Maybe you’re one of more than 46 million U.S. adults with a mental illness. Or, perhaps you just need to talk some things out, get some advice, and a safe, comfortable place to be heard.
Personally, I found that finding and affording quality counseling from a therapist I connected with to be a huge challenge. Schedule challenges, high costs ($100+/hour in New York City where I live, as my insurance does not pay for behavioral health), the time it takes to travel to a session, and investing the time to find a therapist that I really trusted and could help all stood in the way of seeking out counseling.
I finally found BetterHelp. This is my experience. BetterHelp is also an affiliate partner.
BetterHelp is the biggest online therapy app with nearly 1 million users, and makes getting counseling from a licensed therapist as easy as sending a chat message, or engaging in a video or phone session. Prices start at $35/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>
Quick summary of BetterHelp:
- A+ Better Business Bureau rating
- 10% discount for new clients — no coupon or discount code needed
- You choose from more than 8,000 licensed and certified counselors (other sites match you with a therapist)
- All BetterHelp therapists have a Master's or Doctorate degree
- BetterHelp pricing starts at $35/week for unlimited messaging
- All BetterHelp plans include a weekly live video or phone session (your choice)
- You choose how to communicate: Chat, email, phone, video, text
- Used by nearly 1 million people
- Free and easy to change counselors
- Financial aid available
- Free access to online “groupinars” (similar to group therapy) for 20 topics
- Many specialists, including by religion, for teen, LGBTQ, Christian, couples, by race, age and gender
But how do you know if BetterHelp has the right online therapist for you?
If you’re looking for a detailed run-through, I share here how BetterHelp online therapy works, the types of therapy involved, and how to get started.
- What is BetterHelp?
- Is BetterHelp legit?
- How does individual therapy with BetterHelp work?
- How does BetterHelp protect my privacy?
- Does BetterHelp have an app for therapy?
- Can BetterHelp therapists prescribe medication?
- How much does BetterHelp cost?
- BetterHelp promo code: Does BetterHelp offer any discount codes?
- Is BetterHelp covered by insurance?
- Is BetterHelp worth it?
- BetterHelp refund policy
- BetterHelp reviews
- BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: Which is better?
- How to schedule a therapy appointment with BetterHelp
What is BetterHelp?
BetterHelp is the largest provider of online therapy. They offer counseling services for individuals, couples, and teens working through depression, anxiety, grief, narcissistic personality disorder, stress, addiction, and more. With private communications through chat, phone, and video sessions, BetterHelp simplifies mental health treatment.
Is BetterHelp legit?
An independent study in 2017 by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, confirmed several benefits of online counseling services. The report states that people receiving therapy with BetterHelp saw improvement similar to in-person treatment, and that symptoms of depression were reduced overall.
But this study and the positive online therapy reviews show BetterHelp is a legit company that can help clients work through their problems and improve their wellbeing.
How does individual therapy with BetterHelp work?
BetterHelp works by using technology to facilitate open communication between you and your therapist. To talk with your counselor, you can send text messages throughout the day or schedule a time for a live chat, phone call, or video session.
The signup is painless and begins with a short questionnaire you complete on the BetterHelp website to better understand why you are seeking therapy, and what your preferences are in terms of schedule, gender and race of therapist and other factors.
Getting paired with a therapist takes about 24 hours. However, you can exchange messages right away after that. In my experience, upon sign up I immediately received an email telling me who my therapist was, and a link to his profile. By the next morning he messaged me with what to expect in terms of communication frequency (he responds within 24 hours of all messaging), and a request to share with him my family history, any personal information, and goals for working together.
Here is my experience using BetterHelp:
How does couples therapy with BetterHelp work?
You can sign up for couples counseling through BetterHelp, or its sister site Regain. Similar to the process for individual therapy, the couples BetterHelp counseling process is:
- Go to BetterHelp.com and create an account
- Set your preferences for a counselor's race, gender, age, political leaning and the type of help your relationship needs (better communication, overcoming infidelity, deciding to stay together, etc.)
- Add your partner's contact info to invite them into the account.
All messaging with the therapist is accessible and visible to both partners. Live sessions must be done from the same screen (the BetterHelp platform is not enabled for three-way calls).
How does BetterHelp protect my privacy?
In my personal experience using the platform, BetterHelp takes extensive measures to uphold its policy to protect your personal information and comply with the law.
The experience feels very secure.
While you do need to share your name, address and other normal billing information to set up an account, you may remain anonymous to your counselor by choosing a nickname. This is a big difference when compared with traditional, in-person therapy, in which your counselor knows your real name, and can easily access your personal information.
However, your therapist is never anonymous — you see their real photo, full name, and credentials. Feel free to google your BetterHelp counselor!
When communicating with my therapist online, I was impressed that the emails did not contain any personal information or communication with my therapist — info that, say, one of my kids could happen see when using my Macbook to watch YouTube videos. Instead, all email correspondence with BetterHelp requires that you, the client, click through to the BetterHelp website or app, sign in, and communicate on the encrypted platform.
BetterHelp gives you the option to permanently “shred” (delete) any messages from your BetterHelp account.
Additionally, just as with any counseling, anything you tell your therapist is protected strictly by state and federal laws.
BetterHelp points out that because they don't work with insurance, or through employers, they really will never, ever share your info with third parties.
In short: BetterHelp talks a big game when it comes to privacy, and as a user, I can see that they do in fact take it very seriously. The result was that I felt entirely secure using BetterHelp technology.
