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People in Recovery

How to Choose A Self-Help App

Technology use has been steadily rising over the past few years. COVID-19 has only increased this with the need to stay home for the safety of ourselves and our communities. As a result, the development of apps to support wellness and recovery has grown rapidly, with options available to support people with mental health and substance use challenges.  With 24/7 availability right from our phones, apps allow easy and rapid access to services, especially for communities with frequent barriers to care. However, for many of the apps out there, there isn’t enough research evidence supporting their efficacy. Apps can be helpful in getting extra support between therapy sessions or trying out a new technique, but they are not made to replace professional treatment.

There are many different types of apps targeting wellness and recovery. Some provide tracking and encouragement, and some provide specific techniques or activities to practice every day. With so many apps out there, it can be hard to choose between them all. Here are some key tips on how to choose a wellness and recovery self-help app that is right for you:

  • One important factor to consider is whether the app is evidence-based, that is, proven to be safe and effective by multiple high-quality research studies. In addition to looking at user reviews and ratings in the app store, you can also check the app’s website and do a quick Google Scholar search to see if the app has any associated research studies.
  • Another consideration is data privacy. Every app is required to have some form of privacy policy that tells you how the app handles your data – however, these policies are often hidden away and hard to read. At the very least, you can make sure the app actually has a privacy policy, which should be linked in the App Store or Google Play Store. If you are unsure of an app’s privacy, avoid entering any identifiable information.

For people with existing providers, choosing an app can be done with your provider to best meet your needs. Although many providers may be new to apps themselves, they may be able to guide you with additional resources and use tools such as the APA’s App Advisor—a tool made by the American Psychiatric Association for clinicians to help the people they serve make informed decisions when choosing a self-help app.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.


Wellness tools and resources to support recovery can be download from https://www.center4healthandsdc.org/wellness-in-8d.html). While you’re on that website, check out some of the other available resources.