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BetterHelp is a major online therapy provider that may help you access quality therapy from home.
People are using online therapy tools now more than ever. Still, it can be tricky to navigate the vast offerings of telehealth providers to figure out which service is the best for your situation.
BetterHelp pairs users with licensed therapists for web-based therapy sessions.
The company claims it offers people the chance to access e-counseling services anytime and anywhere, but you may be curious whether BetterHelp is all it’s said to be.
BetterHelp offers therapy services to people online. The California-based company launched in 2013.
At the time of writing, the platform says it has more than 24,000 licensed therapists and has hosted more than 162 million messages, live chats, phone calls, and video sessions. The company claims its service has helped more than 2 million people.
You can connect to BetterHelp on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Mobile apps for BetterHelp are available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
To get you started, BetterHelp asks you to complete a questionnaire about why you’re seeking therapy, and more information about the conditions or issues you’re living with, plus other preferences.
Based on your answers, the platform will pair you with a licensed therapist. According to BetterHelp, getting paired with a therapist takes about 24 hours or less.
If you aren’t satisfied with the therapist you get, you can request to change. The platform makes it simple to find a new match.
You can receive therapy from BetterHelp for as short or as long as you would like.
Communicating with your therapist
Once BetterHelp has paired you with a therapist, you’ll get a “room” where you can communicate privately and securely with them.
You can choose to do your therapy sessions via video chat, phone call, live chat, or messaging similar to email. Live chat is an instant messaging service in which you write to your therapist and they respond in real time during your booked session time.
If you want to communicate with your therapist anytime outside your scheduled therapy sessions, you can message them and they will message you back. This method is similar to email, so it’s not a real-time chat.
Types of treatment with BetterHelp
In general, BetterHelp says its services can work well for people who are looking to improve their quality of life. The company states that its therapists can help with issues such as:
- relationships and family issues
- LGBTQIA+ related matters
In one-on-one counseling, therapists offer common mental health therapies, including psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and humanistic therapy. The therapeutic approach is up to you and your therapist.
There’s also an option for group therapy, known as groupinars. BetterHelp’s group sessions tend to contain around a dozen individuals, and the focus of the sessions generally revolves around:
- substance use disorders
- medical problems
- relationship problems
If you decide to try BetterHelp, rest assured that your therapist will be a trained and certified specialist. The company works with:
- licensed professional counselors
- clinical social workers
- marriage and family therapists
All have at least 3 years of experience in the field with at least 1,000 hours of practice, according to the company website.
BetterHelp says employed therapists are licensed and accredited. All have a master’s or doctoral degree in the area in which they specialize.
In addition, therapists must have received certification from the professional board in their state, which requires standard education, exams, and practice.
According to the company website, BetterHelp operates a secure system that keeps user information strictly confidential and in line with patient data protection laws.
When you sign up with BetterHelp, you don’t have to enter your full name. Instead, you can choose a nickname by which your therapist can call you.
However, the platform will request emergency contact information from you, which your therapist will only use if they think you or someone else may be in danger.
BetterHelp has an overall positive reputation. The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization that posts a company’s consumer ratings online, showed a rating of 4.15 out of 5 stars for BetterHelp, with 311 reviews at the time of writing.
Independent online reviews on BetterHelp are overall strongly positive. However, some note that their insurance didn’t cover their BetterHelp subscription cost.
BetterHelp does collect data on its clients, but it doesn’t sell this data for marketing. The only data BetterHelp collects is on:
- website and specific website page visits
- clicked links
- account registration personal information
- transactional actions
- login activity
A subscription to BetterHelp ranges from $60 to $90 per week. The company will bill you every 4 weeks. The price is based on the preferences you listed in the questionnaire, where you live, and therapist availability.
There’s also a 7-day free trial option so you can test out online therapy before committing to any subscription. However, even once you subscribe to a plan, you can cancel your membership at any time if you’re unsatisfied with it.
In addition, you can choose to request financial aid from BetterHelp, according to anecdotal sources. There’s often a reduced fee for qualifying clients, which might include:
- people who are disabled
- low-income households
- individuals impacted by COVID-19
Health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid don’t generally cover the cost of therapy from BetterHelp. However, if your insurance provider offers mental health benefits, you may want to look into whether they will cover BetterHelp and what their terms are.
Telehealth is a growing field, and the research on its effectiveness is still emerging.
Telehealth is web-based healthcare in which a healthcare professional and a person seeking treatment interact remotely via voice or video chat, or by text.
A 2019 study assessed the effectiveness of BetterHelp for treating depression.
It found that 37.8% of participants had improved significantly, 62% had a partial response, and 19.8% were classified as being in remission after receiving therapy from BetterHelp for 3 months.
The researchers suggested that web-based psychotherapy like from BetterHelp showed promise for helping people overcome barriers to getting therapy.
