Each person’s mental health journey is different, and so are the tools that can help people manage their mental and emotional well-being. Mental health apps, a helpful addition to therapy, are smartphone-based programs aimed at teaching people skills to reduce stress and improve their overall emotional health. The HelpGuide Handbook team has researched and personally tested the top mental health apps. Here are the five we recommend.

Our picks for best mental health apps

Our testing experience

The Handbook Team has researched over 70 mental health support sites and platforms so far, including mental health apps, online therapy platforms, and mental health provider networks and directories. We determine the top platforms through our research, and then sign up for and test them ourselves. Here’s what we do with each online therapy platform and mental health app we test:

Our Online Therapy Testing Process
Fill out the intake assessment. Fill out the intake assessment.
Subscribe as a new user. Subscribe as a new user.
Get matched with a therapist. Get matched with a therapist.
Schedule and attend sessions on the platform for one month. Schedule and attend sessions on the platform for one month.
Go through the steps to switch therapists. Go through the steps to switch therapists.
Contact customer support with questions. Contact customer support with questions.
Explore platform features such as journals, worksheets, and group sessions. Explore platform features such as journals, worksheets, and group sessions.
Cancel subscription. Cancel subscription.

Our testers are instructed to test the platforms through the lens of a real user. Each tester logs their experience in a diary and comes together to share their findings when testing is concluded. To better understand each app’s benefits and limitations, we also survey hundreds of online therapy users and talk to real mental health app users about their experience. 

Mental health apps vs online therapy platforms 

While both are intended to support your overall mental health, mental health apps and online therapy platforms fulfill different needs. Mental health apps support users in building healthy habits, such as meditation, positive thinking, and mindfulness. Online therapy platforms often have built-in apps with habit-building features, but their main benefit is access to one-on-one therapy with a licensed mental health provider focused on your needs. 

Though mental health apps can be used on their own to help build healthy habits, the therapists we spoke to recommend using mental health apps in conjunction with therapy, especially if you’re trying to manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Two of the mental health app users we interviewed for this article started using the apps following a recommendation from their therapist. 

Some online therapy platforms we’ve reviewed, like Brightside, also have apps that complement the therapy services you receive on the platform. We included one of these apps in our review as an option for people who are interested in a smartphone-based mental health app, but also need the additional support of one-on-one therapy. 

From our tester

“Even though it was initially overwhelming, I appreciate the app’s variety of offerings. It’s cool that I can customize meditations and mindfulness exercises by my experience level and interests. For me, a meditation app like this isn’t a replacement for therapy, but it’s still helpful.”

The experts we spoke to named data tracking, visual reminders, and recognition of progress as the primary benefits of mental health apps. However, mental health apps require more self-motivation than therapy alone, and you may need to use them in conjunction with therapy to reap their full benefits. 

What we want the most as providers of mental health care, is for clients to have a positive experience, whether with an app or a human professional. When the patient feels they have failed, the hope and belief that they can be helped and improve can wane and we do not want that to happen ever.

 Itala Azzarelli, LCSW, ASDCS

In a mental health emergency:

Online therapists or mental health apps may not be the most appropriate resource to help in a mental health crisis. If you or someone you know is a danger to themselves or others around them, it is an emergency and cannot wait.

Don’t wait. You can find help immediately by:

All the above options will connect you with trained professionals who can provide crisis support. You can find even more resources, including international options, on our helpline directory page.

Compare the best mental health apps of 2024

Best for Combining 1:1 therapy and guided mental health support in one app Meditation Stress relief Mindfulness
Monthly Cost $95–$349* $12.99 (or $69.99 annually) $37.25 (four-month auto-renew plan for $149) $16.99 (or $84.99 annually)
Free Trial No Yes No Yes
Works with iOS and Android iOS and Android iOS and Android iOS and Android

*This app can only be used in conjunction with the 1:1 therapy offered on the platform.

The best mental health app reviews

Best mental health app with online therapy option


  • Cost: $95-$349 per month.
  • Available format: Video, audio, text, and live chat with therapist
  • Standout feature: In-app mood and symptom tracking.
  • Financial aid: No, but Brightside does accept insurance and FSA/HSA payments.

