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BetterHelp Review: Should you try this online therapy?

We evaluate BetterHelp and will give you all the pros, cons, and pricing plus tips on choosing the best therapist

Medically reviewed by: Nicole Arzt, MS, LMFT
Last Updated: Oct 21, 2020

BetterHelp Review

Many people have started managing their basic healthcare needs online. The exponential growth in the telehealth industry means consumers have a variety of options for seeing a doctor without leaving home.

Video chat makes it easy to consult with a health professional virtually and have an experience that’s similar to visiting in person. This is especially true for counseling and therapy services. There are many instances where online consultations are just as effective as in-person sessions. Usually, they’re much more convenient as well.

BetterHelp, the largest online therapy platform in the world, makes professional therapy available anytime, anywhere. With over 7,800 licensed therapists available, 900,000 patients, and almost 70 million sessions completed, BetterHelp is one of the major players in the online therapy space. So we wanted to know, is BetterHelp worth a try for those considering online therapy?

We thoroughly evaluated BetterHelp’s online therapy services in order to share with you what you can expect from virtual sessions at BetterHelp.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Professional, licensed, and rigorously vetted therapists possess at least 3 years and 2,000 hours of experience.
  • BetterHelp therapists can treat individuals for many mental health concerns.
  • Communicate online or via the mobile app.
  • Choose to message, live chat, speak on the phone, or video conference with your therapist.
  • For many, $40-$70 per week is more affordable than in-person therapy.
  • Fast, intuitive, and user-friendly.
  • Change your therapist anytime to find the best fit for you.
  • 7-day free trial.

Cons

  • Therapists cannot make an official diagnosis or prescribe medication.
  • BetterHelp cannot fulfill court orders.
  • Insurance plans do not typically cover BetterHelp therapy sessions.
  • Getting the free trial is a little tricky.

Bottom line

We recommend BetterHelp for anyone looking to improve their quality of life through therapy. BetterHelp has therapists who can assist with everything from general concerns to specialized issues such as anxiety, stress, relationships, family conflicts, addiction, trauma, and more.

It’s especially ideal for those who prefer to speak to a therapist from the comfort of their own home – or wherever they’re most comfortable – as opposed to attending an in-person session in their therapist’s office.

Our Top Picks

BetterHelp

BetterHelp offers convenient online counseling in an intuitive, trustworthy environment.

After being matched with a BetterHelp therapist that fits your preferences and needs, you’ll get unlimited messaging and weekly, real-time therapy sessions via your choice of live chat, phone call, or video call. Schedule sessions when it’s convenient for you and meet with your therapist from the comfort of your own home - or wherever you choose!

Why you should trust us

Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

We extensively test each health service we review, including BetterHelp. We try our best to give you, our readers, unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?

Additionally, this review of BetterHelp, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

What does BetterHelp do?

BetterHelp is an online therapy platform founded in 2013 by Alon Matas, an ad tech professional who experienced depression himself. After realizing that he needed to seek help, Matas learned that most people who need counseling aren’t getting it.

In reality, all of us can benefit from talking with a therapist. No matter who we are, there are obstacles that we face in life – things that can get in the way of our happiness or things that become roadblocks as we pursue our goals. And it may be that the goals themselves are changing and we could benefit from exploring that.

BetterHelp therapists are all highly qualified to help you as you seek to improve your life. BetterHelp also works with therapists who specialize in particular areas of concern, including but not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem
  • Parenting
  • Relationships
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • Anger
  • Addiction
  • Eating
  • Sleep
  • PTSD
  • Grief
  • Family conflict
  • Religion

Try BetterHelp

Is BetterHelp legit?

Yes, BetterHelp is a legit, trustworthy company and a leader in online therapy with many satisfied patients. BetterHelp has grown to become one of the largest online therapy platforms with over 12,000 licensed therapists and more than one million patients so far.

BetterHelp is actually preferred by many people over their traditional in-person therapy for a variety of reasons, including:

  • A safe and secure platform
  • The convenience of having sessions from home
  • Full compliance with HIPAA law
  • Greater affordability for some people, compared to in-person therapy
  • The potential for anonymity
  • High standards for its therapists
  • A straightforward experience whether you use the website or the app

The most important resource BetterHelp provides is its wide array of highly qualified therapists. Although BetterHelp was acquired by Teladoc, Inc. in 2015, the company continues to employ the same rigorous therapist application process in order to vet therapists and maintain the high quality of its service. BetterHelp reports that only 15% of therapists who apply to the platform are approved.