Research on telehealth has shown it may be effective for people with many mental health conditions.
A 2016 review of high-quality studies found that internet-delivered CBT sessions with a therapist reduced various anxiety symptoms at least as much — and sometimes more than — in-person CBT sessions with a therapist.
BetterHelp also points out that one of the advantages of e-counseling is that you can always look back at the messages you’ve exchanged with your therapist. This way, you can refresh your memory about any advice or insights you’ve discussed.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of getting therapy through BetterHelp.
What’s great about BetterHelp?
Here are some of the pros of BetterHelp:
- You have online access to experienced therapists.
- You can remain anonymous with your therapist.
- You get unlimited messaging with your therapist.
- Changing therapists is reportedly easy.
- The app and website are easy to navigate.
- The service is generally more affordable than in-person therapy.
- You can try the service for free for 7 days.
- It’s available in the United States and United Kingdom.
What are the downsides of BetterHelp?
Here are some cons to consider before trying BetterHelp:
- There are no psychiatrists on staff so clients cannot receive prescriptions for medications.
- BetterHelp therapists will not diagnose conditions.
- Your insurance may not cover the costs of BetterHelp.
- The platform doesn’t give its users control over the therapist it selects for them (though you can switch).
- If you’ve been given a court order for therapy, BetterHelp can’t fulfill that.
- The platform may be difficult to use if you don’t have consistent access to internet or phone services, or a private space for therapy sessions.
BetterHelp is an entirely online therapy service, so there are some key differences to keep in mind when comparing online and in-person therapy. One is not better than the other, but the experience can be quite different.
The main upsides of online therapy with BetterHelp is that BetterHelp tends to be a more affordable option than in-person therapy.
While in-person therapy only provides live sessions, generally once a week, BetterHelp provides more frequent communication options.
For instance, BetterHelp gives clients the option to communicate with a therapist via messaging several days a week, in addition to a virtual live therapy session.
Since there’s no commuting for online therapy, it tends to be easier to fit into clients’ schedules compared to in-person therapy.
Matching with a therapist
Often the most challenging part of beginning therapy is finding a therapist. Since BetterHelp is online, there are more therapists to choose from, and finding a compatible therapist may take significantly less time and effort.
Still, keep in mind that BetterHelp initially matches you with a therapist, and doesn’t allow you to choose from several options right from the start.
The biggest downside of online therapy is that there can be technical issues that disrupt a virtual therapy session. A glitch from your computer or drop in the Wi-Fi signal is not ideal when you’re opening up to a therapist about your personal life.
With online therapy, a therapist is able to observe less of their client’s body language when in a session. Even if a therapy session is a video conference, therapists generally only see from the shoulders up.
Therapists often rely on their client’s body language to assess their emotions.
BetterHelp and Talkspace are both online therapy providers.
Here’s a brief overview of how they compare:
|Cost||$240–$360 per month||$260–$396 per month|
|Therapy formats||• individual|
• group therapy
|Age groups served||adults ages 18 and older||teens and adults|
|Interaction methods||• live video chat|
• live phone call
• live chat
|• phone, video, or written message|
• 1–4 live sessions for higher packages
BetterHelp tends to be a better option for clients who want affordable live virtual therapy sessions, whereas Talkspace may to be a better option for those who are interested in messaging their therapist daily and want the ability to have medicine prescribed to them.
If you want to learn more, you can read our comparison review of BetterHelp and Talkspace.
You may benefit from BetterHelp if you:
- are seeking counseling for adult individuals, couples, or groups
- have limited mobility or find it hard to leave the house
- may find it hard to travel to a physical clinic location
- have limited availability during typical opening hours
- are caring for children
- have a lower budget
- don’t have mental health insurance coverage
- want to remain anonymous with your therapist
On the other hand, you may not find BetterHelp useful if you:
- are living with a severe mental illness
- aren’t comfortable using computers
- are in a crisis
- have thoughts of suicide or hurting others
- are living with substance use disorder or experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- want to get a medication prescription
- feel unsafe or have urgent needs — if this is the case, consider contacting crisis services
- don’t have a reliable internet connection
Studies suggest that online-based therapy may offer similar benefits to getting therapy in person.
BetterHelp is one of the largest providers of online counseling services. The company offers a secure, easy-to-use platform and qualified therapists. Plus, the subscription cost may be lower than in-person sessions with a qualified therapist.
In addition, web-based therapy offers users the chance to access a therapist from anywhere at any time of day or night, and to switch therapists to help you find the right fit.
Some people may prefer the experience of working with a therapist in person.
However, for those who want to give web-based therapy a try, BetterHelp is a good option. The company offers a free 7-day trial, so you could consider signing up for this to sample the service at no cost to see if it may be a good fit for you.