This app from New Zealand is making all the right noises in the world of counselling and therapy. Next time you are feeling low, try it out.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says mental illnesses affect one in four people on the planet. Over 300 million suffer from depression, 275 million from anxiety, about 50 million from bipolar disorder, and several million from substance abuse.
Mental illnesses could strike anyone, anywhere, and at any point in their lives - it could be you, or your partner, your friend, or a family member. Despite mental illnesses being commonplace, there is an enormous amount of social stigma attached to it.
WHO says, “Nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders.”
As a result, a lot of self-help, meditation and wellness apps are now gaining ground. These allow mental health patients to be in control of their self-analysis, introspection, and actions.
Unless, of course, the illness is chronic, which makes a doctor visit imperative, these apps can go a long way in making the sufferer feel better. Most importantly, they relieve users of the social stigma because an app is a private experience after all.
Thinkladder is one such ‘self-awareness and mental wellness’ app that hit Google Play Store earlier in 2018. In a short span, it has become the top-downloaded app in New Zealand, one of the leading apps in Australia, and is gaining acceptance in the UK and other markets. It is available in India too, on both iOS and Android.
The app was developed by New Zealand couple, Matt and Katie Gatt, who wanted to build a product that could make neuroscience and behavioural therapy available on your mobile phones. It could help people fight depression, stress and anxiety, and encourage them to bring about healthier thought patterns.
Thinkladder enables users to fight negative thinking, challenge distorted beliefs that cause unhappiness, and focus on positive triggers in line with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
“Our subconscious beliefs profoundly influence our mood, automatic thoughts and habitual responses. We can rewire our brain by a way of focused concentration, repetition and perseverance,” the founders explained.
Users receive motivational insights on the app that help form consistent positive thoughts. They can incorporate those insights in their daily lives through reminders and alerts.
Essentially, Thinkladder is your therapist on the go. By the founders’ own admission, they want to “make help as accessible as possible”.
Let’s look at how the app works.
You have to create an account if you wish to receive regular ‘insights’. If not, the app can be browsed through without logging in as well.
There is an intro page that lets users know what the app is out to do. There is an important disclaimer here: “Thinkladder’s self-awareness and self-development tools are designed to assist people in their wellness journey but are not intended to replace professional therapy.”
The homepage brings you an Insight Finder - the app’s key feature. It helps you identify a thought that is making you uncomfortable and you’d like to get rid of.
Once you click on the Insight Finder, you’re taken to a page which lists Themes - Perfectionism, Self-Worth, Correction & Criticism, Compassion Fatigue, Anger, Anxiety, People Pleasing, etc. You pick one depending on the thought you want to challenge.
Say you picked the theme ‘Comparing Myself to Others’. You land on a page that lists ‘symptoms’ and ‘unhelpful beliefs’ associated with it.
It displays a Symptom, and lets you Discover the belief that causes it.
It then makes you Challenge that unhelpful belief.
And offers you a positive Insight.
You can add insights to Gallery, and even pin them to locations. It means if you’re feeling something at a particular place, say a mall or in traffic or at someone’s house, whenever you are in that location, the app sends you a positive insight related to that.
So, if you feel anxious in alien company, your saved insights will help you battle that anxiety. This is Thinkladder’s most exciting feature.
All saved insights can be accessed through the Gallery icon on the bottom tab. The tab contains an audio icon too, and the app will soon offer audio insights, which will play out on their own if the user schedules alerts.
Daily or weekly reminders can be scheduled. This is particularly helpful if the user is prone to thinking a certain way in a given place or day. So, if you struggle with Monday blues, and have set up an alert before, the app directs you to related positive insights every Monday.
Lastly, the app also provides a Psych Toolkit that houses answers to some FAQs. The toolkit has been put together by a team of trained therapists.
Here is a sample answer.
Is Thinkladder effective?
Both yes and no.
Yes, if your depression is mild, your anxiety occasional, and your stress one-off situational. Thinkladder serves as a quick, pocket-friendly (literally) therapist in such scenarios. It also helps you learn self-control and the art of positive thinking.
But, if you are clinically depressed or deep in the throes of internal conflict that has gone unresolved for long, you possibly need medical intervention. Thinkladder makers are clear that their app is not a replacement for professional therapy. Even though their techniques have been derived from neuroscience and CBT, many patients require constant hand-holding that an app can never provide.
But, Thinkladder is a great product nonetheless. It goes way beyond sundry meditation apps that have flooded app stores, and brings in real perspectives and insights on our personality and mind.
Even if you aren’t suffering from a mental illness, you can self-analyse and reinforce positive thinking through Thinkladder. It totally scores in that department!