Compare plans

  • Psychiatry: $95 per month.
  • Therapy: $299 per month.
  • Psychiatry + therapy: $349 per month

Pros & Cons

Pros Many ways to connect with your therapist. Self-guided video lessons and in-app progress trackers. Accepts insurance for online therapy and psychiatry. Cons Therapist matching is done by Brightside, not the client. Insurance coverage varies based on your plan.

Our final verdict

Brightside is our top mental health app pick for people who are also seeking one-to-one online therapy. The Brightside app is a portal for connecting with your therapist through video or audio sessions, texts, or live chat. The app also offers self-guided therapy lessons, self care videos, symptom and mood tracking, and crisis resources.

Insights from our testers

Brightside is an online therapy platform offering weekly one-on-one sessions with a therapist and a mobile app with self-guided video lessons and symptom tracking. Brightside will match you with a therapist based on your needs and preferences, but you have the option to switch providers. Our tester didn’t feel a connection with her first therapist and was able to easily switch to a therapist she liked better.

The Brightside app connects you to live sessions with your therapist and offers additional features to support your therapy work. Users can watch videos with daily tips for practicing self-care and take self-guided therapy lessons on topics like emotion-driven behaviors and recognizing physical sensations. Each guided lesson ends with prompts and homework you can complete on your own and possibly share with your therapist.

From our tester

“The app is awesome. I love the short videos you can do between sessions to work on managing stress and anxiety.”

List of self-guided lessons in Brightside app and Crisis support resources in Brightside app

The Brightside app includes interactive lessons and crisis resources.

Another key feature of the Brightside app is its symptom-tracking feature, which allows users to see improvement over time or adjust their treatment if necessary. Symptom tracking can help build self-awareness, which studies have linked to relationship satisfaction and goal attainment.

“Gaining insight and awareness into our own habits and unconscious patterns is crucial to stability and improving overall health (in this case, mental health). App features that can track and securely store this information, offer reminders and encouragement to log information, or provide visuals to represent patterns are very helpful.”

Itala Azzarelli, LCSW, ACDCS

Like the other mental health apps we reviewed, the tracking and reflection features in the Brightside app are particularly helpful when used jointly with one-on-one therapy. We recommend the Brightside app for anyone who is motivated to improve their mental health with tools like self-reflection and symptom tracking, but also needs the support of weekly therapy sessions.

What other users are saying

Our testers noted that the Brightside app is easier to use than the desktop version of the platform. The interface is user-friendly and makes it easy to join sessions and take assessments. We also appreciate the graphic features within the app, which make it easier to visualize your progress and remember self-care tips.

Best for meditation


  • Cost: $12.99 per month.
  • Available format: Guided meditations and daily routines.
  • Standout feature: Mindfulness for children, teens, and adults.
  • Free trial: 30-day free trial.

Compare plans

  • Monthly: $12.99 with a seven-day free trial.
  • Annual: $69.99 ($5.83 per month) with a 14-day free trial.
  • FREE for U.S. teens 13–18 years old.

Pros & Cons

Pros Most affordable app on our list. Great for learning how to meditate. Options for kids, teens, and adults. Cons Less personalized than other meditation apps. May not be ideal for experienced meditators. Must sign up for payment plan to gain access to free trial.

Our final verdict

Headspace is our top pick for mental health apps for meditation. We like that it’s affordable and offers different plan options, like the Family Plan provides meditation and mindfulness support for everyone in the family, up to six kids to adults. You can use Headspace to access hundreds of different guided meditations, breathing exercises, and podcasts. This app is ideal for people looking to begin a daily meditation practice.

Insights from our testers

The primary focus on Headspace is meditation, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve symptoms of depression, among other benefits. To get started with the app, choose a plan (monthly or annual billing) and create an account. Each plan comes with a free trial—seven days for the monthly plan and 14 days for the annual plan. Though you’ll be prompted to enter payment information, you can cancel before the free trial ends.