The BetterHelp therapist application process comprises:

  • A review of each therapist’s background, experience, and references
  • Verification of credentials
  • A case study exam evaluated by a licensed clinician; a video interview
  • A platform skills test

BetterHelp therapists are also subject to ongoing quality improvement, monitoring, and client feedback throughout their tenure at BetterHelp.

All BetterHelp therapists have a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate Degree in their field and are experienced and accredited as:

  • Psychologists (PhD / PsyD)
  • Marriage and family therapists (LMFT)
  • Clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW)
  • Licensed professional counselors (LPC)

In addition, BetterHelp therapists have been qualified and certified by their state’s professional board; they have at least 3 years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience prior to joining; after joining BetterHelp, they regularly go through peer review, results monitoring, and ongoing training and support; and they each have a mentor to help guide them through the BetterHelp process.

BetterHelp sets high standards for therapists who utilize their platform. While they do maintain that they are not responsible for patient-counselor interactions – BetterHelp is simply the platform – it’s clear that they make a good faith effort to ensure the therapists they work with are not only accredited and experienced, but highly rated as well.

Couples counseling, teen counseling, and LGBTQIA counseling

BetterHelp offers specific programs for couples, teen, and LGBTQIA therapy.

  • Regain.us is BetterHelp’s sister site dedicated to couples counseling.
  • TeenCounseling.com is where BetterHelp offers counseling for teens.
  • Pride Counseling is BetterHelp’s therapy service focused entirely on providing specialized counseling and support for those in the LGBTQIA community.

BetterHelp may automatically connect you to their sister sites from the BetterHelp website, based on the counseling needs you convey. Whether you use BetterHelp, ReGain, TeenCounseling.com, or Pride Counseling, the pricing structure is essentially the same and all therapists meet the same high standards and undergo the same rigorous screening.

Getting started with BetterHelp: 5 easy steps

The BetterHelp setup process is relatively quick and easy. It requires answering questions about yourself, what you’re looking for in a therapist, and paying for your first month of therapy. The process is intuitive and the site walks you through each step. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the questionnaires and be matched with a therapist.

If you’re not ready to pay, we recommend stopping after you’ve been matched with a therapist. You’ll receive an automated welcome message from your therapist asking for more information from you. Once you type up your response and hit “send”, you’ll be asked to pay in order to continue, which can be frustrating if you spent time on your reply but aren’t quite ready to pull out your credit card. The good news is that BetterHelp does save your message, so if you choose to pay later, your message won’t be lost.

Also, if you are concerned about your ability to afford BetterHelp therapy, be sure to select “can’t afford therapy” and similar options when prompted, to convey your concern to BetterHelp. This is how you can unlock your free trial.

Here’s more detail on each step in the BetterHelp setup process:

Step 1: Fill out a short questionnaire

BetterHelp uses your responses to its initial questionnaire to identify which areas you’re hoping to address in your therapy sessions and match you to an appropriate therapist. The questionnaire asks basic demographic questions, what type of therapy you’re looking for, whether you’ve been to counseling in the past, and a series of questions about how you’re sleeping, your energy level, and how you’re feeling mentally.

Step 2: Create your private account

You can choose to sign up with Facebook, Google, or by entering your email address and password directly into the site. You’ll be emailed a verification code that you’ll need to enter into the BetterHelp site.

Step 3: Identify what you’re looking for in a counselor

Let BetterHelp know what you want from your therapist. You can indicate whether you have a preference for gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation.

Next, select the areas in which you’d like your therapist to have particular experience or specialization, including (among others):

  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Family matters
  • Motivation and self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Parenting
  • Executive and professional coaching
  • Sleeping disorders

Finally, you’re asked to give a brief description of what brings you to BetterHelp.

