Mental Health: Yes, There’s an App for That..


Nobody wants to be irrelevant, and many mental health practitioners want to try out new technologies like Apps, but how to choose?  Currently the App Store in iTunes makes available 835,440 different Apps, of which approximately 100,000 are categorized as lifestyle, medical or healthcare & fitness.  And Android users have just about as many to choose from according to AppBrain, which says there are a whopping 858870 as of today.  With so many to look at, how can a clinician keep current?  Hopefully we can help each other.

Instead of writing the occasional “Top 10 Post,” I’m setting up a site for you to visit and review different Apps.  I’ll review some too, and hopefully by crowd sourcing we can get a sense of what are some of the best.  I’ll need Android users to weigh in heavy, as I will be test-driving Apple products alone.

Why have I decided to do this?  Several reasons, the complicated one first:

1. Web 2.0 is interactive.  We forget that, even those of us who are trying to stay innovative.  We keep thinking we need to get on the podium and deliver lectures, information, content.  And to a degree that is true, but we can easily slide back to the old model of doing things.  That’s what you see in a lot of our well-intentioned “Top 10 App” posts and articles.  Recently I found myself trying to explain on several occasions why doing a lecture or post on the best Apps for Mental Health didn’t sit right with me.  Part of it was because Apps are put out there so fast, and then surpassed by other apps, that it becomes a bit like Project Runway:  “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.”

I was getting trapped behind that podium again, until I realized that we don’t need another post about the top 10 mental health apps, we need an interactive platform.  I need to stop acting as if I’m the only one responsible for delivering content, and you need to break out of the mold of passive recipient of information.  I’m sure that many of my colleagues have some suggestions for apps that are great for their practice, and I’m hoping that you all share.  Go to the new site, check out some of the ones I mentioned, and then add your own reviews.  Email me some apps and I’ll try ’em and add them to the site.  Let’s create something much better than a top 10 post with an expiration date, let’s collaborate on a review site together.  Which brings me to:

2.  I want to change the world.  That is the reason I became a social worker, a therapist, and a public speaker.  I think ideas motivate actions, and actions can change the world. The more access people have to products that can improve their mental health, the better.  By creating a site dedicated solely to reviewing mental health applications, we can raise awareness about using emerging technologies for mental health, and help other people improve their lives.  Technology can help us, which brings me to:

3.  Technology can improve our mental health.  Yes, you heard it here.  Not, “we need to be concerned about the ethical problems with technology X,Y or Z.”  “Not, the internet is making us stupid,” or “video games are making people violent,” but rather an alternate vision:  Namely, that emerging technologies can allow more people more access to better mental health.  Let’s start sharing examples of the way technology does that.  There are Apps and other emerging technologies that can help people with Autism, Bipolar, Eating Disorders, Social Phobias, Anxiety, PTSD and many more mental health issues.  I can’t possibly catalog all those alone, so I’m hoping you’ll weigh in and let me know which Apps or tech have helped you with your own struggles.

Is this the new site, Mental Health App Reviews, a finished product?  Absolutely not.  What it will be depends largely on all of us.  This is how crowd sourcing can work.  This is how Web 2.0 can work.

If you want to contribute, just email me at with the following:

  • App name
  • Screenshot if possible
  • Price
  • Link to App

and I’ll take it from there.  Please let me know if you are a mental health provider and or the product owner in the email as well.

You can also contribute by reviewing the Apps below that you use.  Be as detailed as possible, we’re counting on you!  And while you’re at it, follow us on Twitter @MHAppReviews

Want to Change a Behavior AND Feel Heroic? There’s an App for That…

Click to See Looty Goodness!


I must confess I am not a big one for New Year’s resolutions. I rationalize this by saying that one should change one’s behavior when insight hits, not wait for a specific date. The truth is, like many of you, I want to avoid change, even if I know it is good for me. But if there is one thing that can motivate me to do something, it is “epic loot.”

In gamer parlance, “loot” is the general term for specific prizes you win in-game by completing a quest or downing a boss. In World of Warcraft the loot is color coded. White labeled loot is “common;” “uncommon” loot is green; “rare loot” is blue; and “epic” loot is purple. Recently we all had to say goodbye to our Epic armor and weapons, because the Cataclysm expansion introduced a higher level and item level. But I digress.

Token economies and reinforcement are nothing new to the field of psychology and the practice of behavioral modification. But now, if you or someone you know is a gamer, there is a way to tap into this love of loot and leveling up in the out-of-game daily life. It is a new App for the iPhone (sorry Droid, you fail!) and it is called Epic Win.  (Thanks to @DorleeM on Twitter for tweeting this to my attention– follow her, she knows stuff.) This fun little app can be programmed with your list of to-dos.  You choose your starting avatar, such as a Dwarf, Warrior Princess, or Skeleton.  Then you enter the tasks you want to do.

You assign each task with a amount of experience points, and when you complete it you see a graphic of your character and a sound effect as you gain the points.  Enough points and you level up, which also brings you loot, and you can see yourself progressing across the map of a Middle-Earth-like world towards your next loot.  Ominous music and drum beats remind you that you are on a quest of great importance.  You can measure your progress in miles as well as points, and the graphics and humor in the App are quite compelling.

To start with I chose two tasks that I wanted help and encouragement with:  blog entries and my weekly run around Fresh Pond.  I picked these because they are also recurring events, and I programmed the App to have them recur weekly and monthly, and to sound a little alarm to remind me to do them.  To see how this would work (and give me some credit to level up!) I backdated my running for this month.  After accomplishing these “quests” I was able to advance to level 2, and I received my first piece of loot, a “Tatty Wooden Chalice.”  Humble beginnings, but it had a funny caption to go with it:  “Yes it leaks, yes you get the occasional lip splinter, but it’s still better than cupping your hands.”  The humor, sound effects and getting a prize all make it easier for me to stay motivated.

You can name your own avatar or the App will assign you one.  I liked the one my Skelly got, and so I am keeping “Calcium Facebone” for the time being.  As I have written previously, we often form attachments to our avatars, and this combined with the achievement of measurable goals and the heroic sense of being on a quest add up to behavior modification with a chance of succeeding.  Calcium and I have already traveled many miles together (140 to be exact,) and collected 190 gold.  And after I post this blog entry, the 100 points I get will porbably bring me to my next piece of loot.

I can’t wait to see what it is.