While teletherapy services have existed for years, recent circumstances like the pandemic have propelled this market directly to the top of the telehealth industry. Cerebral is one of the newest companies to join this growing market, offering subscription plans for comprehensive online therapy, prescriptions, and free medication delivery. We tested their services to help you decide if Cerebral sounds appropriate for you.
Cerebral primarily offers treatment for depression, anxiety, and insomnia but may also help those with bipolar disorder or ADHD. If you’re looking for help with one or more of these circumstances and want the convenience of never having to leave your house for treatment, Cerebral is worth your consideration. Continue reading to find out how our research team evaluated the company and their services.
- Free prescription delivery
- Better availability for live sessions than similar services
- Some insurance and FSA/HSA cards accepted
- Useful free resources
- Low introductory rates for the first month
- Prices increase significantly after the first month.
- No long-term subscription discounts
- Unsuitable for severe mental disorders, substance abuse, or crises
- Therapy is limited to 35 states
- Only offers individual counseling at this time (no services for couples, teens, or families)
Cerebral gives you a very convenient and reasonably priced way to access mental health care online, including prescription care.
With three subscription options, you can access therapy (in certain states) and get medications prescribed and shipped to you. If you live in one of the 35 states where Cerebral provides therapy, the company provides truly comprehensive service.
- Why you should trust our Cerebral review
- How we evaluated Cerebral
- What is Cerebral, and who is it for?
- Insurance coverage, HSAs, and FSAs
- What needs can Cerebral address?
- Cerebral providers
- Cerebral therapy plans
- Getting started with Cerebral
- Therapist matching
- How to receive medication
- Attending therapy appointments
- Your alternatives and how Cerebral stacks up
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review. All told, our team has spent over 55 hours testing and researching Cerebral’s services – and spent over three times that amount of time cumulatively doing the same for its chief competitors – to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how the products and services 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.
We took a close look at Cerebral’s mental health services with a sharp focus on convenience, cost, customer care, therapy style and quality, and privacy protection. The company is impressive in each of these areas, but they shine in some more than others.
Cerebral is exceptionally user-friendly. Creating an account and selecting a plan moves along quickly, and each step leads into the next in ways that make sense. The interface is never overwhelming or confusing. Once you’ve engaged in a plan, picking a therapist and scheduling sessions is straightforward. One knock against Cerebral in the convenience department is that they don’t make it as easy to change therapists as some of their competitors. You have to contact customer service, whereas other providers let you make these changes with a few clicks.
Cerebral promptly emails you any paperwork required in the lead-up to your visit, and it’s easy to sign and return entirely online. A couple of our testers had some trouble getting into their video sessions, but they resolved it quickly.
Cerebral is one of the most affordable online mental health providers, especially given their range of services. In addition, they provide substantially reduced introductory prices for your first month, so trying it out is low-risk.
Unlike much of their competition, Cerebral works with select health insurance plans. If you have one of these plans, your cost for any of Cerebral’s subscription service is only $29 per month. Medication costs extra, and some insurers will cover this cost. Uninsured patients pay just $10 on average for monthly prescriptions.
On the pharmaceutical side of Cerebral’s platform, a medical provider speaks with a patient and prescribes medication as needed. Meanwhile, a Care Counselor offers emotional support and tracks the patient’s progress. Care Counselors are mental health professionals — usually nurse practitioners, social workers, or psychologists. Some, but not all, Cerebral Care Counselors are licensed therapists. They work directly with the prescribing physician to manage a patient’s treatment regime. As such, they are sometimes called “Care Managers.”
On the therapy side, all of Cerebral’s therapists have at least a master’s degree in their related field and are board-certified and licensed to practice in your state. Our testers found that they were easy to connect with, though there didn’t seem to be much of a standard for camera quality or dress code among the therapists, which could be off-putting to customers expecting to see visual markers of utmost professionalism.
The Cerebral team takes a collaborative approach to your care to ensure you feel fully supported. Your Cerebral Coordinator provides administrative support. You can message them with any questions about your plan, services, billing, and scheduling. To do so, message them as you would your Care Counselor in the messaging section. You can also reach the customer service team by email, text, or phone. They typically reply within one business day.
