21st century therapy – mental health phone apps

It’s estimated 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues every year in the UK, with incidences of disorders such as anxiety and depression increasing in divorces.

The recent stresses and strains brought on by the coronavirus pandemic will only add to these numbers.

As a family law firm, Merrick is all too familiar with the psychological implications of divorce. We know for many it takes time for the trauma of marital breakdown to become manageable.

The widespread nature of problematic mental health means the resources available to those suffering are numerous. And in 2020 many of them are available online and through apps on your mobile phone.

Psychological therapy and counselling sessions are widely available as a form of treatment and help for all mental health issues. Therapists encourage you to talk freely about your emotions in a confidential and judgement-free environment. This is in order to help you to better understand your feelings and develop coping mechanisms. As with physical health, progress can be slow, meaning it can take several sessions before you see improvements.

So, if you decide to go ahead with talking therapy to improve or manage your mental health, what is the best way to go about getting it?

There are three main types of talking therapy in the UK

The NHS offers free psychological therapies for issues such as anxiety and depression, you can refer yourself through their website and don’t need to go through your GP. However, NHS services are in high demand and wait times are long, 50% of people wait over 3 months to receive treatment, while 1 in 10 wait over a year.

Alternatively, you can look for a private therapist in your area. Always look for qualified practitioners who are accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). You can search for these using the PSA check a practitioner page. Costs vary depending on your location. However, on average, hourly sessions are priced at £40-70, with more specialist psychologist consultations costing up to £180. Many private practitioners offer free initial sessions and lower rates for students, job seekers and those on low wages.

Mental health apps

The third, and arguably most accessible, option is to look for counselling online or through mobile apps. This option is becoming increasingly popular as it removes the need to spend hours searching for a reputable specialist and delivers compatible, qualified practitioners to you as soon as you register.

mental health apps

Sessions are also often cheaper than face-to-face bookings and many providers offer weekly prices that include multiple communications with your therapist. But with so many apps out there, which do you choose? We’ve done some research to help you find the right match.


With its in-app exercises aimed to help you focus, develop coping mechanisms and reduce stress, US-based Talkspace initially looks like a brilliant option. It even provides a symptom tracker which helps you to set goals, as well as useful videos with information about what to expect from your therapist and how to go about using the app.

However the initial setup process raises immediate red flags. You are introduced to a ‘matching agent’ which begins an automated conversation about your needs in order to match you with the appropriate professional. This sounds great, but the responses are painfully slow. Also, unless you alter the notification settings you receive an email every time the agent sends you a message, which fills your inbox very quickly.

On the plus side, there is an option to add extra security to your conversations with a password lock. That is if you haven’t deleted the app yet. On top of this, payment plans are on the pricier side, with the cheapest starting at $65 (£52) per week just to get access to messaging with a therapist. If you want monthly video sessions you are looking at $79 (£63) per week or $99 (£80) per week for weekly sessions, making Talkspace more expensive than face-to-face sessions. These prices are reduced if you pay for 3 or 6 months at a time and there is currently a promotion code ‘1004U’ to give you $100 off your first subscription.


Another American company, but with a much more user-friendly interface. BetterHelp has an arsenal of 7,000 licensed, board-accredited counsellors, all with PhD or masters certification, specialising in a huge range of psychological therapy styles and areas, with years of experience.

As soon as you enter the app there is emphasis on privacy. You are given details of the banking-grade security in place, reassuring you that the whole process is confidential. Once again you are asked to fill in a brief questionnaire to find the right professional for you. With BetterHelp the process is quick and painless and all of your information is secured with two factor authentication, using a password and pin number.

The app offers a guide with tips on what to expect from therapy and how to get the best out of the experience. It also redirects you to more appropriate sources if you are looking for couples counselling or help for a minor. Price-wise this app stands up better than others. It’s a flat rate of £50 per week for access to a messaging room with your counsellor and the opportunity to schedule weekly phone, video or live-chat sessions. This fee can be reduced to £35 per week with the promotional code ‘blame’. Those on low incomes are also offered a reduced fee. It’s not surprising to hear that there are 150,000 UK users at such a price. We were really impressed by the service offered by BetterHelp and think it’s a strong option for online therapy.


Babylon Health UK claims to be putting ‘accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth’. This app is partnered with the NHS and provides advice and help with all areas of your health. Tools like ‘Monitor’ and ‘Healthcheck’ use in-app exercises and questionnaires to assess and track your physical and mental health.

You are also able to book appointments with specialists and your GP, as well as with a therapist. There is even the option to receive electronic prescriptions. All services are completely confidential and there is a lot of emphasis put on your privacy and data protection. You can access many of the in-app functions for free. However, for unlimited doctor consultations and reduced fees for therapists and specialists it’s £149 per year. Subscribers pay £39 per therapy session, whereas pay-as-you-go members pay £59. So if you think you will use the service frequently, subscribing may be a good option. As with the other apps mentioned, Babylon claims to offer qualified counsellors specialising in areas such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Your account is immediately secured with a password and pin number.

My Online Therapy

Finally, with a mission to make online therapy more accessible, My Online Therapy offers the biggest range of therapy types of all the apps we looked at. Again the app takes you through a quick questionnaire to assign you to a therapist using its matching algorithm. Their fees vary but therapy sessions with a psychologist for 30-50 minutes via video or live chat are priced around £49 per session. Alternatively, for £75 per week you can have daily messaging with a psychologist who will reply once per day.

After reviewing four of the available mental health apps, the benefit of conducting sessions on your mobile is the flexibility. There’s no need to travel, you can find a private space in your own home and schedule times that suit.

If you are uncomfortable talking face-to-face, telephone and messaging options are also a big bonus. Being in a familiar environment may enable you to relax and speak without inhibition. On the other hand, the lack of online-based training available for professionals may mean the quality of treatment you receive is variable.

That said, all the apps allow the changing of therapist, meaning it should be easy to find a good match. Also, if you are dealing with significant mental health issues you may wish to seek in-person treatment. The distance of online therapy means practitioners are unable to intervene if they see an individual in distress who then takes themselves offline.

mental health apps

Our key advice for online therapy is:
  • Be completely sure you are using legitimate services that have excellent data security.
  • Research options that fit your budget and preferences. (You can choose shorter session lengths or messaging options if you want to spend less).
  • Ask your GP for recommendations if you are unsure.
  • Use free support services like Samaritans if you need help while you find the right avenue for you.

It is so important to take care of your mental health, what tools do you use?

We’ve written previously about maintaining a positive mental attitude at stressful times.