The Ultimate Guide to CBT Apps

cbt apps

In the rapidly evolving landscape of mental health, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) apps stand at the forefront of a digital revolution. This ultimate guide offers a comprehensive overview of these innovative tools, showcasing how they are reshaping therapy access and effectiveness. Delve into the world of CBT apps to discover their potential in complementing traditional therapy and unlocking new, personalized pathways to mental wellness in the digital age.

The past decade has seen a phenomenal rise in the use of technology in every facet of our lives. We have previously used apps to monitor our sleep cycles, learn new languages, and much more. We are now beginning to use them to improve our mental health.

There has been a global surge in the demand for mental health services and tools. For this reason, mental health professionals have strived to make traditional therapy as accessible as possible. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has undoubtedly been one of the most important tools in the treatment of a range of mental health disorders [1]. Moreover, this form of psychotherapy has democratized access to self-help resources, allowing anyone to feel supported with a few clicks on a smartphone. 

CBT apps stand out among the plethora of mental health tech tools due to their staggering and overwhelmingly strong evidence-based results[2][3]. In this ultimate guide, we will look at the usefulness of CBT apps for your online practice and the best ones to choose from. 

Quenza is an all-in-one solution for therapists like you who wish to integrate CBT into their digital practice. To design and deliver your own solutions in a CBT app, don’t forget to check out Quenza’s $1 trial. 

Chapter 1

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT has stood the test of time and is still among the leading therapy approaches used today by therapists all over the world, although there are many other therapies for various situations and people. The power of CBT is that it is easy to understand and implement whilst giving seemingly quick wins.  

Essentially, the underlying process of CBT is that it is difficult to directly influence our emotions and behavior. So, with CBT, we fall back on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to enhance well-being. Naturally, the work of challenging your thoughts in order to reframe them while believing the new thought takes effort and emotions that therapists help guide people through. 

CBT apps help individuals identify patterns of self-defeating cycles that impact their mental health.

If you have worked with CBT before or read about it, you may be aware of its highly structured approach to helping clients. This lends itself exceptionally well to digital platforms like Quenza and many more.

Numerous recent studies support its effectiveness as a self-guided tools[4][5]. Let’s dive into the world of CBT apps, exploring their features and benefits and how to choose the best one to suit your needs.

Chapter 2

Why are CBT apps the Future of Mental Health?

The future of CBT is bright and clear. With the right CBT apps, you can also be part of this movement that makes therapy accessible, convenient, and effective on the go. If you are wondering why CBT apps are the future of mental health, you are not the only one. 

For the longest time, we have worked from our confined physical spaces or traditional working hours. But CBT aims to change this dynamic. It does so by:

Redefining traditional barriers

  1. Ensures that both the therapist and client can save time, money, and energy by re-imagining the logistics. 
  2. Clients access quality therapeutic tools without the need for travel. 
  3. Acknowledges that self and public stigma exist, but doesn’t let these factors stop the provision of quality health care.

Personalization and continued support

  1. CBT apps help you cater to the unique needs of your clients.
  2. Designed in a way that allows continuity of care. 
  3. Ongoing support bridges the gap between sessions and ensures the client feels supported.
  4. A continuous feedback loop between the therapist and client ensures no one gets left out.

From customizing your own templates to the flexibility of accessing therapeutic tools, CBT apps are the future of mental health. 

Chapter 3

Key Features of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Apps

From the plethora of apps to choose from, you must look out for key features that help you make an informed decision.

A cornerstone of CBT’s effectiveness is its emphasis on practicality. One of the key principles of this approach is to translate the client’s learning from the session into their everyday lives[6]

Ability to make daily practice easy and trackable   

While this is also possible in your offline practice, paper and pencil tests are not easy to manage and use. They may also not be very convenient for clients to take. CBT apps that allow you to easily track, maintain progress, and even send reminders should appear at the top of your list. 

They eventually add to user engagement and the overall effectiveness of your therapy. Here are some other features that ensure smooth and seamless activity sharing:     

  • Interactive Exercises: CBT focuses on experiential learning through cognitive restructuring, relaxation exercises, and behavioral experiments.
  • Feedback Systems: Feedback loops ensure that your processes remain up-to date with the client’s needs and preferences.
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): VR can enhance traditional CBT to give the client an immersive, real-time experience[7].
  • Chatbots and AI Assistants: While AI cannot replace clinicians, it has certainly contributed to a more seamless experience for clients[8].