Inside the Headspace app, you’ll find a Today tab, an Explore tab, and a tab with a personal profile icon that tracks your stats (average meditation length, total meditation time, and number of meditations completed).

The Today tab creates a daily agenda. On their first day using the app, our tester’s Today tab included four videos for the morning:

  • Mindful Activity: Enjoy Five Deep Breaths (one minute).
  • The Wake-Up: The Miraculous Migration of Salmon (three to seven minutes).
  • Today’s Meditation: Present-Moment Awareness (three to 20 minutes).
  • Course: Basics (three to 10 minutes).

They also had one session scheduled for the afternoon and one for evening. Our tester, who is new to mediation, initially found the daily scheduling overwhelming, saying. “I feel like I could handle a morning meditation, but having a whole agenda is crazy to me.”

For users who don’t want to follow a daily agenda, the Explore tab allows you to browse through the app’s four types of activities:

  • Meditate (guided meditations).
  • Sleep (sleepcasts and bedtime meditations).
  • Move (physical activities like mindful cardio and yoga).
  • Music (soundscapes, white noise, and meditations).

Our tester appreciates the daily breathing and Basics videos, which discuss common experiences people encounter in the early stages of mediation. “The speaker talks about how other thoughts arising are normal, especially in the early stages,” our tester says, “But instead of harping on these thoughts, you should simply let them pass like you are watching cars go by on a road. I find this comparison helpful and enjoyable.”

Daily user stats in the Headspace app and Daily mindfulness exercises in Headspace app

The primary focus of the Headspace app is meditation and mindfulness.

What other users are saying

One Headspace user who has been a member since 2020 tells us, “I was going through mental health struggles and started using Headspace due to a doctor’s recommendation.” He found the meditation guidance extremely helpful at first and used the app almost daily. “As I felt better, I began doing more meditations without guidance,” he says. Today, he uses the app about once per month. “I think having guidance at the start of your meditation journey is invaluable, and Headspace gives great guided meditations.”

Another user shares that he wished Headspace had more custom options. “The app I’m using now has daily mood check-ins,” he shares. “I like when your daily agenda is revised based on your responses to the check-in. Headspace has great mediations, but they’re not super personalized.”

While we haven’t tested Headspace’s content for kids yet, parents can help their children access mindful breathing exercises, sleep meditations, and short lessons on managing their feelings. Headspace for Teens is free for teenagers ages 13–18.

Best for stress relief
 Noom Mood


  • Cost: Four-month auto-renew plan for $149.
  • Available format: Daily activities, progress trackers, and mood logging.
  • Standout feature: Offers tools for managing stress and anxiety.
  • Free trial: Choose-what-you-pay seven-day trial.

Compare plans

  • Four-month auto-renew plan for $149.

Pros & Cons

Pros Informed by cognitive-based therapy (CBT) tools. Daily lessons to increase mindfulness. Access to a personal coach. Cons More expensive than some similar apps. Users follow a set plan, rather than choosing features. Can’t skip ahead to next day’s content.

Our final verdict

We picked Noom Mood, a program created by Noom, as our top mental health app for stress relief because it guides the user through a pre-set curriculum of proven, cognitive behavioral therapy A type of talk therapy centered on making positive changes in both thinking and behavior. (CBT)-based stress-reduction techniques. The app aims to teach stress management and mindfulness skills in just 10 minutes per day. We like that Noom Mood provides access to a personal coach (human, not a bot).

Insights from our testers

To start with Noom Mood, you’ll complete a short survey about your personal mental health, sources of stress, and specific mood-related goals. You’ll receive a mini report on your stress level and be prompted to enroll in the four-month personalized plan. You can start with a seven-day trial with a pay-what-you-can structure starting at just 50 cents. After the trial, your four-month paid subscription will begin. You can cancel anytime, but you may not get a refund for the weeks or months you don’t use.

On day one, Noom Mood dives right in, introducing the user to each of the 10 tools it will teach, including taking control of stress, accepting what you can’t change, saying no, and creating space for positive experiences. Our tester enjoys the app’s breathing exercises and mindfulness lessons. “Noom’s daily lessons are full of empathy and understanding,” she says. “The plan goes out of its way to first put itself in the user’s shoes.”

