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Two of our employees tried BetterHelp and found it to be a great online option for short-term use and convenience. Here’s everything you need to know before deciding if it’s right for you.
Mental health apps aren’t for emergencies
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, 911, or local emergency services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Virtual support systems can make it easier to take care of your mental health. They can be convenient and private, making them a viable option for receiving coaching and therapy from anywhere and at any time.
BetterHelp is one such online therapy service that allows you to message with a licensed, accredited therapist 24/7.
In this article, we discuss how BetterHelp works, what it costs, and who it might be right for.
In addition to screening BetterHelp using our vetting process, we also looked at their medical credibility, business practices, and social impact. One of our editors and another employee also chose to do a hands-on review for this service.
Associate editor Parisa Syed (she/they) tried BetterHelp and was satisfied with her experience. While her regular therapist was on maternity leave, Syed was looking for someone who could help keep up with the progress she’s made so far and a therapist of color with experience in discussing matters related to LGBTQIA+ topics.
“I was looking for someone who could understand the background of a first-gen American, [the] family dynamics associated with that, and someone who was honest and wasn’t afraid to push back,” she said. “My [assigned] therapist was all of those things, plus funny, empathetic, and easy to talk to.”
Laramy Applekamp (she/her), content project manager for Healthline, also recently tried BetterHelp for free for 6 months. She wanted to find a therapist who was a “good fit and had flexibility to fit her schedule, who [she] could talk through some of [her] current life challenges with.”
Applekamp had a positive experience with BetterHelp, and she intends to continue using it, even after submitting her review. She most loved how the questionnaire took the “guesswork of researching and finding your therapist.”
Healthline’s 2022 Online Therapy Survey
In February of 2022, our team conducted an online survey looking at how people use online therapy. We gathered thoughts, concerns, and suggestions from 315 respondents.
Out of the 12 therapy platforms included in the survey, the four most used were BetterHelp, Doctor on Demand, MDLive, and Talkspace. Our study breaks down 208 respondents’ answers about these platforms.
We discuss some of our results about BetterHelp throughout the article.
Syed found the onboarding quite simple, if not a bit tedious. The process started by answering a long list of questions for BetterHelp’s survey. These questions asked about what she was looking to accomplish in therapy and her current mental state.
Applekamp found the process straightforward, but noted that it took her about 20 minutes to complete the survey. “I messed up one question, and when I navigated back to change it, the interface instead took me to the beginning of the quiz and I had to restart.”
The next step is to create an account. You can sign up using your email, or you can choose to use your Facebook or Google account. You only need to enter your first name or nickname at this stage.
Once you’ve verified your account, BetterHelp will ask what you want your therapist to have experience with. You’ll also have an opportunity to describe, in your own words, why you’re seeking therapy.
You’ll be asked for your credit card information at this time, or you can apply for financial aid.
It can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to be matched to an in-state counselor.
Syed was matched with a therapist within 2 hours of completing the forms, while Applekamp was matched within 18 hours.
“I received a notification via email and a text,” Syed said. “I had the option to schedule an appointment with her or to choose another therapist. I chose to make an appointment with her, and it’s been great so far!”
The initial appointment lasted for about 50 minutes. A lot of what Syed was looking for in a therapist was established in this initial appointment.
A great perk of BetterHelp is the different ways you can communicate with your therapist. Between the options for meeting over a call, messenger, or video, Syed chose to meet over video.
“It was just like hopping on a Zoom meeting,” she said. “Super simple.”
Both Applekamp and Syed liked that the method of contact can be changed based on preference. Syed liked being able to talk on the phone if she wished instead of meeting over video.
She also had access to a chat room with her therapist and group support options. Applekamp used this in-app messaging system and got a text message every time her therapist responded.
Chat room and live chat
Once you’ve been matched with a counselor, you can immediately start messaging them in a 256-bit encrypted chat room.
