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Brightside Review: Effective online therapy and psychiatry?

Need help with depression or anxiety? Brightside’s got you covered with evidence-based, online sessions with a therapist or psychiatrist. Is it right for you?

Last Updated: May 2, 2022
Brightside Review

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that 40 million American adults live with an anxiety disorder. Around 21 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2020.

Deciding to get help can sometimes be the hardest part, especially if you’re new to seeking mental health help. Sites like Brightside have emerged to address issues related to anxiety and depression through therapy, medication, or both.

But is Brightside the right online mental health service for you? Read our comprehensive review to find out about subscriptions, services, pricing, privacy, and more.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Take a comprehensive assessment to determine your mental health status
  • Choose from three plans: Therapy, Medication, or Medication & Therapy
  • Unlimited messaging and follow-ups with a psychiatrist
  • Weekly video sessions and unlimited messaging with a therapist
  • Online self-care resources
  • Monitor your progress online with your provider
  • Take $100 OFF the Therapy & Medication plan for your first month

Cons

  • More affordable with health insurance (only accepts Aetna and Cigna)
  • Therapy sessions are only 30 minutes
  • Focuses on anxiety and depression — if you have another condition, look elsewhere

Bottom line

We recommend Brightside for those looking for user-friendly and convenient online mental health help. If you live with anxiety or depression, Brightside can help you via talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both. They also promote progress monitoring to ensure that treatment is working. Brightside’s services are a good value but are more affordable if you have health insurance.

Our Top Picks

Brightside

Brightside offers three valuable mental health plans that incorporate medication and therapy.

Brightside’s comprehensive assessment helps determine which mental health plan is best for you. They use tools like messaging and video chat to connect you with certified therapists and psychiatrists.

The Therapy Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$299
$249
The Medication Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$95
$45
The Medication and Therapy Plan
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$349
$249

Why you should trust us

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

We extensively test each health service or product we review. Our content provides you, our readers, with an unbiased exploration of at-home health options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate products and services based on their adherence to quality and the latest medical evidence and health standards. We ask ourselves two simple questions: Would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job? 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.

What is Brightside?

Brightside is an online mental health platform that treats anxiety and depression. Through medication, therapy, or a combination of both, you can receive treatment for a variety of related issues, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Postpartum depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Insomnia
  • Bipolar II

With a quick questionnaire and online consultation with a provider, you’re on your way to better understanding your mental health and the steps you need to take for enhanced wellbeing. Brightside’s goal is to make receiving psychology and psychiatry services simple, affordable, and straightforward — no long wait times, complicated rules, or high price tags. Plans even include follow-up appointments with your provider for medication adjustments or talk therapy (depending on your needs).

Brightside plans are available in all 50 U.S. states, and anyone 18 years or older can receive treatment. Providers include therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Brightside vets their licensed providers and ensures that they meet strict requirements, including graduation from top medical schools and years of experience.

Remote psychological and psychiatric care does not require in-person exams or blood tests for diagnosis. Instead, practitioners rely on your medical and mental health history and their own judgment when deciding which conditions you may have. Remote care also allows quick follow-ups and easy access to your doctor without waiting weeks for an appointment. Brightside’s convenience and ease of use help you receive care faster and without hassle.

Does Brightside work?

Brightside is committed to understanding how their services impact customers. They provide surveys periodically throughout your experience to monitor progress and openly provide survey data on their site to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness. They use the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7), two instruments widely used for depression and anxiety self-reporting.

According to their survey results:

  • 86% of Brightside users report feeling better within 12 weeks.
  • 71% achieve remission of symptoms within 12 weeks, and 80% within 12 months.
  • 69% eliminate suicidal thoughts within 12 weeks, and 87% within 12 months.

Our testers found Brightside to be an efficient and welcoming platform with straightforward instructions for getting started and knowledgeable providers. Getting treatment for anxiety or depression can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never received treatment before. It feels good to have a site and provider that are intuitive and accessible to ease nerves and make the process easy. Our testers found that Brightside accomplished all of this.

Who could benefit from it, and who probably won't?

If you’ve received treatment for anxiety and depression before, you can continue that treatment with Brightside. Those who are pretty sure they could benefit from therapy or medication will find Brightside to be user-friendly and convenient. Even if you’ve never received mental health care before, you’ll find this platform easy to navigate.