The phone support system doesn’t have a direct transfer for any kind of technical support, so if you run into issues on the site, you may have to wait to see them resolved.
Style of Therapy
Cerebral’s collaborative care model involves healthcare providers from different disciplines to provide an integrated treatment plan. Care Counselors and therapists use a combination of therapies to support patients, including talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and mindfulness. These evidence-based techniques perform well in clinical studies.
The digital nature of Cerebral means users can track their progress using data monitoring. Regular check-ins utilize standard clinical measurements of depression and anxiety symptoms, allowing the user and the care team to assess whether the patient is improving with treatment.
In the app, you will see a Panic button in the menu. Tap it if you experience a panic attack or are feeling incredibly anxious and need non-emergency help. You will rate how you feel from 0 (terrible) to 10 (great). It then launches a grounding exercise to help you get through it. It won’t notify anyone and is just for you to use on the go.
Cerebral takes privacy very seriously. All your personal information is encrypted and stored according to strict security protocols. In addition, state and federal laws protect information regarding your medical profile, counseling assessments, and prescriptions.
However, Cerebral may collect non-personal information about users on their site through cookies and other tracking technologies. They use this information to improve their websites or apps and to improve personalized service.
Your safety is of utmost concern. If your care providers ever believe you might hurt yourself or others, they may share information with the emergency contact you provided at signup. If necessary, they will follow any required safety protocols.
Cerebral is a telemedicine company that provides mental health services through a vast network of experienced psychiatrists, therapists, and physicians. They can provide patients with regular talk therapy and prescription medication. Their approach is ideal for anyone who isn’t opposed to conducting therapy remotely. Still, they also offer a low enough introductory rate to make them a smart choice for anyone curious about the experience.
Cerebral specializes in treating anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, insomnia, ADHD, and PTSD. If your needs fall into any of those categories, you might be an ideal candidate. If you need to address other needs like addiction issues or significant past trauma, you can still turn to Cerebral, but it might take a little more time to find the right fit with the right therapist, and there may still be limits to the help you can receive.
Patients with needs best addressed in person — like those with behavioral disorders that may inhibit their focus or performance over a video session, or those seeking hypnotherapy, EMDR, or other sensory interventions — would likely do better seeking treatment in an office setting.
Cerebral also doesn’t provide therapy to those under 18 or those who live outside their areas of service. If you are considering self-harm or harming someone else, or find yourself in any type of crisis, call 911 or the 24-hour suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Cerebral’s tiered services:
|Medication + Care Counseling||Medication + Therapy||Therapy|
Cerebral is one of the few telemedicine providers to offer significant insurance cooperation for therapy and psychiatry. Several insurance companies in a long list of states will cover mental health services through Cerebral.
Here’s a current list of providers, by state, who offer coverage for Cerebral under specific plans:
- Arizona: Aetna, Cigna
- Arkansas: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- California: Aetna, Anthem, Blue Shield, Cigna, Magellan, Medicare
- Colorado: Aetna
- Connecticut: Aetna
- Florida: Cigna
- Georgia: Anthem, Cigna, Medicare
- Illinois: Cigna, Medicare
- Indiana: Medicare
- New York: Cigna, Medicare
- North Carolina: Aetna
- Ohio: Aetna, Medicare
- Pennsylvania: Cigna, Highmark Blue Shield
- South Carolina: Aetna
- Tennessee: Medicare
- Texas: Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Magellan
- Virginia: Cigna
- Washington: Aetna, Cigna
Just because your plan comes from one of these providers does not guarantee coverage. Make sure to check with your provider before you begin.
Suppose you don’t have an insurance plan that will cover Cerebral’s services. In that case, Cerebral will still provide you with an invoice you can submit to your insurance company for potential reimbursement.
Cerebral also accepts many Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs).
Billing for your medication is separate from your therapy or psychiatry subscription. Uninsured patients typically pay $10 out of pocket for a monthly prescription, with some variation. Insured patients will owe copays under their plans. If this applies to you, be sure to check which tier your medications fall into, and prepare for that cost. Delivery remains free for the insured and uninsured alike.
