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BetterHelp vs Talkspace: Who’s best for online therapy?

BetterHelp cost, Talkspace messaging, therapist matching, and more -- we explore all the details

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2021

BetterHelp vs Talkspace

There are a lot of reasons to opt for online therapy instead of seeing a therapist in person. It’s a lot less expensive, you can do it without leaving the house, and it’s private. And when you take advantage of the vast network of therapists associated with the major online mental health providers, you don’t have to settle for one of the few qualified therapists who work within your community.

Among those providers, two names consistently come up, and many of our readers have reached out asking which provider is better. We are, of course, talking about BetterHelp vs. Talkspace. Both services respect your privacy and partner with qualified and experienced therapists. Both are relatively easy to use and can cost significantly less than in-office visits would. So which delivers the most meaningful and beneficial online therapy service in 2021?

In this guide, we analyze BetterHelp and Talkspace, breaking down all of the differences so that you can determine which company is the best choice for you. For those in a big hurry, here’s the bottom line.

Who delivers the best value in 2021, BetterHelp or Talkspace?

Overall we believe most people will find BetterHelp therapy to be a better service right now. Read on for our full analysis.

2021 Winner

BetterHelp

For most people, BetterHelp therapy offers a more affordable balance of messaging and live sessions.

Both BetterHelp and Talkspace are great companies providing a valuable service. And in some cases -- with certain types of insurance, or if you know you need prescription treatments, for instance -- Talkspace could be a better fit. But for most people, we suggest BetterHelp.

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Our evaluations at a glance

  BetterHelp Talkspace
Cost of service Winner  
Ease of use Winner  
For psychiatry   Winner
For couples Draw Draw
For teens Draw Draw
Flexibility Winner  
Customer support Winner  
Privacy Winner  

Why you should trust us

At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including BetterHelp and Talkspace. All told, our team has spent over 122 hours testing and researching their services and those of their chief competitors in order to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how they compare, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks.

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on 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, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace in quality of therapy

Winner: BetterHelp

BetterHelp’s requirement for a higher level of experience for each of their therapists distinguishes them. So does the fact that they provide frequent live therapy sessions in all plans, not just for people who can pay for more expensive plans.

Therapist qualifications

BetterHelp and Talkspace work with highly qualified therapists and pair you with one licensed to practice in your state. Many therapists obtain licensing in multiple states, increasing the odds you can find a good fit.

BetterHelp’s baseline for quality requires that all of their therapists hold a master’s or doctorate in their field of expertise. They also require state professional board certification and at least three years and 1,000 hours of experience working with patients. BetterHelp subjects their candidates to a process that ends up hiring just 20% of applicants, and they make any licensing information available for patients to see.

Find a Therapist

Talkspace likewise ensures that their counselors hold at least a master’s degree, and they make their therapists’ credentials visible. Their site says that their therapists average nine years of experience compared to the three-year requirement set by BetterHelp. Bear in mind, however, that nine years is the average for Talkspace therapists, so you might match with a counselor who has 20 years on the job or one year. With BetterHelp, you’re guaranteed someone with at least three years of experience.

You’ll be able to see these data points before you start working with someone, no matter which service you choose. And switching therapists for either is relatively easy.

Interfacing options

With Talkspace, every plan includes unlimited text, voice, and video messaging (not live). The messaging interface includes tracking tools to follow crucial aspects of your progress like symptoms, goals, and a timeline.

You’ll get one live session per month if you upgrade to the Live Messaging plan. If you want your plan to include one live session per week, you need to invest in the Live + Messaging plan. You could also add a live session to any Talkspace plan a la carte, but each extra session will cost $65. Live sessions run for about 45 minutes.

By contrast, BetterHelp emphasizes regular live sessions with your therapist; even BetterHelp’s least expensive offering includes weekly live visits in the format you prefer (video, phone, or messaging). These visits are 30 minutes by default when you start, but most therapists will work with you if you want more time per session — or shorter, more frequent sessions — to feel comfortable. The majority (but not all) of BetterHelp therapists are happy to do video sessions.

Both companies offer simple, efficient messaging services to keep you in communication with your therapist. You can discuss anything in these spaces, and you can usually expect a response within 24 hours. They look and feel like instant messaging interfaces, but the conversation moves a lot more slowly, and the individual messages can get pretty long. Still, this is a great place to lay some groundwork needed to get the most out of live sessions.

Quality is about more than just frequency or chat convenience. Finding the right rhythm is critical.

For some trauma patients, for example, the standard 30-minute BetterHelp session is barely enough to get to the point of comfort and safety required for progress. This is why we’re impressed that the company gives you and your therapist room to work out the routine that’s best for you. If you require it and your therapist’s schedule allows, you can have longer sessions — and more sessions — as needed. Sometimes a patient and therapist determine that an every-other-week routine with one-hour sessions works well.