Step 4: Get matched with a therapist

Based on all of the information you provided, BetterHelp’s sophisticated algorithm will match you with a therapist who best fits your requirements. Keep in mind, in order to find the best fit, BetterHelp may not be able to accommodate all of your preferences. For instance, one of our testers indicated that she’d prefer a female therapist but was initially matched with a man. You’ll see a picture and short bio of the therapist you’ve matched with, as well as a list of her specialties, licensing, and communication options. You can request to change your therapist at any time if you feel the person you’re matched with is not a good fit.

Step 5: Send a message to your therapist, confirm your plan, and pay

You’ll see a message from BetterHelp followed by an automated, introductory message from your therapist asking for more information from you. The messaging feature is not real-time and once you’ve entered your message, you’ll be asked to pay for your first month of sessions upfront. Each month of therapy will include unlimited messaging and one live chat, phone, or video session per week. If you can’t afford therapy, there’s also an option to check whether you’re eligible for financial aid by answering a few questions.

Once you’ve paid, you’ll have the option to schedule your weekly live chat, phone, or video session with your therapist based on the availability listed on their calendar.

Ease of use and the overall member experience

Now that we have covered the sign-up and therapist matching process, what is it like to be an ongoing member of BetterHelp?

BetterHelp offers a simple, intuitive way to communicate with a therapist via the method you’re most comfortable with. Since you can choose your desired mode of communication each time you book a session, you’re not committed to only one option. We like that you can have a phone call one week and video chat the next – all for the same price. This kind of flexibility, with no impact on pricing, makes for a very good ongoing therapy experience.

As mentioned, making sure you’re matched with a therapist that’s right for you is paramount. Take the time upfront to ask a lot of questions. You’re paying your therapist, so make sure you like them and that they’re responsive and available when you need them. If you want to change therapists, even more than once, you can and should.

The more you share with your therapist upfront and the better you express your expectations to them – including communication expectations – the more likely you are to have a great experience. You may be matched with the perfect therapist immediately, or you may need to talk with a few different people before you find someone you want to work with.

The website and mobile app both offer simple, easy-to-use interfaces that make it seamless to manage your account, set appointments with your therapist, and review previous sessions.

If you’re comfortable with email and messaging services, live chat, and video calls, you’ll have a straightforward and intuitive experience interacting with your therapist using the BetterHelp site or app.

Unlimited messaging with your therapist

Every BetterHelp payment plan includes unlimited messaging. This is not a real-time feature but instead works like email.

With BetterHelp, you and your therapist use a dedicated “room” – a virtual, secure venue for you to communicate with each other in a secure, private way. In this room, you can leave long or short messages for your therapist. It’s also where your therapist leaves replies to you or asks you questions. Messaging works through the BetterHelp site or mobile app, so you can review the conversation thread at any time.

You’ll be alerted via email (and possibly a mobile notification, based on your settings) when a message comes in, but you’ll need to login to the site or app to read and reply to it. Much like email, you can include attachments, send video or audio files, and even flag a note as urgent.

It’s reasonable to expect your therapist to respond to your message (or messages) each day that they schedule for work. Some therapists will respond more frequently if you message more frequently, while many aim for more of a daily cadence and address one or more of your messages in one, detailed response. BetterHelp gives you and your therapist room to figure out what works best. If you end up dissatisfied by the frequency or substance of reply messages – which does happen – you also have the option of switching therapists.

Journaling

Journaling on BetterHelp is also very useful. Journaling in general is a valuable habit that promotes reflection and mindfulness. It’s also a record we can keep for ourselves, something we can revisit.

Recognizing the value of this, BetterHelp sends useful daily reminders to post a journal entry. Our testers found that this helped them dedicate a few minutes to the valuable exercise. It’s totally private, of course, but journaling helps you to record and then share your experiences with your therapist.

Live chat

The primary advantage of choosing to communicate via live chat is that you’ll have a record of your conversation with your therapist available at your fingertips. Much like texting or using an online chat program to type back-and-forth with a friend, BetterHelp’s live chat option lets you use your mobile device or computer to communicate with a therapist. Since it’s scheduled in advance, you know your therapist will be available and committed to responding to you during that time.

For people who like to review what was discussed after the fact or who are uncomfortable speaking or video chatting directly, live chat is a fantastic feature that can allow many people to open up in a way that can be difficult on the phone or face-to-face.

