Med Tech Report

Technology, counseling, and CBT apps for primary care


There is probably no area where human contact is more important than in the area of counseling and psychotherapy. Or so most of us have thought. It turns out that, even in behavioral medicine, technology has made fantastic inroads in helping patients achieve real improvement in troublesome behavioral symptoms. There is good evidence that digital interfaces for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help in the treatment of anxiety and depression. We will not go over that evidence in this column, other than to say that the evidence is there, but rather we will review some of the best apps that those of us in primary care can utilize in the care of our patients. It is our opinion that these apps are best used in conjunction with our care to supplement the counseling we are giving our patients in the office. Many of the apps listed may be used for both anxiety and depression, as well as in areas related to problem solving, self-esteem, anger management, creating lifestyle changes, and coping with uncertainty.

Dr. Neil Skolnik and Aaron Sutton, Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health

Dr. Neil Skolnik and Aaron Sutton


MoodKit is a CBT app with four main tools: a collection of activities focused on coping self-efficacy (a person’s belief in success in specific situations) that includes individual productivity, social relationships, physical activity, and healthy habits; a thought checker; mood tracker; and journal. MoodKit is accessed in an unstructured way and can be used as an unguided self-help app. It is useful in patient interactions to access interventions in areas such as social engagement and options for choosing a healthy lifestyle. It is available in Apple’s App Store, and it costs $4.99.


Based on CBT and positive psychology, Moodnotes assists in recognizing and learning about “traps” in thinking, as well as emphasizing healthier thinking habits. Traps in thinking include “catastrophic thinking” where patients with depression may think that a small error or behavioral indiscretion may lead to a consequence that far exceeds what is likely, or “mind-reading” where a person assumes that others are critical of them without actually having evidence that this is the case. Moodnotes tracks mood over a period of time while identifying factors that influence it. It is helpful in between visits to aid clinicians in gaining perspective on mood patterns. It is available in the App Store; it costs $4.99.


This app recommends strategies based in CBT after input of low moods or feelings of anxiety. MoodMission provides five “missions” to engage in that promote confidence in handling stressors and promotes coping self-efficacy. The app learns what style works best and tailors techniques according to when a patient uses it most frequently. Rewards in the app are used to promote motivation and to increase pleasure and self-confidence. It is useful for patients who could use a lift in mood or decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression. It available in the App Store and Google Play, and it’s free.


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