However, if you know that you’d prefer in-person care or live with a condition that requires face-to-face care for diagnosis or treatment, Brightside may not be the best option for you. Some high-risk conditions — like suicide attempts, self-harm, psychosis, or mania — are best left to in-person providers. You may want to also look elsewhere for care if you:

  • Have been recently hospitalized for a psychiatric condition
  • Live with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or borderline personality disorder
  • Are at high risk for substance abuse problems or an eating disorder
  • Have certain medical conditions, like kidney or liver disease, seizures, or long QT

How Brightside works

Create an account with Brightside and complete the mental health questionnaire. Then, you’ll receive a customized treatment plan. Brightside offers several ways to get treatment for anxiety and depression, including:

  • Self-care techniques
  • Therapy
  • Medication

The self-care techniques are available for members only and include short videos that help you build mental health skills like:

  • Gratitude
  • Breathing
  • Resilience
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Goal setting
  • Diet and exercise
  • Sleep

These videos are meant to complement therapy and medication to help you see long-lasting results.

Therapy includes unlimited messaging and weekly, 30-minute sessions with your provider. You can also opt for additional sessions as you move through Brightside’s resources.

A psychiatric provider evaluates you to determine if you need medication. If you receive a diagnosis, your provider creates a personalized treatment plan, including what medications you should take and how often. Brightside offers monthly medication delivery. As you begin medication treatment, check in with your provider to ensure correct dosing and discuss any side effects.

Keep in mind: Brightside providers do not always prescribe medication. Part of their evaluation includes deciding whether or not medication is the best path for you. They may, instead, recommend therapy without medication. Also, Brightside providers won’t prescribe controlled substances, such as Xanax, Ambien, Klonopin, or Valium.

What types of services are available?

Based on your questionnaire, Brightside suggests a path forward for you. There are three primary services that Brightside offers:

  1. Therapy: This includes weekly sessions with your provider and unlimited messaging.

  2. Medication: A Brightside psychiatrist determines what medication (if any) is best for your mental health.

  3. Medication & Therapy: Mental health is complex, so you may need a combination of medicine and talk therapy to get well.

Self-care resources are available for all members. In your paid account, you also have access to a Refer-a-Friend link where you can provide contact info for anyone you think could benefit from Brightside’s services. You also have access to a list of Crisis Resources that can help if you need emergency care.

Therapy

If you choose the therapy option, you can take advantage of weekly sessions, unlimited messaging, and monitored progress to help your mental health journey. Here’s how to get started with Brightside therapy:

  1. Complete the questionnaire. The comprehensive questions provide a complete picture of your mental health status related to anxiety and depression. Your results are easy to understand and help you decide which of Brightside’s services may be the best option.

  2. Meet your therapist. Your first therapy appointment will be 45 minutes long. All weekly sessions after that are 30 minutes. You also can take advantage of unlimited messaging with your provider if you need help or have questions. All of Brightside’s therapists are licensed and vetted. You can’t choose your therapist directly, but you can ask to switch later.

  3. Use other resources. In addition to therapy appointments, Brightside provides self-paced audio lessons personalized to your mental health issue. Reviewing these lessons and completing practice exercises helps you build skills between therapy sessions.

  4. Monitor your progress. Brightside will check in with you periodically to monitor your progress. This helps you discover what’s working for you and what isn’t. You can discuss your progress with your therapist as well.

Pricing

The Therapy Plan costs $299 per month, but Brightside offers $50 off your first month for a total of $249. You can also purchase additional therapy sessions for $59 each. Brightside accepts both Aetna and Cigna insurance, and you can use HSA or FSA funds to purchase your subscription. You can also cancel the subscription at any time.

Medication

If you choose the Medication option, you receive a comprehensive evaluation from a psychiatric provider, unlimited messaging and video follow-ups, free medication delivery, and a customized treatment plan. Here’s how to get started with Medication:

  1. Complete the questionnaire. The assessment asks questions about your history and current mental health to provide accurate results. These results reveal whether medication is a good option for you.

  2. Meet with your psychiatrist. Brightside matches you with a psychiatric provider for a 15-minute consultation. Ask questions and hear from your provider about what medication (if any) may help your current condition.

  3. Take your medication. Follow your provider’s care instructions, including medication, self-care, and any other Brightside resources. Your prescription is delivered each month, and shipping is free.

  4. Monitor your progress. You’ll receive a weekly request to report your progress and symptoms to ensure you’re taking the correct medication dose. Your provider makes adjustments as needed.

Pricing

The Medication Plan costs $95 per month, but Brightside offers $50 off the first month for a total of $45. If you have insurance, you’re responsible for paying the pharmacy copay for all medication. If you don’t have insurance, you pay $15 per medication. Brightside accepts Aetna and Cigna insurance, and you can also use HSA or FSA accounts. Cancel your subscription at any time.