Phone call

BetterHelp also allows you to communicate with your therapist via a traditional phone call if you so choose. Whether you don’t have the technology for a video session at the moment or just prefer to hold the phone to your ear, a phone call can be a great option for those who find live chat too impersonal, but face-to-face sessions too burdensome. It’s also very useful at times when you’d rather talk with your therapist during a walk.

Video sessions

Most people are familiar with video chat, and BetterHelp video calls are no different than those on most major platforms. You’ll need a decent internet or data connection, then you can use the camera and microphone on your computer or mobile device to see and speak with your therapist face-to-face, in real time.

The video session is the closest option to an in-person therapy session and we’d recommend scheduling at least a few video sessions early on so you can get a good feel for your therapist and how they are interacting with you. Once you’re comfortable and have established a rapport, it’s easy to schedule a phone call or live chat if that’s most convenient for you.

How long are BetterHelp live sessions?

In our testing, a once-weekly live session with a therapist typically lasts about an hour. A few of our testers opted for multiple shorter sessions per week rather than one longer session. The length and frequency of live sessions depend on what works best for you and your therapist – something for you to determine as you work together. Some people find that more frequent and briefer sessions are more useful, while others prefer the less frequent but slightly longer sessions. It really is all about finding that ideal rhythm for your needs. And of course, between the live sessions, you will be interacting frequently via messaging and routine check-ins with your therapist as well.

What is BetterHelp's cancellation policy?

Canceling a BetterHelp subscription is very easy and can be completed online in just a couple of minutes.

Once you’ve logged in, navigate to your payment settings. You’ll see a link that allows you to change or cancel your plan. To cancel, simply click the link and answer a multiple-choice question about why you’re canceling. You’ll have the option to share the fact that you’re canceling with your therapist, or not. Then you’ll be asked if you’d like the same therapist in the event you resume therapy in the future. Once you confirm the cancellation, you’ll receive an email with a cancellation confirmation.

BetterHelp vs traditional in-person therapy

BetterHelp and in-person therapy share commonalities, but there are also differences. Some similarities and differences are obvious, while others are subtler. Based on our testing and analysis, here are a few of the major similarities and differences, along with a chart from BetterHelp itself below.

Similarities

Range of treatment approaches

Whether you opt for BetterHelp or traditional therapy, you’ll be able to access a range of therapeutic treatment modalities.

Qualifications of the therapists

BetterHelp’s therapists are held to high standards in terms of their credentials and experience. A BetterHelp therapist will have, at minimum, three years and 2,000 hours of experience prior to serving patients through the platform. And all of the therapists on BetterHelp have a Master’s or Doctoral degree, along with accreditation as psychologists, marriage & family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors. You can rest assured that BetterHelp’s therapists are as qualified as therapists you’d see in traditional therapy sessions.

Differences

Psychiatric care

Seeing a psychiatrist for an in-person session in your locale will be different from BetterHelp therapy because full psychiatric services (the ability to prescribe medication) aren’t available at BetterHelp.

Available therapists from which to choose

BetterHelp’s platform gives you access to a massive variety of potential therapists who could help you. If you were to try to access the same variety of therapists in your geographic area, you might be traveling long distances to do so, unless you live in a major metro area. Because finding the right therapist is a vital element for success, BetterHelp’s wide selection definitely helps. For those who live in more remote areas, online therapy is a game-changer.

Cost

Relying on traditional, in-person therapy sessions, which can cost $150 per session, is often considerably more expensive than using BetterHelp for online therapy with its mixture of messaging and weekly live sessions. There is also your time to consider – how much work or vacation time you might lose in order to have traditional therapy sessions. The route that is more economical for you depends somewhat on how much you hope to interact with a therapist for care. If you sense you only need one monthly interaction, traditional therapy might be slightly more economical. If you desire more interaction, then BetterHelp will very likely cost less.

Impact on your schedule and routines

For the vast majority of people, online therapy will be less disruptive to broader routines. You can schedule sessions to occur wherever you are located, rather than commuting to an office. Live sessions can occur via voice, video, or chat. The abundance of available therapists means that, as long as you’re willing to try a few therapists until you find the perfect one, you’re highly likely to find a therapist whose professional approach and schedule of availability are ideal for you.