Cerebral isn’t a catchall for everything in the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Their psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors have specialties, to be sure, but Cerebral only advertises the ability to treat the following:
- Bipolar disorder
Note that Cerebral can only address ADHD, Bipolar disorder, and PTSD in particular states, as shown below.
- Washington D.C.
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- New York
- North Carolina
Cerebral continues to work with legislative bodies and state medical infrastructure to expand access to vital services for as many customers as possible. If you don’t see your state listed here under a specific category, be sure to check the Cerebral web page for more information.
Cerebral’s uses the broad term “prescriber” to describe any care team members who can write prescriptions for patients. This is intentional, as not all of the prescribers who work for Cerebral are psychiatrists. Many are psychiatrists, but others are physicians, physicians’ assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or nurse practitioners. All are board-certified.
You won’t interface with this provider very often, however. If you subscribe to therapy in addition to medication, you’ll speak with your therapist weekly. If you only subscribe to prescriptive care, you’ll meet with your Care Counselor monthly. Your therapist or counselor can initiate a follow-up appointment with your prescriber, or you can ask to speak with them again if you need any adjustments to your medication.
Cerebral therapists are committed professionals licensed to practice in your state and often have many years of experience under their belts. At the very least, each therapist has attained a master’s degree in a psychological field. Sessions with therapists last around 45 minutes, and our testers found the therapists they interacted with to be friendly and disarming. Talking with them was easy, and there was no pressure to dive headfirst into the past or to confront traumas, phobias, or potentially triggering issues before they were ready.
You’ll speak with your therapist once weekly, but you also have access to them on a secure messaging platform hosted through your account on the Cerebral website. One of our testers had to reach out due to a technical issue getting an appointment started, and their therapist was tremendously helpful through the messaging app.
For patients on a medication and counseling plan, Care Counselors are the primary point of contact to keep you on the right track. Many are social workers by trade, and all have master’s degrees in social work, psychology, psychiatry, or a related field.
You only speak with your Care Counselor once a month unless you need to reach out with another concern. They’ll make sure that your course of medication provides you with some relief and that you aren’t suffering from any adverse reactions to it. If necessary, they can set up a follow-up appointment with your prescriber to reevaluate your prescription or dosage and make any adjustments as needed.
Care Counselors also play an essential role in checking in with your mental health and giving you tools to improve it. While these visits are nowhere near as lengthy as therapy appointments, there’s still time for you and your counselor to develop a rapport and for them to get a sense of what might help you along your journey, whether that’s a particular breathing or grounding exercise or a meditation technique.
Cerebral is confident enough in their services that they let you try the first month at a deeply discounted price. We find this extremely helpful, especially for those who are wary of online therapy or reluctant to invest in treatment at all. The prices below include the full extent of services, excluding medication costs (if prescribed).
If you only want talk therapy, Cerebral’s Therapy Plan includes weekly sessions with a licensed therapist but does not involve prescriptions. You can get your first month of the Therapy Plan for an introductory rate of $99. After that, it costs $259/month.
While Cerebral is expanding their reach quickly, the Therapy Plan and the Medication & Therapy Plan are not available in all states. Cerebral currently has licensed therapists in the following states:
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Medication & Care Counseling Plan
The Medication & Care Counseling Plan costs $85/month, although you’ll often find limited promotions on the website. Currently, Cerebral offers new users their first month for only $30. This cost covers video or phone calls with your medication provider, unlimited messaging with your Care Counselor, and monthly video or phone check-ins with your counselor. It also covers shipping fees for any prescribed medications. Cerebral has providers who are licensed to prescribe medications in most U.S. states. See Cerebral’s FAQ for an updated list of states.
Medication & Therapy Plan
The all-inclusive Medication & Therapy Plan costs $325/month. This subscription package includes everything in the “Medication & Care Counseling” service but offers weekly sessions with a licensed therapist instead of monthly visits with a Care Counselor. Cerebral currently offers your first month of this plan for only $139.
Studies have shown that combined psychotherapy and pharmaceutical treatment is superior for major depression, anxiety, and other issues. If you feel that more frequent counseling sessions plus medication will be best for you, this is the plan we recommend. Note the list above for states that offer licensed therapy.
