indecision—this peer-to-peer advice may be the support you need.
(Free; iOS and Android)

Talk Therapy

A good counselor is basically like talking to a friend—without any judgement and with way better advice. Even through a screen, they can help you process what you’re feeling and put names to emotions. If in-person therapy interests you more, check out counselors and therapists in your area—pretty much everyone is offering virtual sessions during stay-at-home orders. Then you could move to face-to-face with someone you’ve already learned to trust. But if you want to just dip your toe into talk therapy, or like the anonymity of virtual, here are the best of the best:

7Cups
7Cups is great if you need to talk to someone ASAP—especially if you’re worried about the cost. You can be connected with a trained volunteer for free, similar to a crisis support line. If you want or need deeper help, the platform offers sessions with licensed professionals for a monthly fee of $150, which is cheaper than most alternatives.
(Free to $150/mo; iOS and Android)

iPrevail
IPrevail combines many types of telemental health. You take a quiz and based on the results, you’re given a CBT program tailored specifically to your needs, including interactive lessons and behavioral tools. You’re also paired with a peer coach—not a licensed therapist (though that’s available for a slight price), but a “trained listener” who specializes in talking through the kind of issues your assessment highlights as most irksome. To top it off, iPrevail has support communities of other users, which focus on things like stress, anxiety, and depression.
(Free to $10/mo; iOS and Android)

Talkspace
One of the leading teletherapy services, TalkSpace matches you with a licensed therapist whom you have access to day or night. That means if you’re dealing with anxiety that ebbs and flows, you can text or video message your support system whenever it hits. You’ll either get direct advice or set up a time to revisit the experience later. Live video sessions (the equivalent of an appointment) will cost you extra, but Talkspace partners with a lot of employers and health plans to cover some of the costs. If you’re most comfortable sharing through texts, but want that licensed advice, Michael Phelps’ favorite therapy app may be a great fit for you.
($65/wk and up; iOS and Android)

BetterHelp
BetterHelp is really the gold standard of teletherapy. They have one of the largest networks of licensed counselors (great if you’re picky about who you open up to) whom you can connect with via texts, video chats, or phone calls. They also offer virtual couples counseling. Unlike their competitors, BetterHelp offers unlimited live sessions with their base subscription but still provides access to text your therapist anytime you need.
($40/wk and up; iOS and Android)

LARKR
LARKR matches you with a licensed counselor, with whom you can make a 50-minute video sessions appointment. It also offers a daily mood tracker so you and your therapist can find patterns in your emotions. It includes special features like guided meditations and recording “daily acts of good” to improve self-worth and happiness.
($85/session; iOS only)


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