In-person therapy

The biggest difference between traditional and online therapy is that online therapy attempts to replace in-person sessions with live sessions. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. Whether the live, virtual sessions are overall easier and more beneficial or, instead, not as useful as in-person sessions varies from person to person. Some people find that the qualities of an in-person session can’t be replicated by video sessions, while many other people prefer the convenience and greater frequency of BetterHelp’s live video sessions.

BetterHelp compared to traditional therapy

When in-person therapy is a must: emergency, life-threatening situations

BetterHelp is not suitable for treating severe mental illness.

BetterHelp is also not the service you should contact for any active emergency or dangerous crisis.

  • If you are suicidal or contemplating self-harm – or if any of this describes someone you know – call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255). These are crises and BetterHelp isn’t suitable for them.
  • If you are homicidal or experiencing any kind of crisis, you can Text “HELLO” to 741741 in order to reach a crisis counselor 24/7. This is the Crisis Text Line and it’s available to everyone.
  • If you’re a veteran experiencing a crisis – regardless of whether you’ve registered with the VA or enrolled for VA healthcare – you can reach the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and then press 1. Alternatively, you can send a text to 838255.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace, which is better?

On balance we believe that BetterHelp is the better choice for most people seeking online therapy at this time. When looking for good online therapy, at a certain point it’s almost inevitable that many of us will end up comparing BetterHelp and Talkspace. They’re both very large and successful and, on the surface, seem very similar.

Both services are built around a network of very qualified and experienced therapists. Both use a subscription structure. Both companies make it easy to switch therapists if you are not totally satisfied with your current therapist.

But the two companies do differ in some meaningful ways. Here are two of the more significant differences, in our opinion:

Live sessions vs. messaging

Though some of BetterHelp’s participating therapists do not do live video sessions, most of them do. And the BetterHelp service is built more around establishing a cadence of live sessions that works well for both you and your therapist. The general “default” cadence is something like one live session per week. While unlimited messaging is valuable, we believe that it cannot replicate some of the real value that comes from face-to-face interaction between therapist and client. Anybody who has ever misconstrued a text message can understand this point. Talkspace facilitates live sessions as well, but not at the entry-level; Talkspace requires a bigger investment for it. We believe BetterHelp has the better approach in this case.

Cost

BetterHelp’s service will be more affordable unless you opt for a messaging-only subscription (meaning you will have no live sessions with your therapist). If you’re someone who is absolutely confident that you can get everything you need from text messages only, then you can disregard this advice. However, we do believe that live video sessions provide significant value.

When considering these and other factors, BetterHelp is our top choice for most people.

You can learn much more about the differences between the two companies – as well as other providers of online therapy – by reading our full 2020 guide to the best online therapy.

Try BetterHelp

How to find the best BetterHelp therapist for you

live video therapy session

By default, BetterHelp uses your answers to its questionnaire to match you to a therapist algorithmically. Talkspace’s method of matching you to a therapist – through a conversation with an actual therapist who asks you similar questions – is more personable and some people find it to be more successful also.

When our research team members used BetterHelp’s algorithmic matching method, they did not feel an appreciable difference in the level of success between the two companies. Our testers were just as likely to desire a therapist change in either case. And we want to note that our testers sought to change more often than not. You should never hesitate to change therapists at any time that you feel it would benefit you – more on that below.

The single most important thing you can do to make BetterHelp work well is to find the ideal therapist for you. This is also true with any other online therapist platform or traditional therapy, by the way. If you don’t put in the effort to find the right therapist, it doesn’t matter what platform you choose. We here at Innerbody Research want you to be successful, so we’ve talked to many experts in addition to our rigorous testing of BetterHelp and other platforms. We’ve also created a separate guide with 7 tips to help you find your ideal BetterHelp therapist. Here, we’ll share a trick that we believe will help you find the best therapist on BetterHelp.

BetterHelp doesn’t advertise this option at all, but if you know where to find it, the company does offer a method that our testers found superior: browsing and choosing your own therapist. It’s important for patients to feel fully comfortable as they begin therapy. If you’d prefer more control over the matching process with BetterHelp, here are the details of this very useful trick in selecting your BetterHelp therapist.

