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Prioritizing your mental health has never been more critical — with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else going on in the world, many people are experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions.

In fact, polls report that 53 percent of U.S. adults say worry and stress amid the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Thankfully, virtual support systems like TalkSpace and BetterHelp make it easier than ever to take care of your mental health.

BetterHelp is an online therapy service that allows you to text chat with a licensed, accredited therapist 24/7. Keep reading to see how it works, what to consider, and if it’s right for you.

Depending on what you’re looking for, BetterHelp offers counseling for individuals, couples, or families. You create an account and fill out a questionnaire to find the right match.

During the questionnaire, you’re able to list out your counselor preferences, including their gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, language, as well as what issues you’re hoping to tackle, and how important it is that your counselor be well versed in those topics.

It can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to be matched to an in-state counselor.

According to BetterHelp, counselors are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors.

All the company’s counselors have a master’s or doctorate degree and possess at least 3 years and 2,000 hours of experience as mental health professionals.

If you don’t like who you’re paired with, you can simply email BetterHelp to be reassigned.

“Therapy can be intimidating, especially for a lot of first-time clients. Text-based communication (texting and live-chat sessions) are a great way to take some of the anxiety out of starting therapy and help clients dive into the process,” says James Imrie, the creative and marketing manager at BetterHelp.

Chat room

Once you’ve been matched with a counselor, you can immediately start messaging them in a private and secure chat room.

The chat room is accessible at any time as long as your device has reliable internet. Messaging isn’t done in real-time, so there’s no guaranteed response time from your counselor. As a result, you’re free to message your counselor at any hour of the day.

Your counselor will reply with questions, guidance, homework, or feedback, and the app will notify you of their response.

The conversations are saved in the chat room so you’re free to reflect and reread whenever you’d like. Every conversation is also protected by strict federal and state HIPAA laws.

Live chat

If you don’t like waiting hours for a response, you can head to the calendar and schedule a live chat session with your counselor.

This option mimics the comfort of texting a good friend who instantly understands.

“Writing down your thoughts is a useful exercise for all kinds of situations,” Imrie says. “If you feel like your thoughts are crowded or foggy, boiling them down into a few sentences can help bring a lot of clarity and understanding.”

Live phone session

For those who prefer working through problems out loud, it’s possible to schedule an hour-long phone call with your counselor.

The system doesn’t share your personal phone number with the counselor and everything is done through the BetterHelp app.

Live video session

If you’re someone who enjoys face-to-face conversation, you can also schedule a video session with your counselor. Just log on at your appointment time and your counselor will prompt you to start the video chat.

“Online therapy can serve as a source of connection and support, especially during a time (in light of the pandemic) that feels otherwise isolating,” says Sheava Zadeh, PhD, LEP, BCIM, a psychologist and founder of Pamper Your Brain.

“Clients who live in remote areas or who have limited mobility or limited access to transportation may be more motivated to participate in online therapy,” Zadeh says. “It allows for more flexibility in scheduling, as clients have access to more specialists and can select the specialists who can work with their schedules.”

You also get the comfort that comes with being in your own personal space — and you don’t have to worry about running into anyone you know in the waiting room!

BetterHelp has a wide array of counselors who are specialized in specific issues like:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • relationships
  • parenting
  • depression
  • addiction
  • eating
  • sleeping
  • trauma
  • anger
  • family conflicts
  • LGBTQIA+ matters
  • grief
  • religion
  • self-esteem

With online therapy such as BetterHelp, therapy is made more accessible.

According to a 2019 study, online therapy can be effective for depression. In the study, more than 300 BetterHelp users had significant reductions in symptoms of depression after 3months.

Other research has shown the promise of telehealth including its effectiveness and that it’s a good option when traditional in-person therapy isn’t available.

However, there are some conditions that are still best treated by an in-person specialist. This includes life-threatening eating disorders and substance use disorders.

An online counselor won’t be able to make any official diagnoses, fulfill any court orders, or prescribe medication.

If online therapy isn’t a good fit for you, BetterHelp does provide the resources to get you immediate and specialist care.

BetterHelp is a subscription plan with services not generally covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.

The site offers a free 7-day trial and can be canceled at any time.

Prices range from $35 to $80 a week depending on how many live sessions you want to be able to schedule.

BetterHelp also offers financial aid for those who qualify — for example, for anyone who’s unemployed or going through financial difficulty. It’s possible to get a discounted rate up to 40 percent off.

If you’re someone who enjoys the ease of texting, 24/7 communication, and never leaving the house, BetterHelp is a great fit for you.

While traditional therapy offers the quiet comfort of facial expressions and affirmations, in today’s tech-centric world, even that can be closely mimicked through BetterHelp’s live video sessions.

That being said, since online therapists are distant from the client, it may be difficult to respond immediately or effectively when a crisis situation or tragedy happens.

It’s also hard for an online therapist to pick up on certain facial expressions, body language, or vocal signals which may occur in real-world interactions. BetterHelp also isn’t ideal for users with faulty or unstable internet connection.

Lastly, if you’re struggling with life-threatening thoughts or conditions, online therapy isn’t the best option for you.

BetterHelp counselors don’t make any official diagnosis, fulfill any court orders, or prescribe medication.

Keep in mind

BetterHelp isn’t a substitute for emergency services. In the event of a mental health emergency — if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else — call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Healthline

There are many pros when it comes to online or teletherapy.

If you’ve never been to in-person therapy before, this text-based approach is an easy way to get comfortable with the process.

BetterHelp is an affordable, convenient option that offers solutions for people who prefer to talk on the phone or via video call.

However, BetterHelp shouldn’t be used if you’re in immediate danger or need critical mental health services.

If you’re interested in trying BetterHelp, you can get started here.