User Friendly design and functionality

When you use an app, what makes you return to it? A lot of individuals find the user interface to be a primary determinant. A confusing and complex user interface leaves a sour taste. The way technology interacts with clients is crucial to your therapeutic practice.

The best CBT apps prioritize the experience of both you and your clients. Ideally, the CBT app should work as a supplement to your existing tools. What would a frustration free interface look like for your clients? See the video below to see how clients experience the CBT app, Quenza:

Integration capabilities

Like therapists, CBT apps should ideally not operate in isolation. Instead, they should be integrated into a more extensive CBT platform. What would this look like? A client can read something about cognitive distortions and with a click, complete an exercise to test their learning. 

A therapist acts as a mediator between technology and the client. You ensure that your client feels supported and comfortable completing the assigned worksheets and assignments. 

The strength of a CBT app lies in coordinating these moves. Quenza helps you monitor each of these moves and yet gives your clients the needed time and space.

this image shows the monitoring function of the Quenza App
Using real-time results tracking, practitioners can understand how a patient or client is progressing with their online CBT program.

Chapter 4

The Best CBT Apps on the Market

Whether you are looking for a CBT app to deliver digital therapy or simply want some homework assignments for clients, the following free and paid apps use a range of psychology tools that can help you with research-based techniques and frameworks.

AppDetails
Sanvello is packed with CBT based self-care activities. self-guided coaching content, and quizzes. The platform itself is also a useful place for any clients who want to access peer support, with discussion forums, insightful articles, and other tools.
Sanvello also offers:Peer support discussion forumsEvidence-based CBT techniques for managing thoughts and feelingsDaily mood diariesAudio meditationsProfessional group or individual coachingProgress quizzes, andOne-on-one e-counseling options with licensed therapists
PricingFree+ Subscriptions range from $8.99 to $50 per month. Therapy costs can vary based on insurance coverage.
Review“I’m a virtual therapist. I have to use all the integrated features. It seems they’ve thought of everything, from scheduling, meeting in a secure chat room, billing, and note keeping. My clients feel secure meeting with me in this program.”
Misti, LMFT
Websitehttps://www.sanvello.com/
AppDetails
Quenza is a drag-and-drop activity builder, treatment planning solution, and fully customizable practice management software that’s specially designed for CBT practitioners, coaches, counselors, and other therapists. It features a custom CBT intervention designer, a library of pre-made science-based exercises, tools, and assessments, and real-time results tracking functions for monitoring patient progress.You’ll need to check out the website for the full list of features. But in addition to being a full-featured CBT solution, Quenza also has:
A huge library of 250+ evidence-based digital therapy tools from a wide rang of methodologies Functionality to run CBT groups, build online courses, and collaborate with other professionals (all standard inclusions)A client portal with secure communication featuresOptions to import your own resources or customize ours with white-label functionsReady-to-use therapy notes templates, assessment and intake forms, and client contracts 
PricingFrom $27 per month; 1 month trial for $1
Review“Quenza is an exceptional platform for continuous engagement with counseling clients. Its intuitive interface and vast range of treatments, exercises, and meditations make it a valuable resource. Quenza is a powerful tool for therapists, supporting meaningful and lasting change.”
– John, Practice Administrator
Websitehttps://quenza.com/
AppDetails
Happify includes science-based psychology and CBT interventions from scientists and behavioral health, designed as bite-size games, exercises, and quizzes. These mobile-compatible assessments and CBT interventions include:Guided meditationsPersonal goal-setting exercises‘Brain training’A character strengths assessment, andProgress tracking
PricingFree+ $11.99 a month for a more detailed version
Review“The educator/therapist in me reviewed each contributor and the research behind the exercises. The tasks involved mirror many assignments I provide for my clients. The Happify app makes this type of homework easy to access and track. Motivation to track behavior is difficult with many clients. Happify uses motivational interviewing techniques which may support people vacillating about using an app for therapeutic uses.”
Ellen Belluomini, Ph.D., MSW
Websitehttps://www.happify.com/

Chapter 5

Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Software

Internet interventions have been around for more than twenty years. Whether guided or self-guided, there’s a burgeoning market for comprehensive digital cognitive behavioral therapy software.

