432 Researched Mental Health Applications

Research by Lau, Nancy;O’Daffer, Alison; Colt, Susannah; Yi-Frazier, Joyce; Palermo, Tonya;Mccauley, Elizabeth;  Rosenberg, Abby (2020) 

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S.

Mobile applications for stress management and self-care seem to be proliferating, helpful, and convenient. Are these applications based on effective therapeutic techniques and supported by psychological research? 

Psychology and medical researchers identified and evaluated 1000 Android and iPhone wellness applications to identify how much research support they have. Results? Only 2% of the apps had support by research publications. More apps used mindfulness meditation as the singular research-supported technique, before positive psychology and goal setting. The researchers noted that the app Headspace had the most research support. Most apps had only one published research study. Only 1% of the apps used online therapists. Designers created only 2% of the apps as a supplement for in-person therapy.  

Self-help mobile applications can be helpful in meeting goals. Do recognize that these apps are in the beginning stages of development. We need more research to identify which apps are most helpful based on already supported techniques in the psychological literature.  Use mobile apps not to replace therapy, but in addition to therapy.  If you need more help, motivation, and guidance, consider reaching out to a therapist for in-person or telehealth treatment, too.  


Lau, N., O’Daffer, A., Colt, S., Yi-Frazier, J. P., Palermo, T. M., Mccauley, E., & Rosenberg, A. R. (2020). Android and iPhone Mobile Apps for Psychosocial Wellness and Stress Management: Systematic Search in App Stores and Literature Review. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 8(5). doi:10.2196/17798 

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