The chat room is accessible at any time, as long as your device has reliable internet. You’re free to message your counselor at any hour of the day, though the chat will not be live. When your counselor replies, the app will notify you of their response. Your counselor will reply with questions, guidance, homework, or feedback.
For a live chat session, you still need to book a time slot with your matched therapist before chatting with them. When it’s time for your appointment, the session works like a live text conversation.
The conversations are saved in the chat room, so you’re free to reflect and reread whenever you’d like. You can also unsend if you want to delete a particular message by clicking the “remove message” button. If you want to delete a chat, you can click the “shred” button.
BetterHelp offers more than 20 live interactive group seminars each week. These are called groupinars. If you want to attend a groupinar but aren’t able to make it to the meeting, you can get a link to the recording via email.
Topics of the groupinars vary from sleep to self-care to anxiety and depression.
If you prefer working through concerns without showing your face, it’s possible to schedule a phone call with your counselor.
The system does not share your personal phone number with the counselor. Everything is done through the BetterHelp app.
BetterHelp includes an online journal that’s yours and yours alone. It won’t be visible to anyone else unless you choose to share it.
The journal feature may be useful if you want to try writing down your thoughts and feelings. BetterHelp offers journal prompts that can help you get started in your journaling.
According to our 2022 online survey, 44% of BetterHelp users loved the journaling feature that BetterHelp offers.
- Many ways to access care: You can access therapy via texts, live chat, phone calls, and video calls.
- 24/7 access: You can reach your therapist at any time of the day.
- Easy to change therapists: You can request a change of therapist whenever.
- No time commitment: You can decide how long you want to use the platform, and you can cancel at any time.
- Access to well-qualified and experienced therapists: BetterHelp therapists are board certified and have a minimum of 3 years and 1,000 hours of experience. Each therapist also goes through a vetting process before they’re admitted into BetterHelp’s network.
- Affordable: BetterHelp offers financial assistance to those who qualify.
- Not covered by insurance: Insurance doesn’t cover BetterHelp’s online therapy services. This includes private insurers like Medicare and Medicaid.
- Limited scope: BetterHelp therapists can provide talk therapy, but they can’t diagnose a mental health condition, prescribe medications, or fulfill a court order. Therapists who do have the appropriate licenses, however, can diagnose conditions.
- Only for adults: BetterHelp doesn’t provide therapy for kids or teens. Instead, the website transfers you to its sister site, Teen Counseling.
According to BetterHelp, counselors are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors.
Applekamp mentioned she was able to see her therapist’s profile once she was matched. “BetterHelp shows you your therapist’s profile, which includes their licensure information, specialties, other areas of experience, services offered (messaging, live chat, phone calls, video calls), and a descriptive blurb they craft about themselves, as well as reviews of that therapist.”
All the company’s counselors have a master’s or doctorate degree and possess at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of experience as mental health professionals. It also assigns a case study to potential therapists and grades them to verify their practice. BetterHelp claims that only 25% of applicants make it through the screening process.
If you don’t like who you’re paired with, you can request to be matched with a new therapist. Applekamp found this feature to be guiltless. “The introductory message also made the process of changing therapists very clear, if you didn’t feel this first therapist was the right fit … Being able to switch therapists quickly and easily was very convenient, and reduced any anxiety that surrounded having to “fire” my first therapist.”
Applekamp ended up switching therapists after 4 sessions because she didn’t feel a personal connection with her first one.
Syed, however, found her first therapist to suit her needs, like 57% of other BetterHelp users.
Syed noted that BetterHelp is one of the more affordable online therapy options she’s seen, especially since there are several different ways to communicate with your therapist.
However, 26% of BetterHelp users in Healthline’s 2022 online survey thought that BetterHelp could have more affordable pricing.
Prices range from $65–$95 a week, depending on how many live sessions you want to schedule. You’ll be billed monthly.
However, BetterHelp does not accept insurance, so you may find there are other more cost-effective options.
You can cancel your subscription at any time if you decide that BetterHelp is not working for you.
Does BetterHelp offer financial aid?