Insider Tip: Uninsured patients have the option to conduct their prescriber appointment by phone or video, but most insurance carriers require video to cover your Cerebral visit. Make sure to check with your provider if you need your session to be voice-only.
Getting started on Cerebral’s website or mobile app is straightforward and takes about 15-20 minutes:
Click “Get Started.” The site will take you to what’s known as the personal health questionnaire 9 (PHQ 9). The PHQ 9 evaluates any symptoms of depression or anxiety in your daily life, as well as how those symptoms may impact your mental health and general well-being. Upon completing the questionnaire, Cerebral assesses your condition and whether you may benefit from their services.
Choose your plan. Cerebral’s plans offer therapy, medication, or both. If you change your mind later on about what services you’d like, you can easily make adjustments under “Account Settings.”
Checkout. Cerebral accepts all major credit cards and debit cards connected to HSA/FSA.
Meet with a prescribing physician if medication is part of your plan. See details on this meeting below.
Choose a therapist (if applicable). Based on your profile, Cerebral will show you a selection of around 10 therapists whose bios and calendars you can examine before selecting one for scheduling.
Schedule your first appointment with your Care Counselor or therapist. This meeting takes place via video or phone. Your weekly therapist or monthly Care Counselor will support you throughout your treatment, liaise with your medical prescriber, and provide counseling, therapy, and methods to cope with your symptoms.
Therapist matching is a significant part of what will make or break your experience. It has added importance with Cerebral since they don’t make it very easy to switch therapists if you need to do so.
After you complete your intake questionnaire and purchase your plan, the site will direct you to a page to select a therapist. The options on this page result from Cerebral’s algorithm and your questionnaire responses. It isn’t perfect. Our testers specified their gender preferences to see how accurate the algorithm is, and it offered some of them options in opposition to their requests.
None of our testers found the therapists they selected to be a bad match, though. We concluded that Cerebral has a reliable matching system.
If you are interested in medication as part of your treatment, subscribe to the Medication & Care Counseling Plan or the Medication & Therapy Plan. Your prescriber will determine what medications are suitable during your initial consultation. Usually, you can do your consultation immediately after signing up (or wait if you prefer).
If the provider determines that medication could help, they will tell you about the medications and answer any questions. Once your prescription is processed, Cerebral charges your card on file. You can expect delivery of your medication within seven business days. For some controlled substances, you may have to visit your local pharmacy to collect your prescription.
Navigate to the “Prescriptions” section of your account for tracking information and other details. If you prefer, you can also message your Care Coordinator for updates or if you need help getting a reimbursement with your insurance or HSA/FSA.
You and your Care Counselor will check in monthly to discuss how the medication is working. At any time, you can message your therapist or Care Counselor to ask questions about your medicine and discuss any adverse effects you might be experiencing.
When you have therapy as part of your Cerebral package, you’ll attend weekly meetings with a therapist of your choosing. These sessions are roughly 45 minutes in length, and they can run the gamut from friendly chats to concerted training in behavioral modification. A lot of that depends on where you are at in your mental health journey. Cerebral therapists are well-trained enough to identify where you are emotionally and psychologically and meet you there.
As your first appointment approaches, Cerebral will send you some documents to e-sign. These are typical legal forms about informed consent and the legal limits of doctor-patient confidentiality. Your therapist can’t break from that privilege as long as you aren’t actively being abused and aren’t suicidal or homicidal.
When you log into your account to join your session, you simply scroll to the bottom of the page and click to join. You may need to give the site permission to access your microphone and camera for the session to run smoothly.
Insider Tip: Occasionally, based on our experience, the link to join your session may direct you to the wrong URL, and you’ll see nothing but a blank page. If this happens, go back and right-click on the link to join instead. Then, select “Go to https://getcerebral.doxy.me/(your therapist’s first name).”
More online therapy options hit the market as more people realize they can get quality mental healthcare without leaving their homes. Our top recommendations besides Cerebral are BetterHelp and Talkspace. However, there are also some circumstances where online therapy cannot entirely replace in-person treatment. Our research and testing team compared Cerebral with our other top-rated options for therapy. Here are their main similarities and differences.