A substantial body of research supports the use of digital CBT as a counterpart to traditional therapy. The increased prevalence of mental health issues post the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial growth in online mental health delivery. This has been for various conditions, especially anxiety, depression, eating disorders and many more[9][10][11].

As we mentioned earlier, there are certain features that allow professionals to offer remote, yet deeply personalized, support to their clients. Each CBT has its own array of features, but some use the added interactivity of therapy worksheets.

To give an example, recognizing and replacing maladaptive automatic thoughts is one of the goals of CBT. Cognitive distortions are irrational perceptions, beliefs, and thoughts that we all have but can exacerbate various mental health concerns. 

Quenza’s Unhelpful Thinking Styles worksheet is an example exercise that can help clients recognize the damaging impacts of using these statements

The Advantages of Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Apps

Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) apps have emerged as powerful tools for aiding your practice. Even if CBT is not your primary modality for practice, integrating a CBT app offers myriad benefits:

Flexibility in Sharing 

Paper and pencil worksheets will continue to serve a purpose in therapy. However, an app supports the adaptability of your business needs. All your worksheets can be customized and uploaded to CBT apps like Quenza, which offer device versatility. Whether it is their phone, tablet, or laptop, clients can access activities on the go. 

In addition, many apps also offer cross-platform synchronization. What your client starts on one device can be finished on another. This also ensures that the client continues to stay in touch with the assigned tasks.

Immediate Feedback and Support

The key to running a successful and relevant business is to take consistent feedback and implement it. For clients, it can range from receiving instant resources to feeling better to continued communication outside the sessions. 

For therapists, it can be receiving regular feedback from clients to analyze user input. There is something for both the therapist and the client.

this image shows expansions of the Quenza App
With ready-to-be customized feedback form templates, Quenza allows you to seek feedback directly.

Cost-Effectiveness and Scalability of Your Business

CBT apps don’t have to be a replacement for your current practice, but rather a tool that supports you in the long run. In many ways, it is a more cost-effective option for you and your clients. Most apps also offer a free or low-cost trial period with the full suite of features. 

You can’t easily increase the space in your office, but you can do so easily with an online therapy practice. Most apps allow you to increase the number of clients at incremental costs.

How to Choose the Right CBT Application for Your Needs

A market that is rapidly growing in the number of applications can leave you confused and frustrated. It generally takes research and time from your end to make the choice. 

Don’t worry about the timeline. Rather, think about what supports your online practice. To ease your doubts and worries, keep the following in mind.

  • CBT is a well-researched therapy and is also often considered the gold-standard of treatment[12]. Ensure that the app is grounded in this research and has some on-boarded mental health professionals in its development.
  • Make sure that you find the user interface easy to work with. If you find difficulties, it is likely that your clients may not invest in it as well.
  • Establish a sync between your needs and tools. For instance, review what the app has to offer and then make the decision.
  • Ensure that the CBT app has robust security measures. This is non-negotiable.
  • Determine how the cost of the app fits your budget and nature of business. 
  • Finally, spend some time looking at user reviews or taking a trial of the app. You can always switch to another app after the trial period is over.

Tailoring Your Choice Based on Specific Needs: Individual vs. Professional Use

Your choice can also vary depending on whether you are the client or the therapist. The questions are not limited to the following but can help you reach a tentative answer.

Individual ClientProfessional
Do you like to work at your own pace or would you prefer a guided and structured approach?Does the app allow you to assign exercises, monitor progress, and provide feedback?
Is there a specific concern that you want solutions for or do you want CBT to generally improve your life?Would you want to use the CBT app as a supplementary tool or as the only one?
What additional features would you like to see on the app? Example, relaxation guides, journalingDoes it incorporate teletherapy features?

Chapter 6

Getting the Most Out of Your Therapy Worksheets Apps

Therapy worksheets are tangible tools to reflect and implement learning, and CBT makes the utmost use of them. There are various strategies to ensure that you use them fully to meet your and your client’s needs.

While there are many tools on the market, their efficacy also depends on how you use them:

Regularity and consistency

Just as you schedule sessions, try to set a time and day for when you want to send in the activities and tools. You can also set daily or weekly reminders. When you regularize their use, they automatically become part of your daily routine.

