- Developer is a reputable mental health organization (The Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia doing business as AnxietyBC)
- Targeted to teenagers and to distinct forms of anxiety
- Provides CBT-based education on the sources and different manifestations of anxiety
- Some customizable features and smooth interface without needing professional support
- Includes guided audio skill training in a variety of exercises
- Contains a brief anxiety questionnaire to help users pinpoint their problem area(s)
- Free to download and access does not require a subscription
- Optional password protection
- Education is somewhat limited, and frequently uses links to the developer’s website
- Activities are not interactive
- Limited appeal to young adults or older individuals
- Potentially useful for longer-term, mild-moderate anxiety, but unlikely to be helpful in a severe crisis
MindShift is multiplatform app for use with iOS version 6.1 and later and AndroidOS version 2.2 and later. The app was created by AnxietyBC, the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, which is a nonprofit group of consumers, providers, and advocates in Canada that works closely with the Provincial Health Services Authority. They developed MindShift in order to provide a widely-accessible intervention suite for anxiety that is targeted at adolescents. In brief, the app provides basic information about the causes of anxiety and the different forms that anxiety can take, as well as a number of simple skills and relaxation techniques to help users overcome mild to moderate anxiety in their everyday lives. It focuses on worry, test anxiety, social anxiety, performance anxiety, dealing with conflict, panic, and perfectionism. The information and skills are based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for anxiety with a great deal of research supporting its efficacy.
MindShift provides education about anxiety through short, easy to read text articles that each answer a commonly asked question about anxiety or how to cope with it. Many of these articles include links to longer pieces on the AnxietyBC website; similar links are also found in other relevant areas of the app. One drawback of MindShift is that the articles are not available in another format, such as video or audio.
An interesting feature of MindShift is the My Situations tab, which asks users to describe specific circumstances that cause anxiety. It offers both preprogramed selections and open-ended questions to help users identify triggers for anxiety. It then asks users to identify replacement thoughts and skills that they can use to cope with anxiety in that situation.
The skills offered in MindShift come in two broad categories: “Chill Out Tools” and “Active Steps.” Chill Out Tools are relaxation and meditation techniques that help to lower stress and shift the user’s focus away from anxiety and onto more productive and healthy activities. Active Steps are proactive behaviors that may either prevent anxiety or provide distraction. Users can record their favorites for quicker access. Users have unlimited access to these tools and can refer to them repeatedly for practice.
MindShift also includes an electronic questionnaire for assessing the type of anxiety that is most bothersome for the user. There are also variations of this questionnaire attached to each Situation chosen as a focus by the user that helps to narrow down the issues that the user is facing in that domain.
Finally, under the Help section, the app contains phone numbers for several crisis hotlines, for users in Canada and the United States. These are not clearly marked, so users must check in advance as to which hotline is available in their area.
Ease of Use and User Experience
The app is visually appealing and has a high resolution on modern screens. It uses a cool, pleasant color palette and there are only minor visibility issues on smaller screens. However, users who have difficulty reading or sustaining attention, or who have problems with extended use of screens, may be frustrated by the primarily text-based presentation of the information in the app. There are some interactive exercises but these are mostly limited to the selection of items on the questionnaire and in the My Situations function, so users may find it hard to engage with the app over the long-term course of any anxiety illness that they may have.
The app bases its educational materials, guided practice exercises, and therapeutic recommendations on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a well-researched treatment modality for anxiety. However, this app itself has not been studied in clinical trials or compared to other eMental Health programs.
The app is free to download and use, and no restrictions are placed on the user or any of the app’s features. No subscription is ever required.
This app is likely to increase users’ knowledge of anxiety, many of its causes, and several useful ways to cope with it. It includes multiple customizable functions and several questionnaires. It is free to use, and therefore accessible to anyone with a smartphone or tablet. It was also produced by a nationally-recognized nonprofit mental health organization in Canada. However, it has limited interactive components and the educational materials are brief and can require users to exit the app in order to go to the developer’s website for additional information. Finally, it is targeted to adolescents, and while this is an important age at which to offer interventions for anxiety, prospective adult users should be aware of this. Overall, MindShift is probably a useful app for teenagers who need some help dealing with mild to moderate anxiety in any of a variety of situations, but it should not take the place of traditional treatment for more severe anxiety disorders.
Review date December 2015