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Two online therapy platforms, two hands-on reviews from our editors. See how they compare.
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 healthcare professionals easily and quickly, no matter where you are.
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
- what they both do best
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. BetterHelp notes, though, that their therapists are bound by their respective states’ guidance on reporting some information. For example, if you pose a threat to yourself or another individual, they will share that information with respective authorities.
In addition to individual counseling for adults, both of these online therapy platforms offer therapy for:
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
- peer-reviewed research studies that looked at online therapy platforms and methods around the world
We also have our own vetting criteria.
Most importantly, we had two Healthline staff test the platforms for themselves. Market Editor Christy Snyder tested Talkspace for over a week, while Parisa Syed, Associate Editor for Healthline, tested BetterHelp for more than a month.
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 $60 per week for unlimited text, video, or audio messaging and one weekly live session
- billed monthly (starting at $240 per month)
- financial aid is available and is dependent on your income and financial burden
- services are not covered by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid
- accepts credit and debit cards, as well as Google Pay and PayPal
- $69 per week for unlimited text, video, and audio messaging, 5 days per week
- $99 per week for unlimited messaging 5 days per week, plus four 30-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%–20% for paying biannually or quarterly
- covered by some insurance plans
- benefits available through some employee assistance programs (EAP), colleges, universities, and student organizations
Cost was one of the issues Snyder had with Talkspace. “$69 a week to message a therapist isn’t a lot, but the cost can be up to $165 a week if not more,” she says. “In using traditional/in-person mental health services with my insurance, I have paid anywhere from $50 to $185 per therapy session.”
This cost may be worthwhile if you’d like the added benefits, like being able to send your therapist unlimited messages, but if you’d prefer a once-a-week live session only, you might be able to find a cheaper option.
Both BetterHelp and Talkspace 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.
Syed shares that signing up for BetterHelp was a simple process. “Filling out the forms and choosing what type of therapist you were looking for was a bit tedious, but it worked out for me,” she says. “They sent me a message 2 hours after I submitted my request and I was matched. I could either choose a different therapist or schedule an appointment with the one they matched me with.”
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.
Snyder noted that the Talkspace sign-up process was quick and easy. “I felt that the survey asked the right questions about my mental health history and current status without getting long-winded or superfluous,” she says. “The therapist I was matched with was in touch pretty quickly.”
Both services create a secure virtual therapy room. This is where you can:
- leave messages
- upload documents, video, and audio files
- otherwise interact with your therapist.
Talkspace allows you to see a typical therapy journey upfront. 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 brands, you can change therapists or stop therapy at any time.
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, and brings you to their sister site, Teen Counseling, to offer therapy for teens. With BetterHelp, you can access:
- individual therapy for adults
- 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:
- video messages
And you receive a guaranteed response during weekly business hours.
Similarly, BetterHelp allows you to connect to your therapist anytime 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 as needed, such as:
- phone calls
- video conferencing
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 platforms offer blog content that addresses various mental health, wellness, and personal growth topics. Many of the resources are available to the public.
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 positive psychology 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 needing 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:
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 256-bit encryption system to keep your information private.)
- 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.
- BetterHelp has an app as well as a desktop site. Syed says that she preferred the app. “The app itself is pretty straightforward. I like how it has a journaling tab with prompts. It helps me when I don’t know where to start with journaling. It’s also cool how your therapist can provide worksheets for you after a session, and I love how you can add goals while you’re working with them to see how much progress you’ve made.”
- Syed also shares that it’s easy to schedule appointments with your therapist through the app, as it has a user-friendly scheduling tool and calendar.
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.
Despite this, Syed noticed that her BetterHelp therapist seemed rushed. “My therapist is great, but definitely was not 100% present. She seemed distracted, though she chimed in and said insightful things when it felt right.”
Snyder’s Talkspace therapist was helpful overall, but she sent a lot of automated or copied-and-pasted messages about her availability and other issues. “Those messages were frequent and made me feel a little bit like a number rather than her patient,” Snyder says. “But, I understand if you are serving a large client/patient base that you may have to communicate in a way that is less personal.”
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 insurance, 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 4.05 out of 5 stars with over 550 reviews. Most reviews compliment their platform and providers, but some BetterHelp users complain about being charged even when their therapists are unavailable for sessions.