Delivering an online CBT program might mean sharing specific interventions as activities, or it might involve a more comprehensive treatment plan that covers a longer period.

With Quenza, providers can design treatment plans more efficiently, either by combining existing interventions or by providing templates that can be modified into personalized online CBT activities:

this image shows the pathway builder of the Quenza App
Quenza’s Pathway is an example of customizable treatment planning tools that practitioners can use to create personalized online CBT solutions.

Review and analyze

Just ensuring the completion of worksheets is not enough. Scheduling review days or regular reviews allows you to see patterns in your client’s thoughts and behaviors. Once you become aware of it, you can share it with your client with objective data.

Holistic approach

Apart from sending in worksheets, try to incorporate other activities that can help clients better manage themselves and their environment. You can ensure that they complement them with other exercises, be they guided meditations, exposure tasks, or cognitive restructuring activities.

A supplementary tool that allows for a client’s reflection and self-monitoring is journaling. Journaling is a form of self-monitoring that helps clients identify their thought patterns and emotional tendencies.

Chapter 7

Safety, Privacy, and Ethical Considerations

Digital CBT has immense potential for helping clients, but at no cost should it compromise their privacy and safety. From a client’s point of view, while there is increased accessibility, there is also a rise in ethical considerations. As a mental health professional, you are ethically obligated to protect your client’s data, and you can do so in many ways:

Protecting Personal Information

A difference between reputable apps and non-reputable ones is their transparency about their privacy policies. It is important for you to look up their policies on data sharing, third-party involvement, and more.

You may also have to consider providing limited permissions. A simple CBT worksheet on identifying distortions shouldn’t require the client’s access to their camera.

One of the things that we may take lightly is setting passwords. For our convenience, we often keep them simple and easy to remember. Remember that out of all the people, your clients choose you to share private and sensitive information. This requires the utmost care, consideration, and a robust password.

Look out for two-factor authentication. If someone breaches your password, they will need a second verification code to access your account. Additionally, many CBT apps allow you to encrypt your data and store it, saving you time and hassle.

This image depicts the privacy features of the Quenza CBT app

Ensuring Apps Adhere to Professional Standards and Guidelines

CBT has become increasingly popular amongst both clinicians and clients. Unfortunately, this allows many to create apps or websites that don’t necessarily adhere to industry standards. Like other therapies, even CBT regularly gets updated based on recent research. 

The apps may also benefit from professional collaboration with mental health professionals. Naturally, therapists are the primary contributors to understanding what will help their clients.

In a systematic study of 98 Android and iOS self-guided apps, only four offered evidence-based techniques. It seems that only a few apps fully provide comprehensive programs [13]. As a way of ensuring best practice, try to make sure that the CBT applications comply with clinical guidelines, are client-centered, and offer transparent policies.

Embracing the Digital Age of Mental Health with CBT Applications

While you have access to this guide, it can still be scary to navigate through a burgeoning market. The good news is that most of us are starting the race from the same point. There may be hiccups, but staying in touch with a community boosts your confidence and keeps you in the loop about best practices. While you are trying to offer the best to your clients, you can also benefit by joining the Quenza community.

This image shows the community feature of the Quenza cbt app

Further Resources on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Mental health care is dynamic. As a professional, you must keep updated with recent research, read pre-existing classics, and get certified to practice. If you want some inspiration, you can look up the following:

Books

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond – Judith S. Beck

You can’t go wrong with the basics. Packed with case examples, worksheets, and exercises, this book by the daughter of the founder of CBT, Aaron Beck, equips novice and experienced therapists with the knowledge and tools to apply CBT.

Feeling Good by David Burns, another pioneer of CBT who also developed TEAM-CBT. Considered one of the best self-guide books to manage depression. This should be on your reading list.

Websites

Conclusion

Digital platforms have made help-seeking more successful and bridged a large treatment gap. You can reach out to clients all over the world and it has also significantly reduced their worries about physical constraints, stigma or local resources.  

While it may be initially challenging to find the CBT apps that work for you and your clients, it can be an incredibly rewarding process of growth as a professional. As the times change, you are also adapting and making the best use of technology.

While the onus rests on you to provide professional and ethical care, you don’t have to necessarily do this alone. With a supportive and comprehensive app like Quenza, you pave the way for a better life for your clients.

