What can you do to help yourself if you’re seeking support, on a waiting listing for therapy, or just want to up your self-care game? You could try a wellness and mental health app like Woebot.
Before we start, let me just say that this article hasn’t been paid for or endorsed/sponsored by anyone. I was inspired to do this article after reading an article on the National Elf Service and because of my partner. However, if you’d like your product, app, or service reviewed, then visit my contact page, where you can download my media pack, and then contact me about how we could make that happen.
I decided to take the Woebot app for a test drive because my partner had told me that their place of work had started recommending it to their employees. However, my partner has a pet hate for employers offering wellness advice. Not that I can argue with that. It’s a plaster for a broken leg measure. Unlike my partner, however, I didn’t have a code to use to try out its potential premium features, so I just took the free option for a test drive.
My partner only told me about Woebot because they wondered what my thoughts would be about an AI therapist, but I’m all for it if it helps. It doesn’t perform the same work as an actual therapist, it more walks you through some basic self-help and self-care.
So let’s see if Woebot goes further than simply being the bare minimum to support people. I’ll start this article with a diary-like day-to-day use of the Woebot app. After that, I’ll talk about any positives and negatives of the app, followed by some suggestions. Lastly, I’ll give my verdict on the app to end the review.
Daily Diary: Week One
I downloaded and filled in the necessary information to join the Woebot. I then had a look around the app and saw that it appears to be an 8-week programme. Although, maybe something will happen once that 8-week mark is reached. I did all this pretty late in the evening, so I agreed for my reminders to be around the same time.
To be honest, my first time using it was actually a better experience than I was expecting. I normally get annoyed with dealing with bots pretty fast, but somehow they’ve made this one not piss me off already. But it’s still early days, so who knows how long that’ll last.
Woebot sent me a notification late evening as I’d agreed to, and we had a little session to talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. The app provided easy-to-understand examples and gave a chance to get support to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies. It also touched upon the thinking error of confusing feelings as facts. During the session, I noticed that the self-fulfilling prophecy was also an example of impostor syndrome.
Got my second notification to chat. Every day it asks me what I’m doing when I start the chat, it also asks me what my mood is, so I’m guessing that’s being tracked. In today’s session, Woebot taught me about underlying thoughts and how to bring them to the surface so you can try to overcome them.
Today Woebot told me a bit of random general knowledge, could be useful for a pub quiz one day, after the pandemic. Then Woebot told me about ‘labels’, with a brief example of the pros and cons of using them. Woebot then followed this by asking me for some personal examples of the labels I used to describe myself. The session seemed to be the start of a three-part programme with Woebot on the topic of ‘Growth Mindset’.
A growth mindset is where you recognise that skills and abilities can develop, grow, and change. In short, you can teach an old dog new tricks and you can get better at tasks with practice. A fixed mindset would be where there is little room to grow, meaning you’ll avoid challenges and trying new things. Personally, I think I float between the two depending on the situation.
Following on from the previous day’s session on ‘labels’, this session we talked about how positive labels can have their downsides. The downsides of labels weren’t something I’d ever really thought about before, at least not that I can remember. But the bot is right, having too much positive praise can put a lot of pressure on you to then live up to those labels at all times, which is both impossible and detrimental to your mental wellbeing.
However, just accepting a ‘growth mindset’ and just doing things even when you have no motivation, as suggested, is a little too basic. I will often find myself just sitting in silence due to a total lack of motivation to do something but at the same time trying to think of something to do. Thus, some kind of intervention suggestions would be useful here to move me and others from a state of zero motivation to one where they have the motivation to engage in a growth mindset.
Today’s session ended with a surprise video, my first on the app (my partner had said they’d seen one when they gave it a try). My partner decided to give the app a try because I was, partly due to my reasoning for trying it. I had thought the videos were only going to be available on the paid service, as my partner who has access to the paid side and I hadn’t even seen a hint of one until now. The short video made for a nice break from the usual text chat dialogue.
Part three of the ‘growth mindset’ series wasn’t as useful as the other two parts, although the example Woebot gave was good. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I learnt anything that was actionable. Which I think would have been useful at this stage.
