Square Diary/Square Diary DX: iOS iPhone/iPod (free/$0.99)
Square Diary HD: iOS iPad ($1.99)
Note: this review is of the iPad version. Functionality of small screen version is similar.
A search for “journal” in the iOS App Store yields 923 hits for iPad and 1726 hits for iPhone/iPod (as of July 7, 2012; a search for “diary” gives you similar numbers). Journaling has been shown to be helpful with a number of mental health concerns, ranging from depression to eating disorders to anxiety. Many of these, both the paid ones and the free ones, could be helpful in therapy in any number of ways. I picked this one to review because it is designed to be a quick and easy daily journal of literally anything you want. That’s because it is extremely customizable based on specific things that you might want your client to keep track of.
The flexibility of this app is pretty incredible. You can have four, six, or nine categories, each of which can be labeled as anything you want. The wallpaper can be changed to any photo on the device. The screenshot shows a sample six-square grid. For each section, you put in a brief entry, and you can do a voice entry as well. You could also have a client pick a song for the day if that appeals to them (you start to see why I love the way that the app can be structured for many different clients). The app also allows you to put pictures in each section, which could be helpful in many ways; in my example below (iPad entry page), I have added a screenshot within the self-care section from my sample page with a guide to unhelpful thinking styles. A client could use this as a guide for logging a stressful event (it’s from the Centre for Clinical Interventions, a great resource).
iPad home page
iPad entry page
iPad Settings Page
In therapy, I might use the different categories for logging specific types of cognitive errors, events that cause stressful reactions in different life roles (e.g., work or home), body image concerns along with daily food intake, or anything specific to your client. It doesn’t give you the flowing narrative style that you might want with some clients, but it is great for anyone who might need a little more structure with their journaling.
Regarding data security, there is a passcode lock if you do not want anyone else to be able to access the diary, separate from the passcode lock of the device itself. It does not automatically share on social networks. Each day can be emailed if your client feels okay with this and you think that check-ins prior to the next session may be helpful. App data can be backed up via iCloud, manually via iTunes, or via wifi onto a computer.
There are a few quibbles with the app UI. You can’t replace the location/weather square with anything else, although the little smiley could be used to give a day an overall rating. Picking the date requires a couple of taps more than it should. However, it does not seem to be crash-prone (0 crashes in a two-week test). These little issues don’t really seem to interfere with the functioning of the app.
User Interface: 4/5
Disclosure: Author downloaded the app when it was free on iTunes Store.
** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.