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Our reviewer tried BetterHelp firsthand and found it to be a great online option if you’re just starting out with therapy and for short-term use. Here’s everything you need to know before deciding if it’s right for you.
Despite the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, they are incredibly common. According to data from 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 for many people, making them a viable option for receiving coaching and therapy from anywhere and at any time.
We discuss how BetterHelp works, what to expect with BetterHelp’s online therapy, and what to consider when determining if this service is best for you. Follow along to find out more.
Mental Health Emergencies
If you need immediate assistance in the event of a mental health emergency — if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else — call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
Founded in 2013, BetterHelp is the largest online therapy platform in the world, offering virtual therapy with licensed and accredited therapists via chat, phone calls, and video calls. It also provides additional services like journaling and group therapy sessions.
BetterHelp uses a monthly membership payment plan, but you can cancel your membership at any time.
BetterHelp has expanded its services in recent years and now partners with businesses and universities. It also has several sister websites that provide therapy for couples, teens, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those seeking a faith-based approach.
Methods of communication
One of the great perks about BetterHelp are the different ways you can communicate with your therapist.
Once you’ve been matched with a counselor, you can immediately start messaging them in a 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, but as soon as you receive a response from your therapist, you will get an email notification. 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. 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. BetterHelp says therapists are compliant with the
James Imrie, the creative and marketing manager at BetterHelp, recognizes that therapy can be intimidating, namely for many first-time clients. He suggests text-based and live-chat sessions as a way to relieve some of that anxiety.
“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 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.
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.
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 time, you can get a link to the recording via email.
Topics of the groupinars vary from sleep to self-care to anxiety and depression.
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.
In addition to screening BetterHelp using our intensive vetting process, we also looked at their medical credibility, business practices, and social impact. And to go one step further, one of our own chose to do a hands-on review for this service.
Associate Editor Parisa Syed (she/they) tried out BetterHelp and was satisfied with her experience. While their regular therapist was on maternity leave, Parisa was looking for someone who could help keep up with the progress she’s made so far.
Our tester’s experience
After completing a survey that consisted of questions about herself, what she was looking to accomplish in therapy, and her current mental state, she was also able to list out preferences she looks for in a therapist.
Some of these options included the therapist’s gender, experiences, and other personal traits that might help when deciding who to see. Syed, in particular, looked for a therapist of color with experience in LGBTQIA+-related issues.
Syed was matched with a therapist within 2 hours of completing the forms.
“I received a notification via email and a text,” she says. “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!”
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 says. “Super simple.”
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.
What our tester liked
“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 says. “My therapist is all of those things, plus funny, empathetic, and easy to talk to.”
Syed also likes that the method of contact can be changed based on their preference. She likes being able to talk on the phone if she wishes instead of meeting over video.
What our tester didn’t like
Syed, while she enjoyed their therapist, 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 says. “It was a bit discouraging for me.”
- 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 anytime.
- 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 for it.
- Not covered by insurance: Insurance doesn’t cover BetterHelp’s online therapy services. This includes private insurers, 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 website, teencounseling.com.
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 1,000 hours of experience as mental health professionals.
If you don’t like who you’re paired with, you can request to be matched with a new therapist. As someone who’s been through their fair share of therapists, Syed found this feature to be a pretty great perk.
If you enjoy 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 that may occur in real-world interactions.
Who BetterHelp would be best for
“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 the 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 concerns and needs, like anxiety, depression, trauma, LGBTQIA+ matters, parenting, religious and spiritual concerns, and more.
BetterHelp also offers individual counseling, couples counseling, and teen counseling with a focus on the services above.
Who shouldn’t use BetterHelp
Consider in-person therapy rather than virtual therapy if you:
- connect better at in-person interactions
- dislike virtual communication
- don’t have stable internet access
For emergency care or a crisis, call 911, as BetterHelp cannot handle such situations.
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.
Prices range from $60–$90 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.
Can you change or cancel your BetterHelp subscription?
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 give diagnoses or provide 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) cards. 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.
