C’Mon Get App-y! The Self-Help Section Comes to Your iPhone

Angry? Sad? Stressed? Starring the new slew of of Apps aimed at your mental well-being are a cognitive behavior “referee,” a photon energy “buddy,” and … Richard Branson.

We’ve all been there–so frustrated by an annoying co-worker or nagging spouse or whiny child or editor (ahem) that we feel like throwing whatever’s in our hands. These days, that something is often a smartphone (for 75% of Web-browsing men, it’s an iPhone).


But before life’s frustrations leads you to hurl 3Gs worth of connectivity at the nearest brick wall, try putting your device to a more constructive use. From reducing stress and conquering fears to controlling behaviors or managing impulses, a whole new breed of apps are a tap or two away–finally a way to deal with your neuroses without the embarrassment of being seen in the self-help section!

Many of the current offerings were developed from successful programs and courses offered by experts. Several are based on cognitive behavior therapy. (CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, events, or, well, iPhones. Changing thought processes therefore, changes the way we act). Others encourage keeping a daily record of thoughts, feelings, and responses. All carry a common disclaimer: “not a substitute for medical or psychological treatment.”

Of course, there are experts who are skeptical of their efficacy. In terms of anger management, Steven Stosny, Ph.D. says an app could work only as a portable reminder for those who have gone through treatment. The author of Love without Hurt, and developer of the program, HEALS, Stosny likens using an app to control anger to learning a complicated exercise program or practicing tennis. “Problem anger isn’t about stress or relaxation, it’s about an inability to see anyone perspectives but your own,” asserts Stosny.

True, however, 70% of all illness, both physical and mental, is linked to stress, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So until health-care reform becomes a reality, apps could be a (convenient/private/inexpensive) way to take the edge off every day stresses.

Here are five compelling apps available for download right now.

Personal Power Path “Anger App” Anger Management Course


Cost: $59.99

How it works: Designed to help the more than 16 million people who suffer from anger-related stress, the six-week instructional program from EDB Media Inc., teaches users basic anger management techniques, as well as behavior and thought modification. The program incorporates an online support community, guided weekly instruction, journal entries, daily motivations, and informative videos.

The app riffs off an existing online program that has an established user base and online community.

According to a company spokesperson, “It can help improve relationships, help users regain control of their lives and learn basic anger management skills while working privately and conveniently on their phones.”

CBT Referee

Cost: $4.99


How it Works: Recording negative thoughts into the program, allows users to study patterns and gain an understanding of what is untrue, unrealistic, and unfair about each thought, thereby creating their own “referee” which offers insight into limited thinking.

The app’s creator Andrew Arrow, is a software engineer who battled depression with cognitive behavioral therapy. He believes those who have tried CBT and failed, attempted to do the exercises mentally, either because they didn’t have pen and paper handy, or because their thoughts can be off-putting. The convenience of recording with the app eliminates the hurdle. “Over time your referee will kick in automatically helping you to avoid thinking a biased thought that might cause a negative emotion.”

Mental Workout’s Flying Without Fear

Cost: $4.99

How it Works: This will certainly make it past the TSA. Developed in conjunction with Virgin Atlantic Airways (Sir Richard Branson makes a personal video appearance) the app tackles the fear of flying from take-off to landing with an in-flight explanation video, FAQ from the general manager of Flight Operations, relaxation exercises and fear therapy and (if all else fails), a fear attack button for emergencies with breathing exercise and quick tips.

Mental Workout claims a 98% success rate and includes testimony from that famous formerly fearful flyer, Whoopi Goldberg. Need extra incentive? For the one out of three adult Americans anxious or afraid to fly (according to a Boeing Company published report) downloading the app gives you 2,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.


PSI Apps iStress

How it Works: This app is a multi-modal program that employs monitoring, relaxation exercises, positive thinking, and humor to reduce stress. Users fill in a daily and weekly record of stress levels. There are quizzes to rate emotions and pages of inspirational quotes. Over time with this tool-kit of techniques, users should learn adaptive, positive coping skills.

According to the company, PsiApps, Inc., iStress was developed by professionals through feedback provided by their clients and “teaches stress management skills to produce a calm, relaxed life style when confronting daily ‘close encounters of the aggravating kind.'”

My Photon Buddy, aka “The Tap App”

Cost: $.99

How it Works: Perhaps the most esoteric app of the bunch (with the most-comprehensive wellness claim) My Photon Buddy taps (pun intended) the high frequency photon energy, “that flows through and around every thing, including your body. It will influence whether you feel happy or sad, and keep you in good health or bad.” A character of the user’s choice will guide adults or kids to locate a series of acupressure points that, when tapped, alleviate a host of modern ills from anxiety to migraines, and more.


The company emphasizes its use for children (just pick one of the younger “buddies”) to help cope with peer pressure, testing anxiety, even enhance sports performance.


About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.