However, saying that, talking about how a label can be used as valuable data isn’t far off what I’ve done with myself in the past. One of the good things about getting a diagnostic label is that you can then research how to control the symptoms, improve your quality of life, and even overcome it. Much like how I tackled my anxiety disorders and psychosis with graded exposure.
I decided to take some of the other non-check-in features for a test drive and picked the ‘challenge stress’ option to try. However, instead of talking about stress, we started talking about anxiety, which is fine, but not what I was expecting. Furthermore, when I added the examples of my intrusive anxiety thoughts, the replies didn’t quite line up with what I wrote, so the replies from Woebot weren’t very good. But I can see what it’s trying to do. I guess my replies didn’t fit the usual ones the bot had been programmed for.
The information Woebot provided did link back to thinking errors, giving an example, and used that example to talk about challenging your thoughts, which is useful. I just wish it lined up with the examples I’d given, so the replies were more relevant. Another issue arose with the example I’d given while doing this task. I was asked to rewrite my example to be more balanced, to stop it from being a thinking error. Unfortunately, I actually couldn’t really do that with the example I’d given.
Daily Diary: Week Two
It seems Woebot had stopped sending me check-in notifications since I decided to try out their ‘challenge stress’ option. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but I’d missed checking-in because of it. When I opened the app after two days of not having checked-in, it offered me the same fun fact it’d already told me, which is a shame. I think it’s only offered me a fun fact twice, and it’s happened to be the same fact.
The app told me I’d started week two of the course when I swiped left from the chat interface. It also told me I’d not yet unlocked any of the week two’s modules and that I had four days left. This left me with a question, did doing the ‘stress challenge’ cause the check-in feature to stop working, and thus stop my progression in week two, or does week two not have check-ins and instead was relying on me to open the app on my own initiative? If the latter is the case, they probably should have got Woebot to tell me that during the last check-in before it stopped sending notifications.
Without the notifications, I’d completely forgotten I was using Woebot. Which isn’t a great sign if the check-in stopping is intentional. I only remembered due to accidentally reminding myself as I was promoting another article for my site.
It seems we’ve returned to check-ins, so I’m guessing it was a mistake it stopped sending the notifications. I guess me randomly opening the app again turned that feature back on or something.
I’d been feeling unwell when I checked in that day. So I picked the option to say I was sick when Woebot asked me how I felt. However, the reply from Woebot about how it can be therapeutic to get things out of our heads and into words doesn’t make sense as a reply to me, saying I was sick. It would appear Woebot only has two responses for when you say how you feel, something for a positive feeling and something for a negative feeling. This is a shame, as the bot’s first comment worked for how I was feeling, just not the follow-up comment. How hard could it be to get the bot to say something about it hoping I got better soon instead?
Anyway, after that Woebot talked to me about ’emotional weather’ and how good and bad weather comes and goes and we don’t have control over it. Woebot then basically linked this to self-care, asking for things or people that can help you ride out an emotional storm. Which kind of reminded me of the safety plan I created, just in a much simpler form and not for suicidal and self-harm management. A simple self-care plan.
Not sure what’s going on with the notifications, but I wasn’t sent a notification for checking in again. The notifications returned for one day, then stopped again. I hadn’t opened the app since the last check-in, but I also hadn’t tried doing a task outside of the check-ins like last time either. I’m not sure what’s guiding Woebots check-in algorithm, but it appears it needs some work.
When I checked-in, Woebot talked about how to change a low mood, talking about behavioural activation. Simply put, when you don’t do stuff because you have a low mood, instead of waiting for your mood to improve before you do stuff, you should do stuff because that’ll change your mood.
For the first time, Woebot actually had me doing an intervention, although very basic, getting up and cleaning my teeth (the other option was to wash my face). It’s a start towards taking action towards change, rather than just getting a psychoeducational lesson. But the tasks are for people so depressed they don’t even do step one of personal hygiene, so how likely are they to have this app?