Along with BetterHelp, there are other online therapy services that offer services that could better align with your needs. Take a look at the following services and the comparison chart at the end to see which online therapy service could work best for you.
|Pricing||Who it’s best for||Financial aid/insurance?|
|BetterHelp||$60–$90 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|
|Amwell||$109–$129 per session||people looking for a per-appointment (not subscription) virtual service||insurance accepted|
|Talkspace||$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|
|7 Cups||$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 publish, BetterHelp has an average of 4.07 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.
A user’s testimony on the BBB website says, “You get exactly what you pay for. I was hooked up with an amazing therapist, and she is so intelligent and kind-hearted. I had a hard time finding a therapist in my city, and I decided to give BetterHelp a try after seeing advertisements. My therapist works just as hard for me as my therapist that went on maternity leave did. I’m actually in another country and time zone as my therapist, and she makes it work.”
Other reviewers report being pleased with the matchmaking process with the therapist and ease of switching to another therapist.
They also appreciate the efficiency of their therapist, the improvement in their mental health, and constant checking in from BetterHelp on their progress and relationship with their therapist.
At time of publish, BetterHelp has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating on Trustpilot from more than 6,000 customer reviews. The reviews about BetterHelp’s services on Trustpilot are as positive and appreciative as the ones on BBB.
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 vulnerable followers 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.
Additionally, verifying the identity and qualifications of online therapists can be difficult, raising concerns about the quality of care provided on the platform. BetterHelp faced a class-action lawsuit in 2018, which alleged that the company made misleading claims about the qualifications and credentials of its therapists.
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.
The platform’s ability to record and store user conversations with therapists has also raised concerns about data privacy and security. Many individuals have spoken out against the platform for selling their data to companies like Facebook without their knowledge or consent.
Depending on what you’re looking for, BetterHelp offers counseling for individuals, couples, or families. Here’s what you’ll do to get signed up.
Fill out a questionnaire
The introductory questionnaire is fairly detailed, asking you:
- what type of therapy you’re looking for
- your gender
- your age
- your sexual orientation
- your pronouns
- your relationship status
- your religious preferences
- whether you’ve been in therapy before
- why you’re seeking therapy now
- your expectations from your therapist
- your physical health and medication(s)
- your eating habits, including alcohol consumption
- your employment and financial status
- how you prefer to communicate with your therapist
You’ll also be screened for depression. Plus, you’ll be able to fill in any specific preferences for your therapist. You can choose whether you would like:
- a male or female therapist
- a Christian therapist
- a therapist from the LGBTQ+ community
- a therapist over age 45
- a non-religious therapist
- a therapist of color
Finally, you’ll fill in some basic information, like your country, state, and how you heard about BetterHelp.
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 you what issues you’d like 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.
Is BetterHelp better than in-person therapy?
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 give an official diagnosis, prescribe medication, or meet a court order.
Also, in-person therapy sessions are a more appropriate fit for managing severe mental health conditions.
What is the success rate of BetterHelp?
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.
What are the downsides of BetterHelp?
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.
Does BetterHelp take insurance?
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.
Is BetterHelp private and secure?
According to BetterHelp, users’ privacy and confidentiality are of utmost priority.
Your information with your therapist remains strictly confidential, and you can erase all conversations with them anytime you want just by clicking the “shred” button.
You can anonymously sign up on the platforms. However, in case an emergency arises during sessions, you will be required to give your contact details when you start therapy.
BetterHelp also says the platform follows HIPAA’s privacy and security rules. This means that everything discussed during appointments is strictly confidential unless there’s a case of immediate harm to the user or someone else.
BetterHelp’s databases are encrypted and scrambled and 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.
Is BetterHelp legit?
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 FAQs page that all of its providers are “fully licensed and in good standing.”
Is BetterHelp actually cheaper?
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. Typically, you can expect to pay between $100–$200 per individual therapy session, although this price does depend 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 any time and they’ll respond when they can.
With traditional therapy, you usually don’t get unlimited messaging access to your therapist, so this is an added bonus from BetterHelp that comes at no extra cost to you.
But keep in mind that you will 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.
Is online therapy really helpful?
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 critical mental health services. If you need immediate assistance in the event of a mental health emergency — if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else — call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
If you’re interested in trying BetterHelp, you can get started here.