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The World of Virtual Therapy

You’re working a sedentary desk job and are getting concerned about it affecting your physical health, so what do you do? You use a smartwatch or download an app that notifies you when you’ve been sitting for too long and reminds you to move. Now, imagine that you’ve been feeling quite stressed or anxious lately and you’re having some difficulty coping with it. What can you do? The obvious choice would be to consult a Psychological Counsellor or other Mental Health Professional.  But for some of us, that may not be so easy – perhaps due to having a very hectic routine, financial constraints or even the taboo around mental health. Or you might feel that along with seeing a therapist once a week, you wish to have access to certain therapeutic resources or tools too to help in your journey of wellness.The good news is, there are various apps for that too!

The past few years has witnessed anincreasing awareness on mental health across the country, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the field of mental health services too had to adapt itself with the changing times, which led to the development of teletherapy or online therapy – something that was rarely practiced till now and was viewed with a lot of skepticism. One of the outcomes of all this is a proliferation of mental health apps in recent years.

In India, Headspace, Talkspace, 7 cups, Mind Journal are some of the most popular apps available for smartphone users. These apps help you to monitor and subsequently become aware of your mental health, as well as to enhance your emotional and mental wellbeing through various self-help techniques. For someone who is unsure about seeking help, such apps allow you to “test the waters” before making a commitment to seeing a therapist in-person. These apps can be a valuable addition to on-going therapy as well, by making some therapeutic techniques and resources accessible to you 24×7.

In a society where mental health is not spoken about freely and openly, such apps can also provide easier and convenient access to therapy, from the comfort of your own home. The option to remain anonymous provides some much-needed privacy and discretion which further adds to the appeal of these apps.

Below are 3 newpromising mental health apps, that are paving the way in normalizing mental health and therapy and making it accessible and comfortable to all.

InnerHour: It is a self-help therapy tool that uses a combination of techniques drawn from Positive Psychology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help people cope with stress, sleep disturbances, emotional distress, depression, and anxiety. It gives a customized plan for you with specific goals, self-care activities and informative resources. It also enables you to track your progress and monitor your moods and seek support from a therapist when required. There is also Allie, their chatbot,available for you 24×7,if you just need to just vent or express yourself. A chatbot is basically a computer program that is designed to communicate with users (usually via chat or text) in the same way that humans communicate. It’s like having a personal virtual friend in your phone! While many of the features of this app are free, some of the services may require you to have a subscription.

Download the app here:

Wysa: This app too offers various activities and scientific techniques to help you manage your moods and reduce anxiety, along with access to services of qualified mental health professionals. However, what sets it apart are the numerous mental health tests to assess any severe or distressing symptoms you may be having. Wysa focuses primarily on mental health and wellness. For this, the app creates a personalized toolkit for you to stay emotionally healthy, reframe your thoughts and find optimism. It also helps you helps you monitor your moods, habits, and any other signs and symptoms that can be crucial in understanding and enhancing your mental health. It uses evidence-based techniques which make therapeutic coping skills like emotion regulation, behavior change, mindfulness meditation, etc. easily accessible.The best part – while some services require you to have a subscription, most of the features are available for free and you also have added privacy of protecting your name and using a UserID of your choice instead! The app also has its own cute little chatbot to accompany you and support you on your mental health journey.

Download the app here:

Trijog: Unlike the previous apps, Trijog is purely a mental health support app, which provides counselling services for children and adults trying to cope with a broad range of emotional, behavioral, relationships and academic/career difficulties as well as struggling with substance abuse. Keeping in mind your comfort and convenience, this app allows you to easily book appointments and consult a Counsellorin-person or virtually (over a video call, phone call or chat). Further it also gives you automated reminders about appointments and share progress reports and feedback. Along with this, there are also weekly blogs and videos on best practices for wellness.

Download the app here:

Accessing mental health support has never been easier.Mobile apps allow you to conveniently keep a track of your moods, habits and routines and also provide useful information on the same. If you are having difficulties with sleep, concentration, feeling nervous, etc., you are just one click away from accessing a wealth of scientific resources to assist you in coping with it. The apps provide guided instructions for you to know exactly what to do. If you want to talk to someone or seek additional help, these apps can also “match” you with a mental health professional or connect you with a relevant support group or community, all from the comfort of your own home.

With so many benefits, there is also a flip side. The emergence of such apps has also given rise to a crucial question – Should your smartphone be your therapist? While such apps can seem quite appealing and user-friendly, it is important to keep in mind that they are not a replacement for professional care. An app does not replace traditional therapy, especially for people with severe mental health difficulties such as clinical depression or anxiety. But they can certainly help you improve your mental health and be an addition to therapy, by playing a supportive role.

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Ms. Shreya Shah

M.A. Clinical Psychology Psychological Counsellor & Professor

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