Mental health apps let you access therapy from your smartphone

It’s the thought that counts – so log it (Image: TruReach)

Lie down anywhere that suits: the world is now your therapist’s couch. A wide range of apps now deliver mental-health care straight to your smartphone.

With PTSD Coach, users can discreetly screen themselves and learn more about the disorder. Moodnotes keeps track of emotional swings and offers new perspectives on a situation. And on Talkspace, for a weekly fee, users can anonymously text a therapist any time and receive a response within the next few hours.

More than 150,000 people have tried Talkspace so far, says co-founder Oren Frank. For nearly half of them, it’s their first brush with therapy. “Therapy becomes a daily experience, much more in tune with what happens to you on a daily basis,” he says.

Next week, another app in this vein debuts: TruReach Health, offering free lessons in cognitive behavioural therapy, a treatment that teaches people to recognise and alter negative patterns in their thoughts or behaviours.

Each lesson takes the form of a short animated video. In between, users practise what they’ve learned by scribbling down their thoughts in a digital journal. The app will be tested in a clinical setting at Royal Ottawa hospital in Canada and in trials involving students at a nearby university.

Avoiding stigma

TruReach Health was created by Jeff Perron, a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa. He says the app isn’t meant to replace face-to-face therapy, but to provide a substitute for those who don’t have access to it – whether for fear of social stigma or simply the expense.

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