How to Develop a Mental Health App from A to Z

Mental health is an inalienable yet vulnerable part of our existence. For centuries, people have faced the symptoms of psychological issues and suffered from depressive episodes and anxiety, but rarely understood it and received the appropriate support. Luckily, societies are now shifting towards giving high priority to psychological wellness.

We need such a shift now more than ever. Lately, we’ve been going through groundbreaking historical changes and challenges. Global lockdowns, economic crises, and the devastating Russo-Ukrainian war are shocking and traumatic experiences for all of us, so psychological aid is now a common need for millions of people.

The market responds to these changes effectively, so today, there are a myriad of mental health applications for nearly any request. It paves the way to reachable global mental wellness, particularly for those who choose digital services over live therapy or just can’t attend conventional counseling.

Wish to enter into the mental health app market? Read on to discover the specificities of this sector, see the best apps for mental health so far, and learn how to develop a mental health app from the ground up.

Market overview

In 2021, mental health disorders ranked among the top 3 health problems worldwide. It’s quite a controversial question, whether it’s because we’re living during stressful and tough times, or people just began to treat psychological health more seriously. Whatever it may be, depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and dozens of other abbreviated disorders affect millions of people worldwide.

Consequently, we’re witnessing an exponential rise in the demand for counseling and other sorts of mental health support. Moreover, app developers want to play their part in bringing mental health to the attention and presenting conventional therapy alternatives. Today, we are witnessing a boom in mental health app development: in just 5 years, the market is anticipated to amount to $3.3B.

Indeed, even top mental health apps are not meant to substitute therapy, but increasingly more people are in search of in-app psychological support.

So, how exactly can apps for mental health beat good old-fashioned personal appointments?


  • Convenience – To begin your treatment or self-improvement, just get your device, find a stable internet connection, and install a mental health therapy app. You don’t have to tie yourself down to one location to maintain physical contact with a counselor; rather you can dwell, travel, or be almost anywhere without adversely affecting your therapy progress.
  • Cost-efficiency – Mental health services have surged in popularity, but still, they may be quite costly for many individuals. Mental health apps are less expensive than individual therapy sessions, or sometimes even free of charge.
  • Anonymity – Confidentiality is arguably the main concern for patients in the process of mental health treatment. Many individuals would rather choose therapy apps, as they allow them not to share private info. This fact makes data protection paramount for a credible mental health app.
  • Accessibility – In some regions, common people can’t receive proper mental health support. With mental health applications, residents of countries around the world who lack accessibility can access even first-class services right from their device.
  • Timely support – Not only do mental health apps allow patients and counselors from different time zones to work together, they are also available round the clock. Consequently, users’ ability to seek help at all hours, or in an emergency situation is immeasurably strengthened.
  • Education & self-exploration – Mental health tracking in the form of various sleep, mood, meal, or medication trackers is both fun and helpful for self-discovery, as well as for ongoing work with a specialist. Additionally, even some general apps have invaluable theoretical info or helpful self-care tips.

Types of mental health apps

Mental health app development is a saturated and diversified market. It may target extremely diverse audiences of different age groups, genders, educational backgrounds, and lifestyles.

Accordingly, the functionality of mental health apps may also be disparate, and you will surely find a type that best aligns with your interests and goals.

General mental health apps

These mental health applications are multipurpose and can serve anyone who promotes psychological well-being. Apps for mental health therapy, journaling platforms, and even AI-powered conversational bots may be handy for preventive mental healthcare.

To the same extent, customers with diagnosed conditions can gain much from these apps, e.g., get additional help, explore their feelings, or get insight that is valuable for their therapy sessions.

Examples of general mental health apps

  • BetterHelp ranks among the best therapy apps so far. On this platform, you can select a perfect therapist or psychologist for your needs. BetterHelp accepts only 15% of all counseling experts who want to offer their service, so you will have a chance to choose from verified specialists and get info on their backgrounds. The app contains convenient filters, chatting or calling options, and some other useful functions.
  • Woebot may become your mental health fellow, a science-backed and AI-driven coach who’s always ready to listen to your worries like a friend and give actionable advice like a coach would. The bot stays with you round the clock, so you can initiate a heart-to-heart conversation at any time, 100% privately. Not only is Woebot your most loyal listener, but you can also learn some practical coping tips along with the newest studies concerning your problem.


