Choosing Therapy’s Scoring Criteria for Mindful Drinking Apps
Mindful drinking is being intentionally aware of how much alcohol you consume and the reasons why you drink. Over the last few years, mindful drinking, as well as being “sober curious,” have become a movement sparking global interest. Both young and older adults have been inspired to take a long look at their relationship with alcohol and transform their drinking habits. If you’re interested in practicing mindful drinking, new apps are emerging every day that are designed to help you monitor your intake and enjoy more “dry” or alcohol free days.
Below you’ll find a list of categories we use to score mindful drinking apps. The ideal mindful drinking app will score high in all categories. However, be sure to check how each app scores in the individual categories to identify where it shines, how it could be improved, and what special features or tools may be a good fit for you and your mindful drinking journey.
The cornerstone of mindful drinking is being consciously aware of each drink you consume, which is why alcohol tracking tools are a vital feature in these apps. Alcohol tracking tools should be easy to use and come equipped with notifications or reminders to log daily drinks. Apps that receive high scores in this category will also track other metrics that can influence mindful drinking. For instance, an ideal alcohol tracking system will allow members to track things like calories saved, money spent, mood, stress level, or quality of sleep on heavy drinking days and dry days to help users detect patterns in behavior. The tracking feature should also highlight milestones or when personal goals are reached.
5-Stars: This app allows you to effortlessly track alcohol intake with intuitive tools. It also helps you track calories, money, your mood and other elements that impact your drinking habits. The app also sends you notifications or reminders to log your drinks and it highlights milestones, like 7-day dry streaks.
3-Stars: The tracking tools are solely focused on the number of drinks and do not track other metrics, like money, mood, or calories. The app does not provide reminders or notifications to log drinks and doesn’t highlight milestones.
1-Star: The app does not include an alcohol tracker.
Cutting back or quitting drinking can be incredibly challenging to do alone. That’s why we’ve included a community connection category in our mindful drinking app scoring criteria. A mindful drinking app will score high in this category if it offers both community message boards and live components, like daily Zoom meetings. The app should make it easy to post experiences, share events or challenges, and respond to other members on the community forums. Live meetings should be led by hosts who have been vetted by the company and trained and/or certified in mindful drinking advocacy.
There should also be a clear disclaimer on message forums and live meeting logins that address appropriate behavior in virtual community settings. Peer-to-peer environments within the app should be welcoming, inspiring, and positive places for support where users feel safe, can choose to be anonymous, and personal information is protected.
5-Stars: The app includes both a community message board AND live virtual meetings. The community features are easy to access and users feel comfortable and safe sharing personal experiences with mindful drinking. Live meetings are led by hosts who have been vetted by the company and trained and/or certified in mindful drinking advocacy.
3-Stars: The app includes a community message board OR live virtual meetings. Even though there is a community feature included in the app, it’s not regulated by trained or certified hosts. There are no guidelines or disclaimers on appropriate behavior in meetings or forums, so users must post/share at their own discretion.
1-Star: There is no community feature included in the app.
Mindful drinking apps will score higher if they include supplemental tools beyond alcohol tracking systems. An exemplary mindful drinking app will include additional tools and resources that have proven to be effective in changing behaviors around alcohol consumption and encourage the user to stay on track. These extras will be science-based coping strategies, motivational techniques, or educational components. Examples of additional tools and resources for high-scoring mindful drinking apps may include:
- Gamification techniques (e.g., earning badges or coins, quizzes, or challenges)
- Educational lessons on alcohol’s effect on the mind and body
- Guided meditations
- Breathwork exercises
- Journaling activities
- Workbook activities
5-Stars: The app has at least three to four extra resources that include coping tools, motivational strategies, or educational components that are scientifically proven to aid in the practice of mindful drinking.
3-Stars: The app only has one or two additional tools or resources that have proven to be effective in changing drinking behavior. Overall, the app is limited in special features. For example, it provides coping tools for cravings, but lacks an educational component.
1-Star: The app does not include additional tools or resources beyond alcohol tracking systems.