Medication & Therapy

The Medication & Therapy Plan is the most comprehensive, including all of the benefits of the Medication Plan and the Therapy Plan. If you choose this option, you receive:

  • Psychiatric video evaluation
  • Personalized treatment plan
  • Unlimited messaging (with your therapist and psychiatrist)
  • Unlimited psychiatric follow-ups
  • Free medication delivery
  • Four therapy sessions per month
  • Care monitoring
  • Interactive lessons
  • Self-care resources

Pricing

The Medication & Therapy plan costs $349 per month, which is a $45 discount. Brightside also offers an additional discount of $100 on your first month, bringing the total to $249. You also pay your pharmacy copay for medication if you have Cigna or Aetna insurance. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll pay $15 per prescription. You can also pay using HSA or FSA funds and cancel your subscription at any time.

Is Brightside a good value?

What makes Brightside stand out from other online mental health sites is the combination of therapy and psychiatry. Many mental health companies — like Betterhelp — only offer therapy services. You’d need to look elsewhere for medication. Even companies that offer both therapy and psychiatry — like Talkspace — don’t offer them as a package deal. You’d need two separate subscriptions or pay two separate bills to take advantage of both.

Brightside’s value comes from the fact that it offers the Medication & Therapy Plan for those who need both but don’t want to access them from different companies or pay for them separately. This is similar to companies like Cerebral.

Cerebral is probably the most well-known and reputable mental health company that offers services similar to Brightside. View the chart below to see how these two companies’ monthly prices compare.

  Brightside Cerebral
Therapy $299 $259
Medication $95 $85
Medication & Therapy $349 $325

Getting started

Brightside is easy to join and navigate. The site guides you through the steps you need to take to access a therapist or psychiatrist. Here are the five basic steps:

  1. Fill out a mental health questionnaire and view your results.

  2. Choose your plan: Therapy, Medication, or Medication & Therapy.

  3. Meet with your provider. Have weekly video sessions with your therapist or an evaluation, plus follow-ups with your psychiatrist. (If you’ve received a prescription, begin taking it and monitoring symptoms.)

  4. Connect with your provider through messaging and check-ins.

  5. Use Brightside’s audio lessons and self-care resources.

The initial questionnaire is the first step in getting help. Here are some details about what this assessment includes.

  • Provide basic details, including your name and zip code.
  • Identify the issue you need help with. The options are: depression, anxiety, insomnia, panic, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety, phobia, postpartum depression, burnout, binge eating/eating disorders, and I’m not sure. You can select as many options as you want.
  • Receive a message that tells you if Brightside treats the issues you selected and how soon you can get an appointment. Our testers all had appointments available as soon as the next day.
  • Answer questions related to the issues you selected.
  • Give details about any past treatment, including type of treatment and success rate.

After you’ve finished the questionnaire, create a free account with your email address and password. Then, you can view your test results, which identify where you fall on a scale of mild to severe with the mental health issues you identified.

Next, see treatment options, including the Medication Plan, Therapy Plan, and Medication & Therapy Plan. Brightside provides treatment recommendations for you based on your assessment results.

Then, Brightside asks some questions to make sure that remote care is a good option for you. These questions include basic details like your zip code and birthdate. But you’re also asked about any physical health concerns, history of schizophrenia or psychosis, and past suicide attempts. Keep in mind that Brightside recommends in-person care to patients with certain mental health concerns, hence the need for these questions.

Lastly, Brightside asks about your health insurance status. If you have health insurance, you’re provided with two options: Cigna or Aetna. If you don’t have health insurance (or the ones listed), you’re directed to the subscription page to choose your plan and pay using a credit/debit card or HSA/FSA funds.

Privacy considerations

Brightside is HIPAA-compliant and is committed to protecting all of your sensitive mental health information. Your provider is the only one who has access to your information. Brightside also uses 256-bit SSL encryption to keep all of your personal information on the site safe.

HSA, FSA, and health insurance

Brightside does allow you to pay for subscriptions with HSA and FSA funds. They also accept insurance but only Aetna or Cigna. Those using health insurance and receiving medication must pay for any pharmacy copays.

How we evaluate health products and services

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service or product. In general, we have five broad evaluation areas, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) or product(s)? How is advanced technology used for accuracy and safety? What evidence of effectiveness exists to justify the company’s approach? Are manufacturing standards of high quality?

User-friendliness: How intuitive and convenient is the service or product? To what degree is the company interface helpful and understandable?

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, is it stored securely? Are payments secure? Does the company market your information?

Customer support: With personalized products and services, how well does the company address your individual needs? If a product or service does not work for you, are there satisfaction guarantees or return policies that protect you?

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