Apps for addiction recovery

People who struggle with alcohol, substance, porn, food addictions, and smoking need continuous support, which is often impossible in the context of solely face-to-face mental health assistance.

So, recovery apps can supplement this kind of treatment or become a self-help tool. Such platforms typically have journaling options, as well as monitoring tools for recording your advancements and spotting triggers.

Examples of apps for addiction recovery

  • Sober Grid takes the shape of a motivational community for people who are striving to get rid of a bad habit. Want to find sober companions just around you? Just turn on your GPS, go to the app, and look for them. And if you would like to quit by yourself, you can use the service anonymously.
  • Twenty-Four Hours a Day is a wonderful choice if you lack motivation while on the path toward overcoming addiction. This app gives you the right words just when you need them, may it be a quote or meditation. The source for these phrases is taken from a bestseller book.


Anxiety, depression & mood control

Depression and anxiety are often termed “the other pandemic of our age”. In Europe, over half of the residents are under threat of depression, and the number of the US citizens reporting corresponding symptoms has risen by 30% from 2019 to 2021.

With that said, today, specific apps for anxiety and depression may be especially useful for keeping an eye on the symptom, self-care, or even suicide prevention.

Examples of apps for anxiety, depression, and mood control

  • MindShift is a free mental health tracker that aims primarily at users with stress, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and relevant issues. It contains tons of helpful insight about these psychological issues and teaches practical CBT-based strategies to fight anxiety on a daily basis.
  • Moodfit focuses on mind training, discovering what makes your mood go up and down, and supplying practical tools for getting a grip on the mood. These tools include mood and gratitude journals, personalized goals, meditations, medication trackers, and other tactics originating from the CBT approach.


Apps for specific disorders treatment

Some apps for mental health offer tools and informative content for handling eating disorders, PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and other conditions and their symptoms.

For sure, no app can fully replace professional treatment, but it can complement the therapeutic approach by tracking symptoms, giving some insight, or offering coping methods.

Examples of apps for specific disorders treatment

  • RR Eating Disorder Management, as its name suggests, was made for people who struggle with binge-eating, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other food-related issues. It allows recording meals and preparing plans for them, writing down their reflections and emotions, setting reminders, and even contacting a nutritionist. Encouraging game-like elements in the app inspire users not to give up on their recovery journey.
  • eMoods is a universal mental health tracker that helps people with bipolar disorders control their mood, sleeping schedule, other symptoms, and also the scheduled flow of their drug treatment. Users get a descriptive graph showing their patterns, and this insight may be an additional helpful element of the main therapy provided.


Mental self-improvement apps

Mental health apps for self-improvement target a broad general audience. They are helpful even for common people who want to improve their quality of life and don’t have any health issues. This category includes all sorts of trackers, as well as digital journals, coaching platforms, and workout apps.

Often, these apps compile statistics based on regular tracking, that’s why reminders are an integral feature of these apps.

Examples of mental self-improvement apps

  • Daylio can substitute traditional journaling by transforming it into a handy app format. It’s an advanced mood tracker that also enables you to record your activities. The mental health tracker brings together all your logs in insightful statistics, including a “Year in Pixels” setup. The platform places emphasis on privacy and helps you protect your data with a PIN or biometric lock.
  • SleepScore is one of the top-ranked sleep trackers so far. While keeping in mind the importance of sleep quality for an active and healthy lifestyle, the SleepScore team has developed a tool for improving this aspect of your life. The platform uses the microphone and speakers of your phone to record and then analyze your sleeping patterns and present them in the form of graphs. It also has a smart alarm clock that can wake you up without stress.


Meditation & mindfulness apps

Lately, meditation has turned from a mysterious ancient ritual into a beloved way of mind training. These practices are proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health. In these apps, you’ll find guided meditations, timers, and educational info on mental and spiritual wellness.