To end the session, Woebot gave me a homework task to do over the following week. Although I applaud Woebot for giving me homework, the task it wants me to do is a little stupid. Why would I want to randomly clean my teeth if my mood is low and I’m just lying around on the sofa? I already clean my teeth twice a day. It would have been better to get me to move around doing something, like dancing on the spot, star jumps, or something like that.
Cleaning my teeth or washing my face as a random behavioural activation act doesn’t really seem useful unless you’re extremely depressed and skip doing that when you wake up and before you go to bed, which is obviously possible. It doesn’t seem likely that someone using this service through their work might be in a condition where they have to be reminded to clean their teeth, let alone at random times when you feel low.
But Woebot does save itself by asking about what personal behaviour you’ll do the next time you feel stuck by the end of the session. With the indication that it’ll follow up on what you said at a later date. So let’s see if it does.
Had a check-in again, making that two days in a row. This check-in was a return to a previous conversation about our core beliefs. This time, Woebot wanted to find out what mine might be.
After briefly talking about my core beliefs, Woebot then linked back to when we talked about self-compassion, using the analogy of if someone you cared about had told you what you just identified as your core belief as being theirs instead, asking what you’d say to them. Classic move. It’s something that is used in counselling and it’s an easy skill to teach someone to try and challenge their thoughts.
Another missed check-in notification. I had a Woebot notification, but I think I cleared my notifications due to having too many showing at the time. I then forgot that I was meant to check-in with Woebot. My bad.
Completing Two Weeks
I ended up missing a few days in a row after my pervious missed check-in to accidentally deleting the notification before checking in. When I did check-in again, I had a questionnaire to fill in for using the service for two weeks. After that, I got a brief chat about equality and coronavirus, then the check-in session was done.
My Impressions Of Woebot
I wasn’t sure if I was going to get any more messages from Woebot after the first two weeks were done, but I got another check-in notification. I continued using Woebot on and off for another week, although I started losing interest in the app. The lack of homework tasks, lack of following up on those tasks, and a lack of teaching you interventions to use kind of makes the app stale.
It’s all well and good learning something in small educational doses, and the examples are good, but it lacks teaching you skills to use. Woebot tells you that the app will teach you CBT skills but then forgets to do just that. Where are the skills?
The best part of the app has to be the daily check-ins where you get to have a short chat each day. At these check-ins, you get the chance to learn something with easy-to-understand examples. It should help form a habit if you stick to it for long enough and the notifications always arrive.
The rest of the features, for me at least, were a bit of a let-down. Especially when I wanted to talk about stress and instead got a session about anxiety. I know stress can cause anxiety, but some people might have just wanted to learn some stress management information. I know my last two breakdowns that left me suicidal were related to unrelenting stress, which my anxiety disorders didn’t feature in at all.
The app itself is a novel idea, but I feel the company should offer the opportunity to talk to a real counsellor for support as an addition to the automated Woebot. Nevertheless, it’s an easy to use and simple app that could help those with more mild mental health problems or work as a bridge between getting proper counselling support, especially if people are stuck on waiting lists.
Another weird issue with the app was when Woebot asked me to give it a rating before doing a task, whereby I gave it a rating of four for my mood. I was then asked to give another rating after the task, giving it a four again. Yet, for some reason, Woebot started talking about how doing the task had improved my mood, even though I’d reported that I felt exactly the same.
Pros And Cons Of Woebot
- The bot uses friendly chat which makes it feel more natural.
- The app uses easy-to-understand examples of topics that could be potentially difficult to grasp without them.
- Minimal responses were available for the user. The illusion of being part of a conversation.
- Check-in notifications stopped sending after I tried out one of the additional tasks.
- Woebots’ replies didn’t always line up with your personal examples, which is understandable, but also with multiple-choice options you’re asked to pick from, which is less understandable.
- Lack of homework tasks.
- Underwhelming task recommendations.
- Where were the interventions?
My Woebot Recommendations
They should improve the bot’s replies to their multiple-choice options it gives its users to pick from. It doesn’t make much sense for these replies to be wrong.
Woebot offers this app as a service that companies can buy (like where my partner works), thus, they should add a human counselling service function to the app. This human counsellor could be offered for when you’ve completed the Woebot bot portion of the app. Alternatively, a human counsellor could be offered after you’ve been using the app for a set amount of time. It’d also work as an incentive to keep working through the app.