You can also choose whether or not you’d like a Noom Mood coach. Once our tester requested one, a coach reached out within a day to introduce herself and share availability. Our tester’s coach is responsive to messaging, though typically only during work hours. “The coach works with me to make sure I’m getting everything I can out of the app, to follow up with me about using the skills I’m learning, and to encourage my progress—it’s like an accountability check,” she says.

Message from coach in Noom Mood app

Noom Mood offers daily breathing exercises and mindfulness lessons

What sets Noom Mood apart is its CBT focus and its pre-set curriculum of actionable tips and tools broken out into small daily reads and activities. “Once well-versed in CBT skills,” Azzarelli shares, “a client will become their own teacher.” Azzarelli refers to this process as cognitive restructuring, “a term used to denote the process of becoming aware of unconscious thoughts and habits that keep us stuck and then learning to respond to these events or experiences differently.” Because the lessons in Noom Mood build on each other, users may need to commit to the full four months to experience the app’s full benefits.

What other users are saying

You may also know Noom as a weight-loss app that helps users shed pounds using a combination of psychology and human coaching. Noom Mood takes the same science-based approach to helping users reduce stress. If you’ve used Noom for weight loss and seen results, Noom Mood may also resonate with you.

Best for mindfulness


  • Cost: $16.99 per month.
  • Available format: Access to over 2,000 meditations and mindfulness exercises.
  • Standout feature: Talks and podcasts from leaders in the mindfulness community.
  • Free trial: Seven-day free trial.

Compare plans

  • Monthly: $16.99.
  • Annual: $84.99 ($7.08 per month).
  • Lifetime membership: $169.00
  • Seven-day free trial.

Pros & Cons

Pros Affordable. Access to content by mindfulness leaders and authors. Curated daily meditations, podcasts, and readings. Cons Majority of daily mediations are led by same two teachers. No content specifically for kids or teens.

Our final verdict

Unsurprisingly, we picked the Mindfulness.com app as the best mental health app for mindfulness. This affordable app has hundreds of hours of content organized into a curated daily program of guided meditations, podcasts, and readings. We like that the app is personalized and includes talks and readings by renowned authors and global mindfulness leaders.

Insights from our testers

The Mindfulness.com app was created to help users build mindfulness skills like meditation, breathing techniques, and compassionate self-awareness. The first seven days are free, but you’ll be asked to add payment information when you create your account. If you don’t cancel before the free trial ends, you’ll be automatically charged the monthly or annual fee. The platform also offers a 30-day guarantee—if you don’t like the app after one month, they’ll refund your money.

Like our Headspace tester, our Mindfulness.com tester initially found the app overwhelming. “There is quite a lot of content in one place,” she says. “So it feels like a lot, especially for someone who already has anxiety.” The app did guide our tester through a series of questions to streamline the kind of content she wanted to see, which made the app feel more manageable.

The app is organized into four different tabs, each with a unique set of features:

  • For You: A personalized schedule organized by time of day (Morning, Daytime, Evening) with a curated mix of meditations, gratitude practices, and talks. You can customize what shows up in his tab by answering the daily inquiry: “How are you feeling today?” When our tester reported feeling tired and overwhelmed, the app recommended two practices focused on self-care and a talk called “Are You In an Exhaustion Spiral?”
  • Mini: Quick and easy mindfulness practices to do throughout the day, such as three-minute gratitude reflections.
  • Meditate: Search meditations by topic, teacher, or type (some are guided, and some are silent with simple timers).
  • Sleep: Find meditations and relaxation practices to help you prepare for sleep.
  • Radio: Wellness podcasts, playlists, and daily mixes with themes like Focus and Wisdom.
Selecting a meditation theme in Mindulness.com app

The Mindfulness.com app has hundreds of hours of content organized into a curated daily program of guided meditations, podcasts, and readings.