Talkspace offers a 45-minute standard session time by comparison, but the fact that BetterHelp therapists can extend their session parameter to allow a patient to open up gives them a significant advantage here.

Cost comparison: BetterHelp and Talkspace

Winner: BetterHelp

Cost is one of the primary reasons some people opt for online therapy. While the average price of in-person visits ranges from $100 to $150 per hour, you can pay as little as $48/week for BetterHelp’s online therapy.

Pricing at BetterHelp

The standard pricing for BetterHelp is $80/week, but most patients will either qualify for a reduced fee discount or financial aid. With the reduced fee discount, BetterHelp knocks almost 30% off the cost of their services, charging you just $65/week. With financial aid, that price gets even lower, coming in at $48/week. That gets you unlimited messaging and the ability to set up weekly live visits via phone or video with your therapist of choice.

BetterHelp gives our readers 10% off if they sign up using our coupon code (INNERBODY). With our coupon discount added to that reduced fee discount, your effective weekly rate becomes less than $59, saving you almost 30%.

During the questionnaire, you can qualify for a reduced fee discount if you indicate your financial status is poor or fair and further describe yourself as one of the following:

  • A student
  • A veteran
  • Disabled
  • Unemployed
  • Employed with low income (less than $50,000 yearly)
  • Impacted by the COVID pandemic

Any one of these circumstances qualifies you for the reduced fee discount.

If you did not receive the reduced fee discount at the end of the questionnaire, you have the opportunity to check eligibility for financial aid.

Insider Tip: Even if you considered your financial status “good” earlier in the questions, you could still qualify. In some cases, factors that determine your eligibility for financial aid are different from the factors BetterHelp uses to determine your eligibility for a reduced fee discount, so it’s worth your time to check whether you can receive financial aid.

Toward the end of the questionnaire, simply click the box labeled “I can’t afford therapy.” Then, describe your circumstances in greater detail (employment status, number of dependents, race, whether you live in a rural or urban environment, etc.).

The reduced fee discount and financial aid paths are mutually exclusive of each other, which confuses many people. You may think you should qualify for financial aid if you qualify for a reduced fee, but those who receive that reduction don’t end up seeing the option to apply for financial aid later in the questionnaire.

Also, bear in mind that the financial aid lasts for 90 days, after which you’d need to reapply for it.

Talkspace cost

Talkspace offers monthly membership pricing, which means you can’t buy one week to try it out. How much Talkspace costs will depend on how long you commit and how many live sessions you feel you’ll want in your plan (anywhere from none at all to one per week). The longer you commit, the more you stand to save, but six-month agreements require a lot of capital.

The Messaging Therapy plan includes text, video, and audio messaging. No live sessions are included, but your therapist responds daily, five days per week.

  • Billed each month: $276 (weekly cost of $69)
  • Billed every three months: $744 (weekly cost of $62)
  • Billed every six months: $1320 (weekly cost of $55)

Talkspace’s Live Therapy plan includes everything in the lower-priced plan, along with one live session each month. The live session will be about 45 minutes in duration.

  • Billed each month: $396 (weekly cost of $99)
  • Billed every three months: $1068 (weekly cost of $89)
  • Billed every six months: $1896 (weekly cost of $79)

Live + Messaging Therapy gives you the same unlimited text, video, and audio messaging as the others, but it includes four live sessions per month (with the same 45-minute duration).

  • Billed each month: $516 (weekly cost of $129)
  • Billed every three months: $1392 (weekly cost of $116)
  • Billed every six months: $2472 (weekly cost of $103)

Health insurance

Most health insurance plans will not cover BetterHelp costs. By contrast, some insurance companies may cover Talkspace expenses for around 40 million Americans. Cigna, Humana, and a few other major insurers will cover the costs of Talkspace. So if you have excellent health insurance from Cigna, Humana, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, or Optum, you might be able to shave off some of the extra cost.

BetterHelp’s lowest price of $48 per week for those who need financial assistance is not much more than what you’d pay between co-pays and premiums, however. So BetterHelp’s most affordable subscription, which includes a live session each week along with unlimited messaging, is still the best and most reliable value, in our opinion.

This breakdown shows how qualifying for BetterHelp financial aid yields just as low per-week cost as any Talkspace plan, even though the most competitive Talkspace plan doesn’t include live therapy sessions.

  BetterHelp Talkspace
Full psychiatric service  
Yes
Lowest weekly cost available $48 $55
Lowest weekly cost of plan with a weekly live session $48 $103
Anonymity with a nickname
Yes
Yes
Any insurance coverage?  
Yes
Payments accepted Credit card or PayPal Credit card

Which is easier to use: BetterHelp or Talkspace?

