Mood trackers are useful for many people to help them better understand and manage their mental health.
They can be helpful in daily journaling or recording of moods and observations, as well as providing useful statistics to alert you when certain situations or activities may negatively impact your mood.
The thought trackers, goals, and other resources provided by most of these apps also offer added motivation to improve overall well-being.
While tracking our emotions is important, it’s worth noting that mood-tracking apps are not intended to replace professional therapy or medication; they should merely provide additional support to your clients along their journey towards understanding themselves and living healthier.
We spoke to Helen McGillivray, BABCP accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, on how she uses mood-tracking apps to help her clients:
How do you use apps to keep your clients engaged during therapy?
As a psychological therapist, I teach people to become more aware of thoughts and feelings and to observe them from a distance. When we create space between our thoughts and feelings, we can make choices that allow us to move from feeling stuck towards the life that matters.
At the beginning of therapy, I might ask, “how did that feel?”. I am often met with a curious look, and “I don’t know” is usually the answer.
In our modern world, self-awareness is often overlooked due to the demands of our busy lives and the constant stream of information available. We must teach ourselves how to tune inwards and notice our internal experiences.
I have found that when clients use tools or apps to support the work we do in session – which includes monitoring and tracking activities, journaling and practices to do between sessions – they appear more actively engaged in the therapy process. I can then store and monitor this data in my practice management software.
Why should our clients track their moods alongside therapy?
Many factors affect our mood; internal triggers such as difficult thoughts and feelings, sleep, hormones and diet, or external ones such as other people’s behaviour and daily situations and challenges. Of course, we all like to feel pleasant emotions; but it is not always possible to feel good.
Our desire for constant happiness leads to feelings such as frustration or despair. This can lead us to develop strategies to avoid unpleasant emotions, such as not speaking up or avoiding certain tasks or situations.
This can be helpful in the short term, but what we resist can persist.
The practice of regular mood tracking enables us to notice triggers that cause us to feel uncomfortable and potentially lead to unhelpful and repeating patterns of behaviour.
Mood tracking provides very useful ‘self-management’ data. When we become more aware, we are more likely to accept that moods change the flow, and we can contain all sorts of emotions. This acceptance makes us more able to connect with ourselves, our intuition and the things that matter most to our world.
Helen’s top five tips for tracking your clients’ moods:
- Use a journal or a mood-tracking app – something with a weekly or monthly view will provide good insight.
- Add comments about what you are doing and who you are with – this will highlight links between situations, activities and your mood.
- Be consistent and regular in your tracking. This will enable you to notice patterns.
- Create checkpoints in your day, set reminders and make it a habit.
- Tune in to how feelings feel in your body; where do you feel them? Try and put a name to the feelings and observe the sensations in your body.
Which mood-tracking app do you recommend?
I have been using the OK Positive app in my clinical work.
It has a mood-tracking function (which provides me with real-time data), a journaling option with weekly/monthly viewing options, and there is personalised content to support between session activities.
The patient can also share information with me, which I can observe from a dashboard and upload into WriteUpp. It helps bring the therapy process alive.
Helen McGillivray is a BABCP accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with 16 years of experience providing psychological therapies and the founder of Compass Therapy Ltd.