Cerebral’s Therapy Plan is very similar to BetterHelp’s individual therapy plan. Both include once-a-week live sessions with a licensed therapist, closely replicating the in-person experience of talk therapy.
The user experience, in general, is very similar. You and your therapist can communicate at any time with unlimited messaging in virtual “rooms” that look almost identical. In addition, you may access Cerebral and BetterHelp via desktop or mobile apps, which are both incredibly user-friendly.
There are a few critical differences between BetterHelp and Cerebral, namely the ability to get medication and the total cost of your therapy plan. BetterHelp can’t provide medication. Cerebral offers it in select states with two of their plans. So if you expect that medication might be a helpful therapy component, Cerebral has a clear edge over BetterHelp.
Cerebral’s introductory rates are terrific, but it is only slightly less expensive after the first month than BetterHelp. Cerebral also offers more flexibility in three types of plans, whereas BetterHelp only has one individual therapy plan. However, BetterHelp has a few extra services you might find valuable, such as guided journaling and group webinars. BetterHelp also offers significant financial aid to provide discounted rates to those who qualify.
The final difference our testers noted is that BetterHelp makes it easier to switch therapists. Any time you want to try a new counselor, you can do so independently with a few clicks. To change providers on Cerebral, you need to reach out to your Care Coordinator or customer service for help. You can learn more about BetterHelp from our full review.
If you value a mobile-friendly experience and prefer messaging over live sessions, Talkspace might be best for you. Although live sessions are available in their higher-priced plan, Talkspace focuses on messaging over phone or video sessions. If that is sufficient for you, you can save money compared to Cerebral’s more comprehensive plan. However, live video sessions provide an experience much closer to in-person therapy.
Like BetterHelp, Talkspace and Cerebral connect you with experienced, licensed therapists and counselors. Because they both use subscription models, you’ll pay for four weeks at a time. Talkspace has long-term pricing discounts, as well, so you can save a little money if you can afford to pay for three or six months in advance. Also, like BetterHelp, Talkspace makes it easy to switch therapists on your own if you are not satisfied.
Although we prefer Cerebral’s collaborative approach to medication and counseling, Talkspace also offers psychiatric consultations. If you are interested in prescription medication as part of your treatment, you may consult with one of their prescribing physicians as a separate service from your base membership. Cerebral’s prescription services are also much more affordable than Talkspace’s psychiatric consultations, which cost $125 or more.
We prefer Talkspace’s method to match you with a therapist over Cerebral and BetterHelp, which depend on a self-guided questionnaire. Talkspace employs an interview with an actual therapist to find a suitable counselor for you. It feels more personal and natural, although we have not experienced any noticeable differences in the quality of therapists across all three companies.
Overall, you will pay more for Talkspace if you want services beyond messaging with a therapist (note that messaging does not occur in real-time, so you might wait hours to receive replies). To learn more about Talkspace, visit our full review.
If cost and convenience are your most important factors, we highly recommend therapy through Cerebral. It has some clear benefits over in-person treatment. First, it’s much more affordable in most cases. In-person therapy costs an average of $150 per session and is rarely fully covered by insurance after factoring in copays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. You also need to factor in the cost of driving to appointments and possibly taking time off work. However, for those who only need to see their therapist once per month, the price may be comparable to Cerebral’s Medication + Care Counseling plan.
Online therapy from companies like Cerebral is also much more convenient for most people. Scheduling, trying out different therapists, changing appointments, and “getting to” the appointment requires very little time or effort. And with tools like wellness exercises and instant messaging at your fingertips, you can take charge of your day-to-day treatment more so than relying exclusively on in-person sessions.
However, as close as Cerebral’s live sessions are to the in-person experience, they simply aren’t an adequate substitute for everyone. Their therapists only specialize in treating anxiety, depression, and insomnia, with some states offering treatment for bipolar disorder, PTSD, and ADHD. Online therapy is usually not sufficient to care for those with severe mental health concerns. If you’re experiencing immense distress, we recommend in-person treatment at least to begin your journey.