Winner: BetterHelp

In addition to the potential for increased privacy, online therapy can add real convenience and value to counseling. Pouring over patient reviews for the three therapists within a reasonable driving distance from your home becomes a thing of the past. But BetterHelp and Talkspace have some important differences when it comes to usability.

Signing up

Getting started with either company is pretty straightforward, but our testers consistently found BetterHelp’s process slightly simpler and more transparent. Both companies start you out with a series of questions, including a standard depression screening.

With BetterHelp, that questionnaire is comprehensive but not painfully long or difficult to fill out. Most patients don’t need to worry over the potential for triggers throughout, either. You have an opportunity to input several requests regarding your therapist, from their gender to their specialty and even their counseling philosophy. One of our testers asked for a Jungian specifically, and while the therapist he got wasn’t a strict Jungian, she was deeply versed in Jung’s approach.

The process with Talkspace is similar to that of BetterHelp but has a couple of deficiencies by comparison. For starters, the site guided some of our testers to a questionnaire that served as their entire onboarding experience. In contrast, others went directly into a chat session with an onboarding specialist. We could not find a pattern in these differences. The questionnaire is also a little less thorough.

If you find yourself in a chat, you might get a few exchanges into it and then witness your specialist disappear entirely. Our testers had several experiences in which they revealed something personal about themselves to a specialist only to receive nothing in response. No amount of trying could restart the chat either. This may be a technical issue with Talkspace’s interface, or it may be that the specialists are overwhelmed and unable to keep track of their chats. Whatever the cause, it was unacceptable.

Therapist matching

BetterHelp and Talkspace differ in the default ways they choose to match you to your therapist at the outset.

When you begin with Talkspace, you’ll either fill out a questionnaire, chat with an onboarding specialist, or both. Afterward, the system matches you with a trio of therapists based on your goals and requests. You can choose from among these or ask to rerun the algorithm and give you new options.

BetterHelp, meanwhile, guides you through a series of questions about your situation and preferences and then, using a proprietary algorithm, matches you with a therapist.

At first, Talkspace struck us as a little more flexible here, but the single therapist that BetterHelp matched to us was often a better fit than any of the three matches provided by Talkspace. This is likely the combined result of a superior algorithm and BetterHelp’s more thorough questionnaire.

Both companies make it pretty easy to switch therapists, though, so you shouldn’t worry too much about finding the perfect fit right out of the gate. The reality is that you’re liable to find a better fit faster through their systems than you would in the real world by reading reviews and spending weeks on end and hundreds if not thousands of dollars just to see if you jibe with a therapist in their office.

Canceling your subscription

Canceling your subscriptions to either company’s services couldn’t be more different. There’s a big red “Quit Therapy” button in your BetterHelp account settings that you can hit to initiate the process. That leads to a small survey asking you to rate your experience and offer what you think the company could have done better.

You don’t have to answer any of these questions, though. You will have an opportunity to save the text from your sessions to your computer at this point, which is extremely convenient if you plan to resume therapy in the future or seek treatment in person and you want a record of what you’ve done so far. After that, you can simply confirm your decision to end your subscription and be done with it.

Talkspace seems a little more desperate when you try to quit. They throw all kinds of deals at you to get you to stay, including financial aid, which is otherwise non-existent on their website. What’s a little off-putting about this is that the requirements for this aid are surprisingly low, and if they made the availability of this aid more obvious, a great many people would qualify for it. Ultimately, it seems less like financial aid than a discount named to make the company sound generous.

It’s important to remember that these are businesses and that their priority is to make money. That means they’ll do just about anything to retain their customers. You can expect frequent emails urging you to continue if you get only part of the way through a signup process. Similar emails will follow after you cancel, though sometimes these may contain additional money-saving opportunities that might be enough to entice some users back into the fold.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace for interacting with a therapist

Winner: BetterHelp

The most basic form of communication with your therapist is the same on each platform. You’ll be able to chat with your therapist via text any time you like. Most therapists will check these messages at least once a day and get you a response. It would be wise to make these messages a little more evocative than a simple hello before getting into the meat of your issues or questions; it can get frustrating having to wait 24 hours for clarification or elaboration on your needs.

Those text platforms also support video and audio messaging. It’s essential to keep in mind that none of these three methods are live interactions. You leave a message in text, audio, or video and await a response.

If you have a Talkspace subscription that supports live interactions, you’ll interface with your therapist in real-time using the means most comfortable to you: text, audio, or video.

BetterHelp offers these live sessions to everyone at their basic price, and you can work with your therapist to determine the length and frequency of these live visits.