At Trustpilot, a third-party review website, BetterHelp is ranked as excellent, with over 6,600 reviews and a 4.5-star rating. Most BetterHelp users describe the service as convenient and effective, but there are some complaints about unempathetic therapists and misleading costs.
Talkspace has a B rating at the BBB, but the reviews are pretty dismal. There are 97 reviews from Talkspace users, with a 1.06-star rating. Most of the complaints mention customer service issues and problems with the website.
At Trustpilot, Talkspace has 247 reviews with an average 3.1-star rating. According to Talkspace reviews, customers are unhappy with what they consider automated responses, partial refunds, website issues, and poor customer service. Some reviewers said they had experiences with providers who cancel at the last minute (or don’t show up at all).
Other Talkspace reviews complain about the app and say that the Talkspace website tends to be buggy, which makes it harder actually to attend your sessions.
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 2019 review of cognitive behavioral therapy (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.
More recently, a
Although online therapy can be beneficial and helpful, it’s not right for every mental health condition.
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 texting HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
These online therapy platforms are also not designed to provide services to young children. Talkspace does provide counseling to teenagers ages 13–18 with parental consent, and BetterHelp offers teen counseling through its affiliate site, TeenCounseling.
According to both platforms, they’re also unable to provide legal documentation for court-ordered therapy or disability programs. Additionally, they may not be a viable option if your employer or your school has asked you 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.
Syed says that BetterHelp is perfect for someone who’s just starting out with therapy. “I think it’s more better suited for people who are learning about what therapy is like and still don’t know what they’re looking for,” she says, saying she had a good experience overall. “If you’re looking for something convenient and short-term, I would recommend this product.”
Snyder also says she would recommend Talkspace. “There are multiple options for communicating with your therapist, all of which work for different lifestyles/personality types in terms of face-to-face vs. messaging.” Although she felt that Talkspace could get quite pricey, she liked the flexibility of the platform.
|Types of service||• therapy|
• sleep therapy
|Patients||• older children|
|Cost||$69–$129 per week||$65 per week|
• live chat
• send text
• video or voice messages any time
• 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)
• health benefits
|• credit card|
• PayPal and Google Pay
Both therapy platforms offer something vital:
However, there are some key differences between these two brands.
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.
You might also choose Talkspace over BetterHelp if you’d rather choose your therapist than be matched with one.
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, while Talkspace does not. Also, its basic plan is less expensive than Talkspace’s plan with video conferencing. Another bonus is that BetterHelp allows you to talk with your therapist on the phone, an option that Talkspace doesn’t provide.
Both BetterHelp and Talkspace have apps that allow for easier communication and scheduling. While Talkspace offers users the opportunity to use Happify, a positive psychology app, BetterHelp’s app has a built-in journaling function.
While Talkspace reviews on third-party sites are generally worse than BetterHelp’s user reviews, our testers had a generally positive experience with both platforms.
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
- 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.
|Product and pricing||Insurance||Highlights||Who it’s best for|
|• 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|
|services not covered by any insurance plans||offers accredited psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and board-licensed professional counselors||specializes in stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and parenting and family counseling|
|covered by some insurance plans by major commercial health plans||• a teletherapy and medication management company |
• pricing plans also appeal to different users
|focuses on helping people dealing who have insomnia, anxiety, and depression|
|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
|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
|• focuses on relationship and family counseling|
• therapists equipped to help with anxiety, depression, grief, anger, addiction, and LGBTQIA+ experiences
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 for seeking help with:
Cerebral offers a therapy-only plan with weekly 45-minute sessions, a prescription medication plan, and a plan that combines both therapy and medication management.
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.
Regain’s main advantages over BetterHelp and Talkspace are that it has a higher focus on couples and emphasizes patient security.
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 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:
- Premera Blue Cross
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
Talkspace users might also get coverage 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 (typically) 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.
Syed and Snyder recommend both BetterHelp and Talkspace based on their hands-on experience with the platforms. While neither platform is perfect, either one can be a convenient and simple way to access mental health services.
If you’re in immediate danger, these platforms aren’t a good place to look for help. They’re also not a primary option for people receiving court-ordered or school- or job-mandated mental health counseling.