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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. And it makes sense — making mental health a priority means that you should be able to access qualified mental health care providers easily and quickly, no matter where you are.
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 you 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.
Talkspace and BetterHelp are both platforms that offer online therapy or counseling through their website and mobile app. They work in the same way that telehealth or telemedicine do.
Once you sign up, you can schedule sessions to see a licensed therapist via a phone call, video conferencing, chat room, or email. All sessions are private and confidential.
In addition to individual counseling for adults, both of these online therapy platforms offer therapy for teens, couples, and families. Talkspace also offers counseling for children ages 13 years and up.
We researched and wrote this review of two well-known online therapy platforms by reviewing each platform’s own website, independent review platforms by both patients and therapists, and peer-reviewed research studies that looked at online therapy platforms and methods around the world.
Healthline also has its own in-house review team of mental health professionals.
One of the benefits of online therapy is the lower cost compared with in-person therapy. With that in mind, here’s a cost comparison between BetterHelp and Talkspace.
- begins at $65 per week for unlimited text, video, or audio messaging, and one weekly live session
- billed monthly ($260 per month)
- financial aid is available and is dependent on your income and financial burden
- services not covered by many insurance plans, Medicare, or Medicaid
- accepts credit and debit cards, as well as Google Pay and PayPal
- $69 per week for messaging therapy, which includes text, video, and audio messaging
- $99 per week for live therapy, which includes four 45-minute live sessions per month
- $129 per week for live and messaging therapy, which includes text, video, and audio messaging and four 45-minute live sessions per month
- no sliding scale
- discount of 10% to 20% for paying biannually or quarterly
- covered by some insurance plans
- benefits available through some employee assistance programs (EAP), colleges, universities, and student organizations
Both of these online therapy providers follow a similar process for enrollment. 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 suit 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 Talkspace and BetterHelp offer services with qualified and licensed therapists and counselors who may specialize in one or more areas, such as teen or couples counseling.
Additionally, Talkspace offers psychiatry services, including medical care and prescription medication management from licensed psychiatrists and licensed therapists trained in treating sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Talkspace offers a wider range of services including:
- individual therapy for adults
- couples therapy
- therapy for children ages 13 and older
- teen therapy
- sleep therapy
BetterHelp also offers similar services but does not provide therapy for children. With BetterHelp, you can access:
- individual therapy for adults
- teen therapy
- couples therapy
Communicating with a therapist
Talkspace allows you to choose from three therapist matches, and you can switch therapists if you choose to. The platform allows you to reach your therapist at any time through text, audio, picture, and video messages, and you receive a guaranteed response during weekly business hours.
Similarly, BetterHelp allows you to connect to your therapist at any time during business hours by messaging. BetterHelp does not allow you to choose your therapist, but it does provide more communication options. You can switch between communication platforms such as messaging, chatting, phone calls, and video conferencing as needed.
In-person licensed therapists and psychiatrists must protect patient privacy and follow a code of conduct regulated by governing boards such as the American Psychological Association and state licensing boards. Online therapists follow the same rules and regulations.
The only difference is that if you have personal information about your appointments on your mobile device (such as a phone or laptop), this may be accessible to someone who has access to them or if you lose your phone or computer.
Both providers offer 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.
- Talkspace offers an interface with Happify, a science-based happiness-promoting app.
- Through Talkspace’s 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 health care 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 professionals can’t prescribe controlled substances such as:
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- alprazolam (Xanax)
BetterHelp’s special features
- You have weekly access to over 20 interactive live group sessions moderated by therapists.
- BetterHelp offers you the chance to talk with your therapist on the phone, while Talkspace doesn’t offer phone contact, citing security and HIPAA (patient privacy) protocols. (BetterHelp states that all messages exchanged between you and your therapist are confidential. They also use a browsing encryption system to keep your information private. However, there’s limited information about whether or not BetterHelp is HIPAA compliant.)
- 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.
Online therapy shouldn’t be used in emergency situations
If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis or an emergency situation, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 988.
Other important factors
It’s important to remember that therapists are people too and their environment can also impact their work with patients. This means that employment conditions such as workload, pay, and other factors may affect the quality of care you receive as a patient, whether you see them in-person or online.
According to some online sources, including employee and patient reviews, Talkspace therapists may have greater caseloads, meaning that they care for more patients. BetterHelp therapists may receive higher pay, and reviews indicate that therapists have greater satisfaction working with BetterHelp.
However, individual cases may vary, and the quality of therapist care should not be generalized by which company they work for.
- Talkspace has a wide range of therapy services, including psychiatry.
- The matching agent is a licensed therapist, which some people may prefer.
- Discounts offered for payments made biannually or quarterly.
- Phone contact isn’t an option for communicating with your therapist.
- Talkspace psychiatry professionals can’t prescribe controlled substances.
- There are weekly caps on responses from your therapist.
- BetterHelp offers weekly access to over 20 live group sessions moderated by therapists.
- Phone sessions are available.
- There are more options for communication.
- BetterHelp doesn’t offer services for children.
- Services aren’t covered by many insurance plans, Medicaid, or Medicare.
- There are no options for choosing your own therapist.
Looking at customer reviews can be a good way to get a sense of a business or service.
BetterHelp has a stellar online reputation, with an A rating at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars with over 385 reviews. At Trustpilot, a third-party review website, BetterHelp is ranked as excellent, with over 4,000 reviews and a 4.6-star rating. People describe the service as convenient and effective.
