Can Mental Health Apps Replace Counseling?

Mental health apps typically promise stress relief, or a solution to depression, grief, and anxiety. But can digital tools really replace counseling? If your organization is considering replacing your EAP with a digital-first mental health benefit, keep reading to learn why even the best apps can’t replace the effectiveness of human-to-human connection.

Mental Health App versus EAP User Journey

When evaluating your organization’s mental health benefits, it’s critical to ask: What will happen when an employee in distress reaches out for help? Because it’s one thing to offer mental health benefits to employees, but if no one is using the benefit (or having a positive experience) then your organization will continue to deal with high rates of absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover. Resulting in higher costs of healthcare premiums, disability claims, and lost productivity.

These risks are why it’s so important for HR/Benefit Teams to consider what happens when your employees can only access their benefit with a digital-first mental health app versus the immediate care they’ll receive from a comprehensive EAP like Carebridge.

Consider Your Employee’s Pathway to Care

Mental Health Apps

1. Finds the app in the online store.
2. Downloads the app.
3. Finds your organization’s credentials.
4. Creates an account.
5. Learns how to use the app.
6. Fills out a long, multiple-choice questionnaire.
7. Chooses from AI-generated care options.
8. Schedules an appointment with no one to answer questions or provide support in the moment.
9. Finally speaks to a human at first counseling appointment (2-3+ days later).

Carebridge EAP

1. Calls our live answer 24-7-365 call center.
2. Within 15 seconds, talks with a compassionate Care Coordinator who will ask a few intake questions.
3. Speaks directly with a licensed mental health counselor for in-the-moment support.
4. Moves forward with a custom care plan they fully understand and helped design based on their unique needs.
Can call back to speak with a counselor at any time.

One Size Fits All Treatment Plan

There are many benefits to artificial intelligence. But even the biggest supporters of technology will say there are limitations.

Algorithms are smart enough to flag keywords and calculate answers to in-app questionnaires. But they can’t decipher human emotion or recognize subtle safety concerns like a mental health professional does during a 1-on-1 assessment. Missing this critical piece of mental health support can compromise employee outcomes and undermine your organization’s investment in a mentally healthy workforce.

The 2023 equivalent of a frustrating phone tree

Have you ever lost your debit card? If so, then you know the dreaded feeling of stress and panic. You call your bank hoping to speak to a human who will quickly fix your problem. But instead, calling your bank results in a series of automated prompts, annoying hold music, and limited options. Each precious moment that passes is more time for a thief to clear out your hard earned money from your account. Then when you finally get your problem solved, your account is frozen until you receive your new card in 5-7 days. Creating even more inconvenience and frustration—so stressful!

Losing a bank card is similar to having a mental health issue when your only choice is to schedule an appointment several days from now through a digital app. You’re limited to canned responses and AI-driven results instead of a trained professional who checks in on how you’re doing.

Is replacing mental health counseling with an app really the user experience you want when your employees are reaching out for help?

Mental Health Apps Should Enhance—Not Replace—Counseling

At Carebridge, we believe mental health counseling should be readily available at all points of contact. Because often times, the moment when someone decides to reach out for help is when they are most vulnerable and in need of 1:1 human connection.

Our licensed counselors are experts in understanding how a person’s emotional and verbal response reveals the current state of their safety and wellbeing. This critical insight is the main reason we rely on live assessments instead of AI-driven questionnaires. Ensuring each member receives the best pathway to care upfront results in better outcomes. (And in some cases, our members don’t even need to tap into their free counseling sessions because the initial call with our counselor helped them so much!)

No mental health app can know if someone is suicidal, a harm to others, or experiencing high emotions. Your employees’ wellbeing needs 24-7 access to human connection through a comprehensive EAP like Carebridge.

Carebridge Can Help

If you’re considering a people-first employee assistance program that will truly result in mental health support for your employees, as well as critical incident stress debriefing, work-life services, and behavioral change, Carebridge can help. Email our sales team today at to request how you can receive all these services at a lower cost per employee than the leading mental health apps.

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Don't replace counseling with an app. Because no mental health app can know if someone is suicidal, a harm to others, or highly emotional. Your employees' wellbeing needs 24-7 access to human connection through a comprehensive EAP like Carebridge.