Rather than using the app, go to the BetterHelp website and scroll down to the very bottom of the page. In the footer section of the page, you will find a link that says, “Find a Therapist”. You can find the link in that location on the website whether you’re accessing it via phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop device. Click this link.

a trick for choosing your own BetterHelp therapist

Step 2: Browse your options to learn about therapist options

After clicking to find your own therapist, you will arrive at a page that asks you to specify your geographic location either by entering your city, state, and zip code information into a search field or by selecting from a list of major metropolitan areas.

Once you specify your location, BetterHelp will show you a list of available therapists serving your area.

Step 3: Viewing more therapists

The list of therapists is limited to 20, though popular locations undoubtedly have more therapists available via BetterHelp. To see more of them, click your browser’s page refresh button. This refreshes the list of available therapists, showing you more of your wide options. Repeat as needed.

Step 4: Explore what the therapists say about themselves

You can read valuable information about their amount of experience along with their own descriptions of themselves and their practice. In addition to the substance of their writing – which will include information about their experience and interests – how people talk about themselves can sometimes reveal a lot about their style and personality. Do a therapist’s interests line up well with your areas of need? Do the therapist’s personality and the character of his or her expression feel relatable to you?

You can use this method for identifying and selecting a therapist based on your own criteria. Whether you opt for this method or the default, algorithmic approach, our advice is to be ready to try multiple different therapists before finding the therapist who is best for you. You may find the perfect fit immediately, but there’s no harm in switching whenever you feel it’s right.

Working with your BetterHelp therapist

Your success in therapy truly depends on a solid, productive fit with your therapist. BetterHelp acknowledges this reality by giving you and your therapist room to establish the cadence of live sessions that works best for both of you. BetterHelp’s service is incredibly helpful but only if your relationship with your therapist is fruitful.

Therapist response times

Your BetterHelp plan includes one weekly, scheduled live session, where your therapist will focus on you. In addition, you have unlimited messaging, which is like sending an email. Response times vary from therapist to therapist. It’s important to be clear with your therapist upfront and share your communication expectations with him or her.

Each therapist maintains his or her own schedule, so it’s important to understand when and how frequently your therapist will be checking and responding to your messages. Most BetterHelp therapists maintain schedules that provide a large period of availability. You can easily view your therapist’s availability through the BetterHelp calendar interface and schedule a live chat, phone, or video session by clicking on one of the dates and times listed.

Once you’ve scheduled your session, BetterHelp will send a confirmation text 24 hours prior to it. They will not share your phone number with your therapist.

What if your therapist doesn't reply?

Each therapist is different and maintains his or her own schedule, so it’s important to establish communication expectations and availability.

If your schedule or your needs don’t match with your therapist’s availability, you shouldn’t hesitate to change therapists. Luckily, this is easy to do. In our experience, it only takes about 12 hours to be matched to a new therapist. You could decide to change therapists one evening and then, the next morning, hear from your new matching therapist.

If you’ve reached out to your therapist multiple times without a response and/or they have missed live sessions, contact BetterHelp to discuss your options. The company may reimburse you or offer additional weeks of counseling free of charge.

Changing your therapist

BetterHelp makes it easy to change your counselor if you are unsatisfied with your current match for any reason. If your therapist takes too long to reply to a message, BetterHelp suggests the option to switch therapists within your message thread. You can also do so through your account.

When is the right time to consider switching therapists? Here are a few major considerations.

Impersonal, shallow, or rote advice

When you’re starting off with a therapist, don’t be discouraged by initial back-and-forth that feels a little impersonal. This kind of interaction at first is actually not uncommon when a therapist doesn’t know much about you yet. The therapist is likely using rote, somewhat generic questions in order to get to know you. After some of this initial questioning, you should feel from the therapist a sense of deeper understanding and validation. What IS a red flag is if the feeling of detachment or unsatisfying back-and-forth persists. If that’s the case, switch therapists because you haven’t found the right person for you.

Good rapport and comfort level

You’re not looking for a best friend – in fact, it’s important that there are boundaries in the professional relationship between therapist and patient. But it’s also very important that you are fully comfortable and feel amiability. Therapy gets uncomfortable, of course, when you’re delving into difficult issues. That is natural. But if you’re feeling discomfort because of the tone of your therapist – or if you feel judged, belittled, or dismissed – it’s a signal that your personalities are not meshing.

