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In an age where virtually every human need can be met through a digital interaction or transaction, it isn’t surprising that online mental health services are gaining popularity.

Two of the better-known telehealth providers, Talkspace and BetterHelp, both offer online access to therapists for a wide range of mental health services.

If you want to know how they compare, we’ve got it covered. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what each has to offer, what they cost, and what they both do best.

One of the benefits of online therapy is the lower cost compared with traditional in-person therapy. Bearing that in mind, here’s a cost comparison between BetterHelp and Talkspace.

BetterHelp cost

  • $65/week for unlimited text, video, or audio messaging, and one weekly live session
  • billed monthly ($260/month)
  • financial aid available (rates as low as $40)
  • services not covered by many insurance plans, Medicare, or Medicaid
  • accepts credit and debit cards and Google Pay

Talkspace cost

  • $65/week for text, video, and audio messaging with five responses per week from a therapist
  • $79/week for text, video, and audio messaging with five responses per week from a therapist, plus one live video session per month
  • $99/week for text, video, and audio messaging with five responses per week from a therapist, plus four live video sessions per month
  • no sliding scale
  • discounts for paying biannually or quarterly
  • covered by some insurance plans
  • benefits available through some employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • benefits available through some colleges, universities, and student organizations

Both providers follow a similar process for enrolling you. But they differ slightly in how they match you with a therapist.

With both platforms, an initial questionnaire asks about you, your life, goals, and preferences.

BetterHelp’s intake process is automated, and finding a therapist with algorithms and artificial intelligence can feel a bit robotic. By contrast, Talkspace’s intake is processed by a matching agent, who is a licensed therapist. However, scripted responses are part of the interaction from time to time.

Once the intake process is done, you’ll be presented with several options for your therapist, all of whom are licensed, accredited, and experienced. If none of the matches suits you, you can ask for others.

Once you’ve selected a therapist, both services create a secure virtual therapy room. This is where you can leave messages, upload documents, video and audio files, and otherwise interact with your therapist.

Talkspace allows you to see a typical therapy journey up-front. So, before you start, you’ll have an idea of the milestones, checkpoints, progress reports, and opportunities to adjust your growth plan.

According to both providers, you’re able to change therapists or stop therapy at any time.

Both providers offer lots of blog content that addresses a wide range of mental health, wellness, and personal growth topics. Many of the resources are available without cost.

Talkspace’s special features

  • The sign-up platform offers multiple short videos that help explain each step of the process.
  • An online symptom tracker allows you to document your clinical progress.
  • It offers an interface with Happify, a science-based happiness-promoting app.
  • Through its EAP programs, you can find resources for financial wellness, legal advice, and work-life planning.
  • Talkspace has also announced a new psychiatry service for people who need both mental healthcare and prescription management. Staffed by psychiatrists and nurse practitioners, Talkspace Psychiatry offers an initial evaluation at $199. Follow-up visits are priced at $125 per session. You can choose therapy, psychiatry, or both.

However, it’s important to note that Talkspace Psychiatry providers can’t prescribe controlled substances such as:

  • Adderall
  • Ativan
  • Concerta
  • Librium
  • Klonopin
  • Ritalin
  • Xanax
  • lithium and others

BetterHelp’s special features

  • You have weekly access to 20-plus interactive live group sessions moderated by therapists.
  • It offers you the chance to talk to your therapist on the phone, whereas Talkspace doesn’t offer phone contact, citing security and HIPAA (patient privacy) protocols.
  • It also operates a sister site, TeenCounseling.com, that allows parents to participate in choosing a therapist for their child. Counseling is confidential, and only your child has access to the therapy room, but your child’s therapist will send you an alert if it’s time for an intervention.

The short, science-based answer is yes.

Multiple studies indicate that for many people, online therapy is as effective at reducing symptoms and helping people feel better as in-person therapy. Most studies focused on patients experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety.

In a 2014 clinical trial, researchers randomly placed people with depression symptoms into either online or face-to-face therapy. The treatments and time frames were identical, and so were the outcomes.

In fact, 3 months after therapy ended, those who had participated in online therapy were still faring well, while those who had in-person therapy reported worsening symptoms.

A 2015 review of 11 studies found that computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy sessions were effective at reducing both anxiety and depression symptoms.

Definitely not. Although online therapy can be beneficial and helpful, it’s not right for every mental health situation.

Both Talkspace and BetterHelp state clearly that if you need urgent or emergency help, these platforms aren’t the best resource. If you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else, you can get immediate help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

These online platforms are also not designed to provide services to children. However, Talkspace does provide counseling to teenagers ages 13 to 18 with parental consent, and BetterHelp offers teen counseling through its affiliate site, TeenCounseling.

According to both platforms, they’re also not able to provide legal documentation for court-ordered therapy or disability programs. Additionally, they may not be a viable option if you’ve been asked by your employer or your school to get counseling.

And then there’s the simple matter of personal preference. You may thrive in an online platform that allows you to pour out your heart at 3 a.m. Or, you may prefer the real-time affirmation of eye contact and face-to-face interaction.

Both therapy platforms offer something of vital importance: lower cost, convenient access to licensed, experienced mental health professionals. However, there are some key differences between these two providers.

If you need to use your insurance plan, EAP, or benefits provided by a work or student organization to pay for therapy, Talkspace may be a better option for you. If you think you might need prescription medications to treat your symptoms, Talkspace Psychiatry offers that option, whereas BetterHelp does not.

When it comes to ease and the overall quality of the interactive experience, Talkspace’s platform provides a great dashboard with lots of opportunities to track your progress. During the initial sign-up, you’re paired with a live matching agent during your first interaction, which creates a sense of human contact right from the beginning.

If you need financial aid, BetterHelp offers that opportunity. Also, its basic plan is less expensive than Talkspace’s plan with video conferencing. Additionally, BetterHelp allows you to talk to your therapist on the phone, an option that Talkspace doesn’t provide.

BetterHelp and Talkspace are online therapy platforms that match you with a licensed, accredited, and experienced therapist to provide counseling services.

For much less money than a typical in-person counseling session, you can send text, audio, or video messages to your therapist and receive responses. Depending on your plan, you may also interact with your therapist through weekly or monthly video counseling sessions.

Talkspace accepts several insurance plans and offers benefits through numerous employee assistance programs and university student organizations. BetterHelp, on the other hand, offers a sliding fee scale for people with limited income.

If you’re in immediate danger, these platforms are not a good place to look for help. They’re also not a good option for people receiving court-ordered or school or job-mandated mental health counseling.