BetterHelp offers financial aid for those who qualify, such as people who are unemployed or experiencing financial difficulty.
If you want to apply for financial aid, you’ll do so during the sign-up process. You’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire to check your eligibility. The questionnaire will ask about your employment status and current monthly income. You may be asked to verify this information with a recent tax return or other official documentation that confirms your financial status.
If you’re approved for financial aid, the entire cost might be covered or you might be asked to pay on a sliding scale. The reduced rate will be calculated in relation to your monthly income.
Does BetterHelp accept insurance?
No, BetterHelp does not accept insurance and the services are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Because therapists don’t provide diagnoses or prescriptions, most insurance companies won’t cover the treatment.
BetterHelp says it will provide itemized invoices if you want to try to submit to insurance companies for reimbursement. However, whether you’ll get this reimbursement depends on your plan and what’s covered. BetterHelp will not submit information directly to your insurance company for you.
BetterHelp does accept health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) funds. The service is an eligible expense under most HSA/FSA providers, so if you have one of these accounts, you can offset some or all of the costs.
There are a few online therapy services available. Take a look at the following to see which online therapy service could work best for you.
|Who it’s best for
|$65–$95 per week
|people without insurance (or who don’t have mental health coverage) who are looking for an affordable way to access 24/7 mental health care
|does not accept insurance
|$109–$129 per session
|people looking for a per appointment (not subscription) virtual service
|yes, but not for controlled substances
|$69–$129 per week for therapy; $249 for initial psychiatry and $125 for follow-up sessions
|people looking for 24/7 counseling that might be covered by insurance and that you can access via video, phone, or chat
|insurance accepted, but limited mental health professionals
|yes, but not for controlled substances
|$150 per month
|people who prefer to chat with a therapist only through text
|insurance not accepted
BetterHelp is rated as a top teletherapy platform for a variety of mental health concerns. Users generally report positive experiences with BetterHelp’s network of therapists, services, and the effectiveness of the therapy sessions.
At time of publication, BetterHelp has an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars on Better Business Bureau (BBB) from over 500 customer reviews. It also has an A- rating from the site, which is based on the BBB’s opinion of the company’s reputation and trustworthiness.
At time of publication, BetterHelp has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating on Trustpilot from more than 6,600 customer reviews. The reviews about BetterHelp’s services on Trustpilot are as positive and appreciative as the ones on BBB.
Our testers’ reviews
Applekamp, who mentioned she will continue to use BetterHelp, had a great experience with their platform. “While I’ve had success with in-person therapy in the past, there are a lot of draws to online therapy, and my experience on BetterHelp was a positive one.”
“I appreciated the questionnaire that went into matching me with a therapist (trying to research an in-person therapist felt very overwhelming, so I appreciated the guesswork being taken out of it). I also appreciated how I still had to log in to view any of my messages with my therapist, to keep that confidentiality if I was discussing anything sensitive.”
Applekamp also loved how easy it was to navigate the website, and that there were plenty of reminders so you don’t miss a session, but also that these reminders don’t display any confidential information.
Applekamp did mention, though, that the word “therapy” and the time of the session is still in the notification, an FYI if “that’s information you’d rather not be visible.” And though she did love the notifications, she mentioned at first, the notifications ended up in her spam folder and there were a lot of them. (Note that you can update your email preferences to help solve for this.)
While Syed enjoyed her therapist and the help she received, she noticed that the therapist seemed distracted and working on other things during their sessions together.
“I don’t mind if my therapist is eating or taking notes, but I sometimes noticed when I would be talking about something important to me or opening up, my therapist from BetterHelp would distractedly answer and wasn’t exactly helpful in giving feedback to my situation,” she said. “It was a bit discouraging for me.”
Healthline’s 2022 Online Therapy Survey
About 53% of respondents were likely to recommend their chosen therapy platform to others. BetterHelp’s rating came in a bit below average, with 50% of respondents choosing to share their therapy platform.