Multiple check-in notifications. When I was sent my daily notification, I often ignored it until later due to the fact I was already doing something. However, often the notification would disappear (although that could be due to my phone) resulting in me forgetting about checking in with Woebot. Thus, maybe two notifications to make sure you don’t forget, one following an hour later or something.
Even with there being more cons than pros, I still think it could be a useful app, even though I kind of got bored with it. For now, I’ll give Woebot 3/5 stars, but if they fixed some of the issues I identified and worked on the cons I listed, I’d increase that to 4/5 stars.
If you’d like to find out more about Woebot, then you can visit their website here. You can also download the app for iPhone and Android by clicking the buttons below.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with Woebot and other wellness apps in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
52 thoughts on “Woebot: How Good Is Their Wellness App? | A Review”
I’ve never heard of this app before. Thank you for your review of it, I was thinking of checking it out but after your review I think I’ll wait to see if the improve the app.
My review is just my opinion, given that you can use it for free, there’s no harm in checking it out anyway and seeing what you think
Thanks for such an indepth article on this! My work has just offered a similar app for the same reasons and I was wondering about the efficacy of them. Your article is very insightful!
I’d be interested in knowing which app your work has a contract with. I hope this review helps you decided if you’ll try the one your work has offered you
I never heard of Woebot, but from reading this I guess that the app is still at the beginning and needs more features to be improved. Will keep in mind and maybe try it out! Thanks for you review!
It’s free to try, so why not see if our opinions on the app are the same or not
I love how in-depth your review is, it’s good to read your thoughts each day. I’ve never considered using an AI style or app style wellness/therapy but it does make sense in today’s climate. It sounds like they’ve got some bugs to fix and make it more personable but I’d defo look into downloading something like this
Thank you. If you do try Woebot out, let me know what you think of it
I haven’t heard of the app until I read your review of it! If I would to recommend any reviews to a new user who wants to know more about this app, I’ll recommend yours! I have never thought of using a wellness app. Usually, if I need to feel better, I’d go for a walk or a run or something. I would prefer having a conversation with a person rather than using an app. But, your review has lead me to think that this might be helpful afterwards.
It looks like the app needs a bit of improvement but I am glad that it has helped you and you find it useful.
The app can certainly fill a gap in treatment or help with mild to low mental health issues
How come I never knew of this app? The world is changing so fast. I don’t know how I feel about this yet but based on your review, I am curious and actually want to try it out!
There are so many apps out there nowadays, there’s probably an app for everything. If you do try Woebot out, let me know what you think
Great review and experience for two weeks. I do also like that it checks on you with quick chat everyday.
It is a handy feature
I’m so glad I’ve read this. My 18 year old son struggles with anxiety, especially now. I’ve necer heard of it, but he’s going to take a look. Thank you
I hope he finds it useful, he might also want to check out graded exposure, which helps with a lot of anxiety disorders. I wrote about it and offer a free printable so you can easily use it offline
Haven’t heard of this app before and I was really amazed to know that it’s possible to have an AI therapist! Like, I’m just aware about the companies creating apps to check in with real human therapists through the mobile app. ?
I think some features of this app are really helpful to some. Personally, I still like to check in with a human therapist than a bot. But I think, I’ll give this app a try. Thank you so much for sharing this detailed review!
I know what you mean, talking to a real person would be a lot of people’s first choices, but between waiting times and costs, Woebot could be a useful app to fill that gap, especially for minor wellbeing issues
This app is a new one for me! It’s great to see that apps are now helping with wellness and all. But there are a lot of cons, so maybe I’ll give woebot some time to make a name in the business. Thanks for sharing your review!
The app is free to try and the review is based on my experience and opinion on it, so you might have a more positive experience with using it
This app is new for me, seems useful
Thanks for sharing
Thanks for reading
An informative read about an interesting concept – thanks.