Is therapy working?

Fundamentally, if you aren’t sensing progress and improvement, then it could be time to switch. Progress isn’t the easiest thing to assess at all times. Does your therapist describe plans or set milestones? Do you and your therapist discuss progress? (Your therapist should raise the topic if it doesn’t come up naturally.) If you are concerned about the rate of progress, ask your therapist about the current approach. If you are satisfied by the therapist’s explanation of the therapeutic approach – evidence of its efficacy, the rationale for using it in this instance, and what is reasonable to expect from the approach at different stages – then this in itself could promote progress in your therapy because you’ll be on the same page. But if you find the answers unsatisfying, then consider switching therapists.

Communication issues

Communication goes to the heart of effective therapy. If anything, online therapy relies even more fundamentally on compatible communication styles between you and your therapist. Success depends on being able to reach your therapist when you need help; receiving helpful and timely replies; and establishing an ideal cadence for weekly in-person sessions. If you prefer communicating via video for these sessions, but your therapist discourages it, that’s not useful to you. If you sense that you’d benefit from more frequent, shorter sessions as opposed to one hour-long session per week, it’s no good if your therapist can’t accommodate that cadence. And if you are experiencing repeated problems scheduling sessions or misunderstandings that are interfering with your treatment, there could be serious communication issues. Any of these obstacles in communication can derail progress over time and you shouldn’t settle for a situation that isn’t good for you. Thankfully it’s easy to switch therapists with BetterHelp.

Along with the variety of therapists from which to choose, being able to change therapists easily is one of the major reasons we recommend BetterHelp so highly. If you request to change therapists, BetterHelp will ask why you’ve requested to make the change. You’ll have the option of sharing this feedback with your current therapist. It’s your choice, though sharing feedback is always valuable and a considerate thing to do for the therapist, as a professional, unless it makes you uncomfortable.

For instance, here’s a step-by-step description of what one of our research team members experienced:

Using the default, algorithmic matching approach, our team member was matched with a therapist immediately after completing the sign-up process.

  1. 10:49 am, Monday: She received a generic welcome message from her counselor (right away).

  2. 12:24 pm, Monday: She replied with a detailed message explaining her goals for therapy.

  3. 8:22 pm, Tuesday: She received a message from BetterHelp acknowledging that her therapist hadn’t responded and offering the option to change therapists.

  4. 8:59 pm, Tuesday: She received a terse note from the therapist stating that he had hoped to speak soon, which was likely prompted by BetterHelp urging him to respond.

  5. 10:09 pm, Tuesday: She requested to change therapists.

  6. 9:09 am, Wednesday: BetterHelp matched her with a new therapist.

In this case, her new therapist’s welcome message included a lot of detail about her availability and when she would respond. The response indicated that this therapist would cooperate to find a schedule and communication style that worked for our team member. In addition to being a better match for our tester’s previously identified preferences, this therapist was very responsive and her availability worked much better.

Your experience may be different, but BetterHelp makes changing therapists easy for a reason: finding the right therapist for you is one of the most important factors for your success. If anything doesn’t seem right to you, make a change. This is how you’ll get the most value from online therapy.

How much does BetterHelp cost?

Is BetterHelp free?

No, BetterHelp isn’t free, but it is more affordable in many cases than traditional, in-person therapy. Traditional therapy sessions vary in price but will typically cost somewhere between $100 and $250 per session, depending on the session length, the therapist’s background, and your location.

Traditional, in-person therapy is incredibly valuable. Even so, some clients of traditional therapy wish they had more frequent access to their therapist but struggle to afford greater access when one in-person therapy session costs the same amount as a monthly subscription to BetterHelp.

BetterHelp’s plans start at $35/week and deliver unlimited messaging and weekly in-person sessions. This level of access in most cases exceeds what you’ll experience in the traditional path. It also relies on different formats and requires commitment to make live video sessions as close in value to in-person sessions as possible.

Whether online therapy is as successful depends partly on the individual. (This is why we’ve created a separate guide, by the way, to help you make the most of online therapy with 8 tips.) Some people find that the virtual live session isn’t an adequate replacement for in-person therapy, while others find it to be preferable in many ways.