If you’re inspired to start designing and testing some of your own CBT tools right now, sign up for your $1, 30-day Quenza trial and see how it works for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

CBT is a form of collaborative therapy, in which both client and therapist engage in problem-solving. They primarily work on the ruptures in interactions between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

CBT apps offer convenience and accessibility. Perhaps the best part is that they can be used in addition to almost any other therapy tool or technique.

Traditional face-to-face therapy is here to stay. Even with the best technology, many clients will still resort to traditional mediums. On the other hand, many will also choose to transfer to using online CBT apps.

Worksheets are an excellent medium to know about the client’s takeaways from the session. They also add to the pre-existing knowledge and awareness about the client’s concerns.

Yes, for both the clinician and client, there is not a fixed limit to the number of apps you can use. However, as part of the overall treatment process, it might be best to stick to one.

You may have to do extra homework to find the best and most recent updates. A reputable app is likely to release regular updates. Additionally, by attending webinars and interacting with others in the community, you can stay updated with the latest apps.

References

  1. ^ Hofmann, S. G. (2021). The future of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 45(3), 383-384.
  2. ^ McCloud, T., Jones, R., Lewis, G., Bell, V., & Tsakanikos, E. (2020). Effectiveness of a mobile app intervention for anxiety and depression symptoms in university students: randomized controlled trial. Jmir Mhealth and Uhealth, 8(7), e15418. https://doi.org/10.2196/15418.
  3. ^ Donker, T., Cornelisz, I., Van Klaveren, C., Van Straten, A., Carlbring, P., Cuijpers, P., & Van Gelder, J. (2019). Effectiveness of Self-guided App-Based Virtual Reality Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Acrophobia: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 76(7), 682. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0219.
  4. ^ Martinengo, L., Stona, A., Griva, K., Dazzan, P., Pariante, C., Von Wangenheim, F., & Car, J. (2021). Self-guided Cognitive Behavioral therapy apps for Depression: Systematic assessment of features, functionality, and congruence with evidence. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(7), e27619. https://doi.org/10.2196/27619.
  5. ^ Wootton, B. M., Karin, E., Titov, N., & Dear, B. F. (2019). Self-guided internet–delivered cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) for obsessive-compulsive symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 66, 102111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2019.102111.
  6. ^ Fenn, K., & Byrne, M. (2013). The key principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. InnovAiT, 6(9), 579–585. https://doi.org/10.1177/1755738012471029.
  7. ^ Wu, J., Sun, Y., Zhang, G., Zhen-Hui, Z., & Ren, Z. (2021). Virtual Reality-Assisted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.575094.
  8. ^ Thieme, A., Hanratty, M., Lyons, M., Palacios, J., Marques, R. F., Morrison, C., & Doherty, G. (2023). Designing human-centered AI for mental Health: Developing clinically relevant applications for online CBT treatment. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 30(2), 1–50. https://doi.org/10.1145/3564752.
  9. ^ Apolinário-Hagen, J., Drüge, M., & Fritsche, L. (2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Integrating Traditional with Digital Treatment Approaches. In Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (pp. 291–329). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-32-9705-0_17.
  10. ^ Riva, G., Malighetti, C., & Serino, S. (2021). Virtual reality in the treatment of eating disorders. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 28(3), 477–488. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2622.
  11. ^ Alavi, N., Moghimi, E., Stephenson, C., Gutiérrez, G., Jagayat, J., Kumar, A., Shao, Y., Miller, S., Yee, C., Stefatos, A., Gholamzadehmir, M., Abbaspour, Z., Shirazi, A., Gizzarelli, T., Khan, F., Patel, C., Patel, A., Yang, M., & Omrani, M. (2023). Comparison of online and in-person cognitive behavioral therapy in individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder: a non-randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1113956.
  12. ^ David, D., Cristea, I. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). Why cognitive behavioral therapy is the current gold standard of psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00004.
  13. ^ Self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy apps for depression: systematic assessment of features, functionality, and congruence with evidence.

About the author

Janvi is a therapist, writer, and editor with three years of experience fact-checking and reviewing research-based content. She has specialized in Clinical Psychology and has helped write and review a plethora of academic and feature articles.

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