Our testers found that what most people would assume is true: therapy works better in real-time. Text-based therapy can, however, be more effective for certain types of patients who are averse to more direct interaction. Still, there are a lot of ways to obscure meaning and miscommunicate when you’re limited to text. It’s also harder for therapists to apply specific techniques without the benefit of real-time presence.

If you want the benefit of live sessions, BetterHelp is the way to go. They have no analog to Talkspace’s messaging-only plan, but that’s because the company believes in the irreplaceable value of live sessions. And live sessions via text are still available through BetterHelp.

Response times

Except for live sessions, any communications with your therapist will require some patience. Both companies allow messaging with your counselor, but neither strictly oversees how frequently they respond to messages. For the most part, our testers found counselors with both companies check their messages at least once a day, and many check in more frequently.

Insider Tip: One of the best things you can do if you want a quick back and forth with your therapist is to allow the system to send you email notifications and set some kind of alert on your phone. That way, you might respond to any messages you receive quickly enough that your therapist could see the response while they’re still on the messaging platform. They don’t have to respond in that case, but we have seen some therapists engage in a short exchange.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace for psychiatry

Winner: Talkspace

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who focus on the treatment of patients using prescription medications. They’re qualified to provide therapy sessions as well as prescribe medication. You might find psychiatrists in the therapy networks of both BetterHelp and Talkspace. However, what these psychiatrists will do on these platforms is different.

A psychiatrist in BetterHelp’s network won’t practice psychiatry – and therefore won’t prescribe medication – but would provide therapy as mental health professionals. In other words, they bring perhaps a different perspective or set of qualifications to therapy sessions, but your relationship with them fundamentally will be the same as any therapist on BetterHelp.

Talkspace offers psychiatry as a unique offering from their talk therapy. With Talkspace, you pay $199 for an initial psychiatric evaluation and then $125 for every subsequent psychiatric session that you use. You can also bundle your initial evaluation with one or three follow-up sessions to save more in the long run.

These psychiatric sessions with Talkspace are not intended to be therapy sessions but instead to check in about a prescription treatment and its effectiveness or to get a refill. It’s more about the prescription, much less about the therapy session.

Bear in mind that these courses are not mutually exclusive. You may find that a combined approach including both therapy and psychiatry is the best option for your mental health needs. In this case, we feel that Talkspace has the edge over BetterHelp, as you won’t get prescriptions from the latter.

Couples therapy and treatment for teens

Winner: Draw

Both Talkspace and BetterHelp can treat teens and work with couples. Talkspace may be the slightly more convenient option for couples if at least one of the participants already has familiarity with their interface. That’s because BetterHelp doesn’t exactly offer the couples or teens services on their website. Instead, they connect you to sister sites: ReGain for couples and TeenCounseling for teens.

Experiences and prices for teen and couples counseling are similar to those of individual counseling with either company. Talkspace might be the better choice for teens seeking help on their own, as the intake specialists have resources they can provide before moving toward therapy. If a teenager does wish to engage in therapy, they’ll need to have a parent or guardian provide consent with a video confirmation.

The BetterHelp teen counseling sister site, by comparison, seems exclusively geared toward parents seeking help on their children’s behalf. Ultimately, if a youth in any kind of crisis wants help, empowering them to seek it themselves is a valuable feature that TeenCounseling should incorporate.

One thing to note from our testing: we experienced difficulty creating a TeenCounseling account. Whether posing as a parent or the teen in question, chat sessions with an intake specialist repeatedly stopped mid-way. We never received an explanation for this friction, which ultimately cost Talkspace a recommendation in this category.

How do BetterHelp and Talkspace protect your privacy?

Winner: BetterHelp

While BetterHelp and Talkspace take privacy concerns seriously, their approaches aren’t exactly equal. In both cases, therapists adhere to HIPAA, and both companies do all they can to protect your data from outside forces such as hackers. But some subtle differences are worth nothing.

For example, you may reasonably be concerned about records of your sessions or chat history falling into the wrong hands. Well, your therapist won’t record your audio or video sessions without your explicit consent. Messaging is a little different, however.

With BetterHelp, you can delete your messaging history at any time. If you leave their therapy system altogether and don’t want any remnants in their database, you can wipe that evidence away and even choose to save a private copy for yourself. That also comes in handy if you’re merely switching therapists within BetterHelp and you don’t want conversations with your previous therapist to influence your new counseling relationship.

Talkspace also lets you prevent a new therapist from seeing old messaging conversations, but they do not let you delete your messages from their database. They may use that messaging data to improve the service or to influence certain marketing efforts. Whatever the reason, we don’t think it’s right that they restrict the option to erase this very personal data. We have no reason to believe that the information retained would contain any identifiable markers, at least not obvious ones. Still, we prefer the more ethically responsible approach of giving the user power over their therapeutic history.

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