Additionally, if you are unable to afford BetterHelp’s subscription, you can apply for financial aid in order to reduce the price. BetterHelp makes a solid effort to accommodate those of us who will have trouble affording therapy. This is also how you access the 7-day free trial. As you sign up, you can select “I can’t afford therapy,” and walk through the ensuing prompts in order to convey to BetterHelp that you need assistance. This is the way we recommend that you establish your free trial week at the outset. (If you discover that this trial opportunity is unavailable, please email us at contact@innerbody.com.)

Pricing and plan options

BetterHelp advertises that the cost of therapy ranges from $40 to $70 per week and that you can cancel your membership online at any time, for any reason. You can pay via credit card or PayPal.

In our experience, once matched with a therapist, we were directed to a payment page with one price option of $65/week, billed monthly.

However, if we left the payment screen, navigated to our profile in the upper right-hand corner of the site, clicked on the menu, and selected “subscribe,” we were given more payment options, including:

  • $80/week, billed weekly – you are charged $80/week
  • $65/week, billed monthly – you are charged $260/month
  • $45/week, billed quarterly – you are charged $540 every three months
  • $35/week, billed yearly – you are charged $1,820/year

All options include one live therapy session per week and unlimited messaging for the duration of the plan.

An added benefit of all the plans is that 10% of your first week’s payment will be donated to a mental health cause. We were able to select from the following charities:

Additional programs

The BetterHelp homepage lists Couples and Teen counseling options in addition to Individual therapy. Each of these services sends you to a sister site when selected. Couples are sent to Regain.us and Teens are sent to TeenCounseling.com. Pricing for these services is similar to what BetterHelp offers its individual patients.

Though they don’t list it from their homepage, BetterHelp has a separate website devoted to LGBTQIA counseling, called Pride Counseling. Its services are just as affordable and structured the same as BetterHelp, but therapists with Pride Counseling specialize in providing therapy to people in the LGBTQIA community. Pride Counseling also protects your privacy and anonymity as rigorously as BetterHelp.

Does insurance cover BetterHelp?

BetterHelp services are typically not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. It’s always worth checking with your provider, but BetterHelp is likely to be an out-of-pocket expense.

However, BetterHelp has priced its services to be competitive with – or more affordable than – what many patients pay out-of-pocket when factoring in co-pays, deductibles, and stringent coverage requirements that insurance providers set.

Consult your health insurance provider to find out what your current plan actually covers and compare your real costs to BetterHelp’s pricing to determine which route makes the most sense for you.

Is BetterHelp worth the money?

BetterHelp can be significantly more affordable than what many people pay for traditional therapy. In that sense, if you find that online therapy and live sessions are as helpful and productive for you as traditional, in-person therapy, then yes, BetterHelp is worth the money and a good value.

Like all therapy, though, the value comes when you find the therapist with whom you can develop a very productive and useful routine and working relationship. BetterHelp makes it easy to find and, when necessary, switch therapists. This makes your chances of worthwhile therapy very good via BetterHelp.

Therapy, in general, is very much “worth it”. Most of us can benefit greatly from therapy, but in spite of this, too many of us neglect our own mental health and emotional wellbeing. Therapy can greatly improve quality of life. $40 per week boils down to a little over $5 per day. That seems like a worthy investment, certainly something worth trying.

Try BetterHelp

Is BetterHelp a safe and secure site?

BetterHelp definitely takes your privacy and security very seriously. From a security standpoint, they use SSL encryption as well as banking-grade 256-bit encryption in order to make your messaging absolutely secure. The company’s servers are hosted under the highest security.

And in terms of privacy, all therapists with BetterHelp adhere strictly to HIPAA regulations and abide by all state and federal laws protecting your confidentiality. You don’t have to use your name at all but instead can remain totally anonymous to your therapist using an alias (a “nickname” in their system). BetterHelp does not ask for your full name when you sign up.

Because BetterHelp doesn’t work with insurance or employers, they don’t share any information at all with those entities.

If there is a message that you don’t want to remain even in your account, you can click to “shred” it. (However, having messages to review and revisit at later times can be very beneficial in therapy, so we recommend you use this sparingly.)

How we evaluate health service companies

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For BetterHelp and other health services and products, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?

User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device/program/app/website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?

Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?

Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?

Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?

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