About 67% of BetterHelp users felt that they got the most value out of their service, which is a substantial percentage, but it performed the lowest out of our top four.
Overall, 20% of users liked that the BetterHelp website and app were easy to use and navigate, and 19% liked the number of available therapists to choose from. What they didn’t like was the overall price.
While 26% of respondents said that price was an issue, 17% believed the pricing could be more affordable, 5% believed there could be payment plans or bundles, and another 5% believed there could be emergency services available for free.
However, 23% of respondents believed there was nothing to improve about BetterHelp’s service, and that it was great the way it is.
Although BetterHelp has helped many people access mental health services, the company has faced significant controversy related to its effectiveness, ethics, and privacy practices.
The platform’s marketing tactics have been criticized in the past for being misleading and predatory.
Some social media influencers were accused of capitalizing on their viewers’ mental health issues by promoting the app for personal gain. While affiliate links are common in the influencer world, promoting a mental health app to followers with mental health conditions has been viewed as exploitative.
Transparency around the qualifications and training of therapists on the app has also been called into question, with many users complaining about therapists who fail to show up for sessions, who are unresponsive and unhelpful, or who flat out deny service.
BetterHelp’s privacy practices have also been a source of controversy, with users expressing concern about the collection and sharing of their data with third-party companies without adequate disclosure or consent.
BetterHelp also displayed HIPAA seals on different pages of its website and claimed it was HIPAA certified. However, the Federal Trade Commission found this to be deceptive, as there was no information indicating that BetterHelp was reviewed by a third party and determined to be HIPAA complaint.
If you enjoy the ease of texting and 24/7 communication without leaving the house, BetterHelp may be a great fit for you.
While traditional therapy offers the quiet comfort of facial expressions and affirmations, 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 or tragedy happens. It’s also hard for an online therapist to pick up on certain facial expressions, body language, or vocal signals that may occur in real-world interactions.
Applekamp mentioned that the 24-48 hour timeframe to connect with a therapist worked for her, “but it could be a problem if you’ve got more urgent issues you’d like to start working through right away.”
Who BetterHelp would be best for
“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,” said Sheava Zadeh, PhD, LEP, BICM, a psychologist and the founder of Pamper Your Brain. “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 concerns and needs, like anxiety, depression, trauma, LGBTQIA+ matters, parenting, religious and spiritual concerns, and more.
BetterHelp also offers individual counseling and couples counseling with a focus on the services above. It does not offer services for children or teens. Instead, BetterHelp directs you to Teen Counseling, its sister site.
Who shouldn’t use BetterHelp
Consider in-person therapy rather than virtual therapy if you:
- connect better with in-person interactions
- dislike virtual communication
- don’t have stable internet access
BetterHelp is not a replacement for emergency services. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis, call 988 (the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline), 911, or local emergency services.
It depends on your goals and needs.
BetterHelp gives you access to a network of thoroughly vetted, licensed, board certified, and experienced counselors who are available to help with a variety of mental health needs. This is similar to office sessions with a qualified therapist.
BetterHelp’s online therapy sessions may benefit anyone who’d like to prioritize and improve their mental health.
However, unlike certain in-person therapists, BetterHelp’s therapists cannot diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, or meet a court order.
Also, in-person therapy sessions are a more appropriate fit for managing severe mental health conditions.
BetterHelp doesn’t publish an official success rate, but it has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 6,000 reviews on Trustpilot.
When it comes to therapy, it’s difficult to quantify success because everyone goes into therapy with different goals. What defines success for you may be different from what someone else is looking for.
In general, lots of reviewers say they found BetterHelp very helpful and they’re impressed with the quality of the therapists.
There are a few downsides of BetterHelp.
The first is that the online therapy platform doesn’t take insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. Because of this, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
On that note, BetterHelp professionals don’t diagnose conditions or prescribe medications, so if you need this additional support, you’ll have to use another platform.