Our tester appreciates the app for encouraging her to fit mindfulness exercises into her hectic life. “Today was really busy, and I didn’t have a lot of time to engage with the app,” she says. “But during my kid’s soccer practice, I found a quiet spot on some bleachers, put in my headphones, and did a 10-minute mindfulness meditation on gratitude. I truly felt so much better afterward.” She doesn’t like that the app asks her to rate every meditation or exercise as soon as she finishes it. “It sort of takes me out of the moment and is distracting in a way I don’t like.”

What other users are saying

Our tester finds the Mindfulness.com app to be a useful addition to her monthly therapy sessions. Thrive Psychology founder and licensed psychologist Charlynn Ruan also recommends mental health apps as useful complements to therapy. “Many of my clients use apps for meditation, sound baths, or listening to sleep stories at night,” she says. “I encourage clients to use these apps, and we discuss them in sessions as part of their weekly routine for self-care and wellness.”

Other mental health apps to consider 

Though these mental health apps didn’t make our list of top recommendations, they may be right for your particular situation.


Like Headspace and Mindfulness.com, Calm is geared towards getting better sleep, reducing anxiety, and gaining mindfulness. You can use the app to meditate, listen to sleep stories, take mindfulness lessons, or engage in movement practices. Calm offers a seven-day free trial and a monthly plan for $14.99 or an annual plan for $69.99. 


Happify is similar to Noom Mood’s science-based approach to overcoming negative thoughts and relieving stress. The app guides you through a series of programs inspired by CBT and positive psychology. Join Happify for $14.99 per month or $139.99 per year. Happify does not offer a free trial, but the app does include some free content. 

Questions to ask before choosing a mental health app

The right mental health app for you may not be the best choice for someone else. Factors like budget, mental health needs, and learning preferences play a part in how effective an app can be.

Itala Azzarelli, a licensed clinical social worker, suggests considering the following questions before choosing an app: 

  1. What level of support do you need right now? People with acute mental health symptoms need to get help immediately. While a mental health app may be a useful tool for someone struggling with mental health issues, they’ll want to use it as a complement to one-on-one therapy. 
  1. What do you want to get out of the app? If you want to learn to meditate, an app like Mindfulness.com or Headspace might be a great fit. A tool and technique-focused app like Noom Mood might be your best bet if you want to develop healthier habits. If you want to start regular therapy sessions, choose a platform with a combination of therapy services and in-app self-reflection features, like Brightside.
  1. What is the cost of the app? Budget is an important part of the discussion when it comes to mental health care. Determine how much you can afford to pay and whether or not your insurance will cover the service. If the app has a free trial, use the free days to explore whether or not an app is right for you.
  1. What have other people found to be helpful about this app? Read reviews and talk to friends and family to find out what they like and don’t like about mental health apps they’ve used. If you’re already working with a therapist, ask them what mental health apps they recommend. 

What can mental health apps help with?

Studies have shown that mental health apps can be helpful interventions for people living with depression and anxiety, either as stand-alone tools or in conjunction with therapy. However, mental health apps may not be ideal for everyone. 

If you enjoy self-guided programs and are motivated to change habits and make lifestyle adjustments, mental health apps may be very useful. However, Raun shares that “for those who have severe symptoms and need a higher level of care,” mental health apps may be less effective unless used in conjunction with regular mental health treatment with a professional. 

Frequently asked questions

Research has shown that mental health apps can be effective in managing symptoms of certain conditions, including depression and anxiety. Many experts agree that mental health apps are especially effective in conjunction with other mental health treatments like therapy.

HIPPA laws that protect patient health information apply to all healthcare providers and insurance companies, but they may not apply to all aspects of mental health apps. Privacy and data-sharing practices will vary by platform. Be sure to read the privacy policy of each app you use.

Mental health apps that include live therapy sessions with a mental health provider typically cost $260–$400 per month. With insurance, you can see a provider for the cost of your copay, which could be as low as $30 or less per weekly session ($120 or less per month). Self-guided mental health apps typically start at $12.99 per month. Choosing an annual membership may save you money over the course of a year.

While mental health apps can help build habits and teach mindfulness techniques, most experts do not consider them to be an effective replacement for in-person or online therapy.

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