1:1 Support Options
While community support can be extremely helpful in cutting back on alcohol, not everyone thrives in a group environment. That’s why we included the option of one-on-one support as a category in our mindful drinking app scoring criteria. Apps will score higher in this category if they offer the option of individual coaching or counseling with a trained and/or certified support specialist that has been vetted by the company.
Connecting with a support specialist should be easy to do with clear parameters on the schedule and means of communication (text, video, or phone). The app should provide an effective matching method so users are paired up with a support specialist that compliments their personality or lifestyle. If it’s not a good match, users should be able to switch to a different support specialist at any time.
5-Stars: The app provides an option to access one-on-one support with a specialist who has been trained/certified and vetted by the company. There’s an effective matching method in place and users receive clear directions on how and when to to connect with their support specialist.
3-Stars: The app offers individual support, but there is no information about the credentials, experience, or background of the specialists. Users are randomly paired with specialists and switching specialists is not an option.
1-Star: The app does not offer the option of one-on-one support.
Interface Design and User Experience
As with any app, a mindful drinking app’s interface should be easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. When users are fighting cravings or facing triggers, they should be able to quickly find and access the tools they need. If it’s challenging to use the alcohol tracking features or access additional resources or support, it will result in a deduction of points. A mindful drinking app should also be visually inviting with attractive designs. Any app that is not well organized or has an outdated style will score lower in this category.
5-Stars: The app is easy-to-navigate, intuitive, and has pleasing designs, colors, and exceptional organization.
3-Stars: The app offers a mediocre user experience, it’s somewhat tricky to navigate, and it takes more time to understand how to use the tools. The design, style, and organization aren’t as appealing as other mindful drinking apps.
1-Star: The app is difficult to use, poorly organized, and has an unappealing design.
Cost & Free Trial Periods
One of our goals is to protect consumers from costly apps that don’t meet expectations or quality standards. Some mindful drinking apps will cost more than others, and we want to identify how companies support each price tag. An affordable mindful drinking app will not necessarily be rated higher than an expensive app, and vice versa. The cost should be reflective of what the app offers. In other words, are you getting what you paid for?
The transparency of pricing is another important factor in this category. Mindful drinking apps that provide clear costs, cancellation policies, and refund policies will score higher in our rating system. A user should know an exact price before a purchase or upgrade without facing any unknown costs or additional in-app fees. Apps commonly charge different prices depending on the platform, which will not result in a lower rating. We’re looking for clarity, honesty, and fairness when it comes to cost.
We also think it’s important for users to be able to have a trial period before committing to a monthly or annual subscription. If there’s no free trial offered, there should be a free version of the app available. For example, in place of a free trial, an app may have a free basic version with access to a selection of mindful drinking tools and resources. Overall, you should be allowed to look around the app, sample the user experience, view the options, and access key features before making a purchase.
5-Stars: The mindful drinking app’s cost is directly reflected in its quality, and the company makes the pricing clear to the user. You’re getting exactly what you paid for, and there are no surprise costs or additional in-app fees. Members get a free trial for at least seven days to learn about the app and try tools and key features before purchasing. If there’s no free trial, there is a free basic version that gives users a solid idea of what the app offers.
3-Stars: The price of the app doesn’t directly match the quality. It was somewhat difficult to find an exact price or cancellation/refund policy. You can point to other mindful drinking apps that provide more for less. There’s a limited free trial of fewer than seven days or a limited free version that does not show a clear picture of what the app has to offer.
1 Star: The price does not match the quality of the app. Price wasn’t clearly listed and/or cancellation/refund policy was not listed. It’s entirely too expensive for what users are getting. There is no free trial and no free version.
The quality of a mindful drinking app’s customer service is a significant rating factor. Mindful drinking apps may be penalized if it’s difficult to find support contact information, connect with a representative, or if it lacks channels of communication (e.g., only has email, no phone numbers listed). We also take into consideration user reviews when scoring for customer service. We research and analyze positive and negative reviews that mention customer service and track when app developers respond to complaints in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
5-Stars: The app offers excellent customer service. There are multiple channels to communicate with a representative, including email, text, chat, and phone. Responses to issues and complaints are completed within 24 – 48 hours. There are very few, if any, customer complaints in reviews online. When issues are reported in reviews online, the app developers respond efficiently and effectively.