Talkspace has a B rating at the BBB, but the reviews are pretty dismal. The platform has 66 customer reviews with a 1-star rating. Most of the complaints mention customer services issues and problems with the website.
At Trustpilot, Talkspace has 71 reviews with a bad ranking and an average 1.3-star rating. People are unhappy with what they considered automated responses, partial refunds, website issues, and poor customer service.
In a 2018 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 (CBT) sessions were effective at reducing both anxiety and depression symptoms while providing much-needed cost-effective alternatives to traditional in-person therapy.
A 2018 review of CBT for sleep disorders found that online CBT for the treatment of chronic insomnia was effective and also helped to potentially increase access and availability of evidence-based sleep therapy.
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 others, you can get immediate help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
These online therapy platforms are also not designed to provide services to children. 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 receive 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.
|Types of service||therapy, psychiatry, sleep therapy||therapy|
|Patients||older children, teens, adults, couples||teens, adults, couples|
|Cost||$69–$129 per week||$65 per week|
|Accessibility||video, audio, or live chat; send text, video, or voice messages any time||messages, live chat, phone or video conferencing|
|Best||if you prefer to choose your therapist or require psychiatry services||if you prefer messaging or live chat sessions only, want to switch between communication methods, or don’t want to pay extra for live video sessions|
|Payment||credit or debit card; may accept some types of employee assistance programs (EAP) and health benefits||credit card, PayPal and Google Pay|
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 pay for therapy using your insurance plan, EAP, or benefits provided by a work or student organization, 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, while 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 with your therapist on the phone, an option that Talkspace doesn’t provide.
To begin online therapy with Talkspace, you’ll be asked to answer a short questionnaire. Questions will range from your sleeping patterns, your physical health, your insurance coverage, and your preference for a mental health professional.
At the end of the questionnaire, you’ll be asked to enter your email, and in a few days, someone will be in touch with a match.
Depending on your insurance coverage, you might be asked to fill out payment information. You won’t be charged until you have your match. If you do not like your match, Talkspace will help you find a new mental health professional.
Similarly, BetterHelp also begins with a questionnaire format. BetterHelp asks questions ranging from your sexual orientation to your religious identity, along with your current physical and mental state.
Compared with Talkspace, BetterHelp asks a lot more questions, so be prepared to dedicate some time to it. You’ll then be asked to enter your email and set up a password to create your private account.
At the end of the process, you will be asked to fill out your financial details. From there, a therapist will be matched to you based on your preferences.
|Pricing||Insurance||Highlights||Who it’s best for|
|Talkspace||$69–$129 per week||some benefits through EAPs, colleges, universities, and student organizations||offers a psychiatry service and talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional||suited for people dealing with anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, and PTSD|
|BetterHelp||$65 per week||services covered by only some insurance plans||offers accredited psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and board licensed professional counselors||BetterHelp specializes in stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and parenting and family counseling|
|Cerebral||$17.25–$81.25 per week||covered by some insurance plans by major commercial health plans||a teletherapy and medication management company; |
pricing plans also appeal to different users
|cerebral focuses on helping people dealing who have insomnia, anxiety, and depression|
|Online-Therapy.com||$40–$80 per week||doesn’t accept insurance||therapy sessions are accessed through a user-friendly private online portal; the portal also offers other resources for mental health outside of your therapy sessions||best suited to individual therapy; services ranging from agoraphobia to bipolar disorder and more|
|ReGain||$60–$90 per week||doesn’t accept insurance||ReGain has high security standards; all messages with your counselor are secured and encrypted by banking-grade 256-bit encryption; you can also “shred” messages so they no longer appear in your account||ReGain focuses on relationship and family counseling; therapists on ReGain are also equipped to help with anxiety, depression, grief, anger, addiction, and LGBTQIA+ matters|
Online therapy is growing, and Talkspace and BetterHelp aren’t your only options. Here’s how they compare with other platforms, including Cerebral, Online-Therapy.com, and ReGain.
Cerebral offers both therapy and medication services, with prescriptions that can be shipped right to your door. The platform also accepts some insurance plans and is known for highly qualified therapists. This platform may be a good option if you’re looking for help with anxiety, depression, insomnia, or ADHD.
Online-Therapy.com focuses on providing self-care tools, with a program based on CBT treatments. That means you can expect more than just live sessions or chats. Your therapist guides you through therapy sections, worksheets, and hands-on tools like journaling and even yoga.
ReGain offers therapy for couples. Users can sign up as individuals or with their partners for assistance with mental health and relationship issues. There’s also an option to add a partner down the line if you prefer to start solo.
Communication methods include a secure chat room or scheduled phone or video sessions. The ReGain website also has a robust library with resources for mental health and relationship insights.
Which is better, Talkspace or BetterHelp?
It depends on your goals and circumstances. Both platforms match people with licensed, accredited therapists for counseling services, but BetterHelp offers financial aid and costs a little less. Talkspace has a wider range of services, including psychiatry.
Does BetterHelp take insurance?
No. Insurance companies don’t typically cover BetterHelp’s services. Instead, BetterHelp is designed to offer affordable therapy as an alternative to in-person visits.
Does Talkspace take insurance?
Yes. Talkspace accepts some insurance plans, including Cigna, Optum, Premera Blue Cross, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Humana. Coverage is also offered through employers, member organizations, and educational institutions.
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 in-person counseling, 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 aren’t 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.