Psy Apps: They're Not Therapists But Hey, What do You Want for 99 Cents?

Much has happened in the world of pop psychology since "Don't Worry, Be Happy" zoomed to the top of the charts in 1988.

Smartphones, for example. They have psychology apps aplenty.

Divorce App photo
The Divorce App lets kids draw a picture of divorce.

Most are a waste, as reviewers' comments make clear.

Some are nifty, like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's free 3D Brain, which helps locate neurological structures and explain the aftereffects of damage. It is available at the Apple and Android apps stores; the following are iPhone-only:

The very basic Divorce App ($3.99) is an ebook version of Robert Woliver's Mango Season Doesn't Last Forever, written to help children cope, with some exercises thrown in.

Live Happy ($1.99), based on psychologist Sonja Lyubomir- sky's The How of Happiness, is far more sophisticated. Simple strategies like offering gratitude and nurturing relationships are pursued through activities that are presented in quasi-personalized programs ("Will this feel natural to you?" "Will you value doing this even when it's not enjoyable?").

Goals can be personalized as well, and when you are ready to express appreciation to someone, your address book opens. There is a weekly author Q&A.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, which uses specific exercises to gradually change dysfunctional ways of thinking, is the basis for eCBT Trauma and its sibling apps Mood (depression) and Calm (stress), 99 cents each.

The app acknowledges that trauma can be serious, and certain responses to its self-assessment tool elicit a suggestion to call a suicide hotline, with the number.

There are exposure exercises to gradually reimagine a traumatic event, rate your stress level, and save it for comparison, as well as various other skill-building options, such as learning to relax, and to identify, and control, automatic and often destructive thoughts.

The app will not take the place of a real therapist. But it is $1 cheaper to download than the old Bobby McFerrin ditty.


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