3 Stars: The app provides an average level of customer service. There are limited channels to communicate with a representative. Response time takes more than 72 hours. App developers sometimes respond to issues reported in reviews online.
1-Star: The app provides poor customer service. You can only reach a representative through one channel. Response time takes over a week and many issues are left unresolved. App developers do not respond to reported issues in reviews online.
To make our scoring system more balanced, we collect an average of star ratings from reviewers from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. This ensures that we’re quantifying an objective perspective on the mindful drinking app and not just grading solely on the experiences of our reviewers.
Summary of Scoring for User Review Category
The average score of the rating system will be recorded in our overall rating system. For example, if a mindful drinking app has 4.5 stars out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 3.5 stars out of 5 stars in the Google Play Store (8 stars / 10 stars = 80%) which would be 4-stars in our rating system.
Reliability & Longevity
Our reliability and longevity score will be determined by how long an app has been around, how many reviews it has, how often upgrades or updates are conducted, and how often they produce new content. While it may seem unfair that a newly released app has fewer points because it lacks longevity, remember that our goal is to protect the consumer.
We want to direct users toward apps that will continue to grow and won’t disappear or phase out after a user purchases an annual subscription. It’s important to note that we also conduct updates to our mindful drinking app reviews, so a newly released app may receive a higher score after they prove its reliability and longevity over time.
5-Stars: The app has existed for more than five years and has collected at least 1K reviews. The developers conduct regular updates, routine upgrades, and new content is uploaded weekly or more frequently.
3-Stars: The app has existed for two years or more and has collected at least 500 reviews. The developers have conducted only one or two updates or upgrades. It’s been a few months since new content has been added.
1-Star: The app has less than 200 reviews and has existed for less than a year. OR the app has existed for many years but has limited reviews, no upgrades or updates have been made, and it’s been over a year since new content has been added.
Credibility & Expertise
When using an app to help change a behavior or habit, we look to those with expertise and credibility to teach us. When reviewing mindful drinking apps, we not only examine the expertise of the support team, such as the motivational coaches and support specialists, but we also examine the expertise of the app developers and the quality of content created. We want to make sure that all educational components and coping tools are science-based and are easy to follow/use.
We spend time examining the company history, its founders, advisory teams, app developers, support coaches, as well as the content offered, to ensure they meet the above criteria. Any company that teaches baseless mindful drinking techniques will score low on our scale.
5-Stars: The app was developed with science-based methods that have proven to be effective in mindful drinking practices. The coaches, counselors, or support specialists have experience and training in mindful drinking advocacy. The developers and advisory boards exhibit authority and expertise in behavior changing techniques and strategies related to drinking. The educational content is easy to understand and apply in practical ways.
3-Stars: The app’s content and strategies lack scientific support. The app developers and advisory board members have limited experience or education in behavioral changing techniques that involve cutting back or quitting drinking. It’s difficult to find background information on the support team members, like coaches, counselors, or support specialists.
1-Star: There is no scientific evidence for the app’s effectiveness. The app developers have little to no experience in behavioral changing techniques related to drinking. The support team has little to no experience in mindful drinking advocacy.
Privacy & Security
Digital privacy and security are important to consider when choosing an app. An ideal mindful drinking app keeps the user’s account information, such as credit card numbers, email addresses, or other identifying data, private and protected at all times. When ranking for this category, our objective is to promote companies that have transparent and ethical privacy and security policies, as well as data sharing practices, and who consistently meet users’ privacy expectations. Companies that are unclear about these policies and/or exhibit unethical actions regarding privacy, security, and data sharing, will receive lower scores.
5-Stars: Privacy policies are easy to find, clearly stated, and specific. The company is transparent about data sharing practices and consistently meets users’ expectations. There are no reports of security issues, such as personal information or credit card information being stolen.
3-Stars: Privacy policies and data sharing practices are difficult to find and/or generic and unspecific. There have been some incidents of users facing security issues with private information.