Although the use of technology in mental health treatment is relatively new there are many apps out there that can be a complement to individual therapy. These apps are especially useful for those who don’t seek out help because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
Over the last few months my psychiatrist has encouraged me to try out a lot of different apps as a way of helping me sleep and to manage my stress and anxiety. For me, lack of sleep is a trigger for hypomanic episodes while high levels of stress and anxiety can spiral me into a depressive episode. Here are the ones I’ve found to be most helpful to my own situation.
ReliefLink. This is a self-harm and suicide prevention app that helps you track your moods, tweets you regular affirmations, and helps you make a safety plan. It also puts you in touch with nearby resources, including support groups, therapists, and treatment services. I especially love the daily affirmations and the relaxation exercises you can use to help distract yourself.
Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson. Sleep is crucial to your mental health. This particular app guides you through muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises in 20 minute intervals. You can set how many times you want the exercises to repeat and whether you want to wake up or continue sleeping. My psychiatrist encouraged me to use this particular app when I had insomnia and recurring nightmares and night sweats. While I don’t have to use Deep Sleep as often now it was really effective in helping me get to sleep and stay asleep through the night.
Personal Zen. Warning: this app is highly addictive! Personal zen is a game that trains your mind to focus away from the negative and towards the positive. Not only is it fun but studies show it’s effective at reducing stress and boosting well-being. Essentially you trace a trail as quickly and precisely as you can. Get in enough turns and your “mellow yellow” mood can turn into laid back.
HeadSpace. This apps teaches mindfulness and meditation techniques to train your mind. You can test it out through their “Take 10” program which teaches you the basics of meditation in 10 minute exercises. If you want access to more content then you’ll have to subscribe but it’s well worth it! There are hundreds of exercises and you can choose ones specific to your area of interest. For example, happiness, relationships, or work performance. Many treatment programs are beginning to incorporate the practice of mindfulness as a complement to individual therapy.
Optimism. This app is super easy to use and was really helpful to me in understanding my mental health. It’s mostly intended for people with depression and bipolar disorder but anyone can use it as a self-help tool to maintain good health. In this app, you’re basically keeping a journal of everything that can affect your mind (e.g. triggers, symptoms, notes, stay well strategies). By charting these over time you can begin to identify patterns in your life and even some of the negative influences impacting your mind. What I love the most about this app is that it notifies you based on your responses if you’re potentially headed towards depression or mania. If you are, then it will remind you to take action and will even give you coping cards like “go take a 15 minute walk” or “call a friend”.
Talkspace Therapy. The frustrating part of setting up appointments with a therapist or psychiatrist is the amount of time you actually have to wait to get in. When I was in self-harm mode they told me it would be at least two days to see a psychiatrist (not good). Then, after my stay in the psychiatric unit, I couldn’t get into my new therapist for two months. Although I haven’t personally used Talkspace Therapy I nevertheless wanted to highlight it here for those who don’t seek help out of fear, judgment, and stigma. By using this app you can get guidance and advice from licensed therapists immediately. It’s confidential AND it’s free!