A smooth and aesthetic design, relaxing voice or music, and a minimalistic interface are broad features that are found in a mindfulness app.

Examples of meditation & mindfulness apps

  • Headspace is one of the most prominent meditation apps so far. A well-structured platform, founded by a former Buddhist monk, contains hundreds of meditations and dozens of thematic courses, including an introductory course for beginners.
  • Waking Up was founded by Sam Harris, a prominent philosopher and neuroscientist. Apart from a traditional practical section, the app has an in-depth theoretical part and a collection of interviews and discussions with renowned scholars on complicated and provocative issues.


Hopefully, we’ve inspired you with some mental health app ideas. Whichever you choose, remember that you will most likely target a highly vulnerable audience, so you should always create content based on proven information from trustworthy sources in order not to harm the user’s psychological state.

Now, it’s time to discover how to create a mental health app in further detail.

Common features for mental health apps

After you’ve decided which kind of mental health app you are into, it’s time to specify the core features you should include. Many apps become a platform for interaction between patients and therapists.

Such mental health app features include lightning-fast onboarding, laconic yet descriptive user profile, and communication features like chats and phone or video calls which will be used by both parties.

However, other features differ for patients and specialists, so let’s discover the main differences.

Must-have features for patients

  • Self-monitoring options – Different kinds of trackers are important for nearly any kind of mental health app. These may be mood, meal, sleep, medication, habit trackers, as well as a journal with personalized prompts or some space for creativity.
  • Analytics – It is crucial for any patient to see his or her progress, so it’s a great idea to design some diagrams, tables, graphs, and correlations. They may show the progress made in reaching the goal, or just a sum-up of regular achievements.
  • Emergency support – As your app will most likely provide constant support, it’s reasonable to include an option for instant connection with his or her coach. It’s a must-have feature for apps for anxiety and depression.
  • Notifications & reminders – Short yet motivating reminders engage the users more, and also inspire them to continue keeping a journal or record their behavior for a more extensive analysis.
  • Gamification details – Along with notifications, game-like features also drive engagement and inspiration. Consider including goals, reward points, and motivational quotes in your app.
  • Educational section – Inspire your users to educate themselves about mental wellness. You may want to include expert podcasts, blog posts, infographics, or specific literature for that.

Must-have features for specialists/practitioners

  • Dashboard – Here, specialists should have handy access to all the information related to the workflow, including patient data, requests, revenue count, and advanced analytics.
  • Scheduling – Let practitioners plan their work right in your app. You can design an in-app calendar or integrate third-party platforms like Google Calendar for more convenient scheduling.
  • Access control – This feature ensures the confidentiality of the app. Mental health applications contain sensitive and confidential user information, which should always be in the arms of the right people.

These mental health app features have to be present in every piece, however, specific app types will require enhanced functionality. For instance, it may be a visual or sound library and a timer in a meditation app, and forums for people who use recovery apps and need some support and motivation to get rid of an addiction.

To create a mental health app that wins the hearts and minds of your target audience, you will need to look at your product from the user’s perspective.

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Mental health app data protection

Many people choose an application for mental health services over conventional face-to-face therapy primarily because they place a higher level of trust in app privacy and personal data security. And you as a mental health app owner should not disappoint their expectations.

While developing a mental health application, you must prioritize confidentiality. Here, we’re talking not only about must-have data encryption, multi factor authentication, and other cybersecurity practices to prevent data breaches. It’s also essential that your app complies with official local and international regulations.

Here are some of them:

  • ISO 27001
  • IEC 62304
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • HIPAA for the US, GDPR for the EU, or other regulations.

Another fundamental rule of user security is accepting only verified mental health experts. A therapist or counselor with an appropriate license is safe for your project to avoid penalties, protect your customers’ data, and become a reputable mental health service provider.

Data security is paramount, but some other aspects of mental health app development will definitely turn your MVP into a full-value project.

Things to consider before mental health app development

Target audience analysis

Learning your target customer at the early stages will give you several advantages in further development. It’s impossible to create a mental health app that suits every single user, but you can do everything in your power to attract your customer. Additionally, that will give you an image of which features are essential, and which will be redundant.