You also can’t choose your therapist. You’re matched with a therapist based on an extensive questionnaire that you take when signing up, but you can’t read therapist profiles and pick the one you want. You can request a new therapist if you don’t click with yours, though.
During testing, our Healthline editor also noticed that the therapist seemed distracted at some points in the conversation. Because the therapy is done online, over video chat, it can be easier for your therapist to lose focus than it would be if you were talking in person.
Also, because therapy is done online, there’s the possibility of technical glitches or connection interruptions. You’ll also need a phone or computer to access the video chats, so this can add to the overall cost if you don’t have one already.
No, BetterHelp does not accept insurance and is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
You’re also unable to get an insurance reimbursement for the costs of using the platform. One reason is that BetterHelp professionals do not provide official diagnoses or prescribe treatment. Insurance companies need these details before they can cover the cost and for recordkeeping.
Additionally, BetterHelp notes that even if your insurance plan covers your cost for teletherapy sessions, your insurer’s copay may be more than the total cost of your sessions.
Your information with your therapist remains confidential, but there are limited exceptions to what information they share to their respective governing boards and state laws. For example, if you threaten harm to yourself or to an identifiable victim, the therapist is required to report this information to relevant authorities.
You can delete all conversations with them anytime you want just by clicking the “shred” button. There’s also a “remove message” button so you can remove any messages you want to unsend to your therapist.
You can also sign up on the platforms using a nickname so you can remain anonymous. However, in case an emergency arises during sessions, you’ll be required to give your contact details when you start therapy.
BetterHelp recently became certified with HITRUST, a certification that provides the highest level of information protection and compliance assurance. They’re also working in coordination with the FTC to improve their privacy practices.
BetterHelp’s databases are 265-bit encrypted and scrambled. They become unusable should a third party interfere with them.
If you’d like to share your information with a third party, you first have to notify your therapist. They’ll give you an authorization form to fill out before they can release your information.
Yes! BetterHelp is a reputable online teletherapy platform that’s been vetted against our business and medical standards. It’s also been reviewed by our medical affairs mental health experts and has gone through our vetting process.
BetterHelp also states on its FAQ page that all of its professionals are “fully licensed and in good standing.”
The cost varies depending on your location and what treatment plan you opt for, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $60–$90 a week, or $240–$360 per month, billed every 4 weeks.
This is generally cheaper than traditional therapy, for which you can expect to pay between $100–$200 per individual therapy session depending on your location. Some states and therapists have less expensive rates and some go even higher than that.
With BetterHelp, you’ll get up to four therapy sessions per month, or one per week. You also have unlimited access to in-app text, video, or audio messaging, so if you have questions in between sessions you can reach out to your therapist anytime and they’ll respond when they can.
With traditional therapy, you usually don’t get unlimited messaging access to your therapist, so this is a bonus from BetterHelp that comes at no extra cost to you.
But keep in mind that you’ll need access to a phone or computer to access the video chats and messaging system. This can add to the overall cost if you don’t already have these devices in your home.
With online therapy, therapy is made more accessible for many people.
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 3 months.
A 2022 review of 20 clinical trials comparing teletherapy to in-person therapy shows the promise of telehealth. Teletherapy was found to be just as effective as in-person therapy, so it can be a good option when an in-person meeting with a therapist is not possible.
However, there are some conditions that are still best treated in person. This includes eating disorders and substance use disorders.
Note that an online counselor will not be able to make any official diagnoses, fulfill any court orders, or prescribe medication.
There are many pros when it comes to online or teletherapy.
If you’ve never been to in-person therapy before, or are new to therapy in general, this text-based approach can be an easy way to work toward getting comfortable with the process. It’s highly customizable and personalized, and you have the option to switch whenever you feel like it’s not a good match.
BetterHelp is an affordable, convenient option that offers solutions for people who prefer to talk on the phone or via video call.
However, BetterHelp should not be used if you’re in immediate danger or need emergency mental health services.
If you need immediate assistance in the event of a mental health emergency, call 911, local emergency services, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.