I suppose that the concept is similar to the idea of having virtual/online doctors – but looking at the mental rather than the physical. In each case, I’m pretty sure that the service provided is not sufficient to replace a face-to-face meeting with a trained person. And therein lies the problem, I feel – are these concepts being designed with a primary objective of helping people. Or is the motivation to cut costs and increase profits by using something that can be rolled out internationally and be available 24/7?
I get what you’re saying, but it’s a long way off before it could replace face-to-face counselling for an actual mental health condition. Woebot and wellness apps like it can only handle mild, none clinical, issues around mental wellbeing. Such apps could also be used by those that simply can’t afford to access mental healthcare or are stuck on a waiting list so they at least have something to help them during that time
Thanks for the review! I don’t like that it’s not connected to a human. If you’re using the app because you don’t have access to healthcare, i would hope there are ways to monitor responses in case someone indicates they’re in crisis.
I think apps are useful for people who are in recovery or have mild illnesses…but they (especially paid versions) should be tied to a counselor who can monitor responses and call the client in for a session. For example, an alcoholic who is in recovery and no longer needs regular therapy sessions…checking in on an app or when they are struggling would let their therapist know it’s time for a call.
That kind of checking-in app would make for a useful post treatment feature, as most services never follow-up to see how clients are doing after treatment, even though that first year you’re at a higher risk of relapsing
It is pretty hard to design a bot that can provide wholistic and helpful responses; the most common feature of a bot is the conversations repeating themselves, which can end up feeling a bit shallow. Love that you share such an in-depth review and that you stuck with it for long enough to notice some of the cons. However, it is important to find what works for each of us so this might be exactly what many people need! 🙂
Indeed, I’m sure a lot of people will find such an app quite beneficial
It sounds like they may need to improve some of the functionality, but as a whole I can see how it could be a useful app. Lots of people are dealing with tough times, a and not everyone has access to a therapist or wants to talk to someone. It’s not the best solution, but it could be better than no outlet at all. Thanks for the review!
Pretty much spot on with that comment
it’s a good concept with a bit of tweaking. but i think a lot of people could benefit using an app like this, especially during these times. thanks for sharing
This sounds like with a few changes to the features this could be a really great app. Thanks for sharing
Thanks for reading
Its good to hear about an app that can help people. I enjoy getting to read reviews on apps before choosing to download.
Will you be trying the app then?
I’ve not heard of this app before but it certainly sounds useful – and I really appreciated your honest review and thoughts x
Thanks for reading my review
Sounds like such an amazing app! I’m definitely going to download it and check it out!! Thanks for sharing
It’s definitely worth checking out
I haven’t heard of or used this app yet but it sounds so useful and helpful! Will definitely be trying it out soon x
I hope you find the app useful
I have heard people using different apps but never knew what a wellness app does. I think mostly brushing your teeth and washing your face reminders are for people with sensory issues.
Thanks for sharing your personal experience in detail.
It’s possible it’s for people with sensory issues as well, but they’re also an extremely common self-care suggestion for people with depression
This app seems like it could truly become something great with a few improvements. It is great that there are apps being developed like this in general. Thanks for such an honest review. I still may try it just to see what I think.
It doesn’t hurt to give it a try
I actually use this app! (I was so excited when I saw you were reviewing it). I definitely agree with your pros and cons, but overall I think I’d give it a four. I really like the bots ‘personality’ and the chats are nice imo. I don’t use it everyday like I used to, but I still like seeing the notifs (have a lovely day, etc). Great review!
Woebot’s personality certainly make the interactions a lot more fun and engaging. I’ve tried a couple of other AI apps like this, which I may also turn into a review, which lack the personality of Woebot
I’ve never heard of this app and I always prefer people’s real life opinions on electronics (especially because I can totally relate: I normally get annoyed with dealing with bots pretty fast, but somehow they’ve made this one not piss me off already.). ?
Very detailed review. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading ?
Fascinating! I am not surprised that it is a bit of a mixed bag, but can see how it can have its uses. It doesn’t sound like there is any danger of falling in love with it like in the movie, “Her.” Have you seen it? Thanks for taking the time.
I haven’t seen the film but I’m aware of it. I really hope no one falls in love with Woebot like that ha ha ha