Sketch your perfect user with some leading questions. For instance, how old is he or she? Which gender prevails among your audience? Will game-like elements make any difference or generate more interest? How busy they may be and how much time will they most likely spend in my app? Would they like to meet other like-minded people? This kind of inner dialogue with the user in mind will help you create an outstanding product.

Monetization models

Just like in the case of any digital product, you can generate revenue from your mental health application by using monetization strategies. However, not all of them work well with this kind of app, so let’s take a closer look at the most widespread models.

With a freemium model, your potential customers can use only some functions, or they will be available for a limited time span. Then, the users can pay a fee to continue utilizing the app at full capacity. It’s probably the most common monetization strategy, because users have an opportunity to test the product before paying for it.

Another option is a classic subscription model. You’ll receive money from using your app monthly, quarterly, or yearly. It’s a perfect solution for those users who plan to use the product occasionally.

The pay-to-download approach allows using your app only by buying it, and in-app purchases imply giving unique content or hidden functions for a set price.

In contrast with the previous models, advertising is not welcome for an app for mental health. It’s still an option, but you will most likely lose your customers very quickly. Mental health apps should be a little corner of tranquility and positivity for the users, and occasional ads will surely disrupt this spirit.

Design guidelines

Mental health applications are different from, let’s say, financial apps or messengers. Design is decisive for apps for mental health services. It can convey the overall mood, tune the users to further practice, and create a warming atmosphere.

You can get creative with delivering the essence of your product through design, but try to stick to calming colors and peaceful music.

Workflow automation

Mental health specialists can make use of app task automation to make their workflow more time-, effort- and cost-efficient, and thus serve even more patients. Relieve them from patient registration and interview, appointment, regular symptom control, or even manage prescriptions by automating these routine tasks.

Encouraging & engaging

The best apps for mental health are meant to transform the way your customers perceive the world and behave in their everyday life. But like any workout, a mental workout will be effective only if you train it properly and regularly. And that is what makes engagement and motivation so crucial for this kind of app.

To make the app encouraging and engaging, consider adding motivational quotes and phrases to app contents and notifications, or game-like features such as goals, challenges, rewards, in-app currency, etc. However, beware of turning gamification into harm for highly sensitive users, so always think through such details, focusing on the specificities of your audience.

Third-party integrations

You can reduce costs and save a significant amount of time and effort on mental health app development if you decide to implement third-party APIs. In many cases, these integrations can also have obvious bonuses for customers.

For example, the implementation of Google Calendar will give users a chance to plan appointments and fit them into their personal schedule fast and handily, just because it’s a widespread service. Similarly, you can use Sendbird or Stream for chats, OpenID for sign-in procedures, Google Maps for location detection, OneSignal for notifications, etc.


Wrapping up

Mental health app development is a diverse and forward-looking field that, for better or worse, will remain demanded in the future. So, if your dream is to combine profitability with the value for society, you’ve embarked on the right path. The process of building this kind of app itself requires both creativity and data credibility, along with high-level privacy and legal compliance.

With the experienced experts of the Eastern Peak team by your side, mental health app development will turn into an exciting journey, hand in hand. Contact us to get a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some apps that help with mental health?

Mental health applications can have different forms and functions. Some of them boil down to various trackers that help record and analyze your mood and sleep patterns or stick to a habit.

Other apps may contain meditations, workouts, coaching and therapy options, etc. However, some highly specific apps for mental health which can help fight selected diagnoses.

How do I create a mental health app?

Start with defining your desired app type and its target customer as a foundation for further development. Then, you can build an MVP with its core features, test it, and complement it with additional functions. While developing a mental health application, the main emphasis should be on data security, which also implies adhering to local and international law.

How much does it cost to create a mental health app?

If you decide to reach out to an app development company, the price for a basic app will depend on its location. In Eastern Europe, you can expect to pay $30-70 per hour, while the rate for USA developers may reach up to $180 per hour for a delivered product of the same quality.

Creating a mental health app may take up to 5,000 hours, and the final price for a basic app will fluctuate between $30,000 and $180,000 for the first version, not including additional expenses, for instance, for certifications.

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