Does BetterHelp have an app for therapy?
BetterHelp can be used through their secure website, or secure app, available through iTunes or Google Play. Both the mobile app and website allow you to choose a therapist, have a live video session, or use the secure text messaging feature on the platform. You can also sign up for and participate in a live Groupinar through the app.
I used the BetterHelp app on my iPhone X and found it very easy to use, with no glitches. The connection during my weekly live sessions was clear.
What do you do in therapy with BetterHelp?
In short: Therapy with BetterHelp is the same as regular therapy in-person in an office.
The differences are that BetterHelp sessions are less expensive and less time-consuming, and more convenient that driving to a counselor's office. BetterHelp live sessions are 30 minutes, which is shorter than the typical 50-minute sessions. However, this is augmented by unlimited messaging between weekly calls. This feature was especially helpful on the first meeting, as I was able to write out in advance the lengthy process of sharing my family and relationship history, which typically takes up one or two entire conseling sessions. With BetterHelp, we jumped right in to working out all my problems!
The process of starting therapy with BetterHelp starts with getting matched with a counselor based on the preferences you select. All of BetterHelp's counselors:
- Have a Master's or Doctorate degree
- Are either accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC).
- Are qualified and certified by their state's professional board
- Have at least 3 years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience
You will be matched with a therapist based on your preference for gender, race and age, specialty and experience, such as LBGTQ and gay issues, depression, mental health issues, aging and menopause, sexuality, grief, addiction, relationship issues, abuse, parenting challenges, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, dating, self-esteem, trauma, eating disorders, health challenges, money and career problems, communication style, and more.
BetterHelp is not a crisis hotline, and it is not self-help, but professional counseling conducted online — through email, chat, video or phone calls (your choice)
Some BetterHelp therapists specialize in different types of therapy:
- Person-centered therapy, also called client-centered, or person-centered therapy, requires the client to take an active role in his or her treatment with the therapist being and supportive — and not providing direction or instructions.
- Gestalt therapy is considered a type of client-centered therapy, one that helps clients focus on the present and understand what is really happening in their lives, rather than what they perceive to be happening based on their past experiences.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-focused approach that takes a hands-on, practical problem-solving method. CBT's goal is to change patterns of thought and behavior — and therefore change how the client feels.
- Psychodynamic therapy is similar to CBD, but it also includes recognizing the power of unconscious thought in driving thoughts, behavior and feelings.
- Humanistic therapy requires the counselor to provide unrestricted acceptance, freeing the client to openly express their feelings and thoughts. Humanistic therapy often overlaps with client-centered therapy.
- Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving interpersonal behavior and communication to help the patient understand how she contributes to her struggles, and by improving her relationships with others and herself, will receive the support and acceptance that will improve mood and wellbeing.
- Schema-focused therapy seeks to create a new, healthier framework for your thinking, perception of recent events and view of relationships and the world. Schema-focused therapy is typically used for more severe mental health issues.
Once you are paired with a therapist, you can start communicating by email or within the app's chat function, and, if you prefer, schedule a phone or video session.
This is what happened when I signed up with BetterHelp:
1. I went to BetterHelp.com. It took me about 10 minutes to fill out the intake form, and fill in my credit card info.
2. Immediately, I received a confirmation email with a match: Jorge (M.S.W., L.C.S.W.) I was happy that it was a man (as I requested), who has a strong background in spirituality as well as some issues that matched the help I need. His profile also included his license numbers, details about his experience, and several dozen client reviews:
3. I then logged on to see his profile, and was prompted by a few questions from Jorge, including some of my family and personal history. I really appreciated that I could type this out ahead of our first session. If you have ever gone to therapy, you know that the first or second session is often a long intake process in which you recount all your family, relationship and health drama, as well as goals for therapy — all of which you then have to repeat in the event you switch therapists. If I ever change counselors, I am totally copy-pasting this part!
4. In his welcome message, Jorge explained that we have unlimited communication via messaging, and he promised to respond within 24 hours. Personally, I prefer to do most of my work during weekly phone or video sessions, but unlimited communication is a great benefit for many people.
4. Right in the app I scheduled a phone session for the next week with Jorge. Note: One-on-one BetterHelp therapy appointments are for 30 minutes.
Can BetterHelp therapists diagnose?
BetterHelp therapists can diagnose many conditions including depression, anxiety, trauma disorders, bi-polar, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders.
All 8,000 therapists who work through BetterHelp are licensed and certified by their state’s board, which means they undergo the same rigorous standards of any other mental health professional.
Can BetterHelp therapists prescribe medication?
But like most online therapy companies, as well as therapists who are not medical doctors, BetterHelp does not prescribe medication, which is typically provided by a medical doctor, or psychiatrist.
Does BetterHelp have same-day psychiatry appointments?
BetterHelp therapists are not medical doctors and otherwise do not offer psychiatric care or prescription writing services. Seek the care of a local psychiatrist, or, if you are in crisis, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
How much does BetterHelp cost?
Online therapy with BetterHelp costs between $35 and $80 per week, as of September, 2020, depending on whether you pay by week, month, quarter or year. There is an additional 10% discount for the first month for new members, which would make the first month
All BetterHelp prices include weekly live sessions (other online counseling services charge a premium for live counseling), and unlimited messaging.
How much does BetterHelp cost per month?
With the 10% discount, a one-month commitment is $234 per month, which includes four live phone or video sessions, or $58.50 per session — plus unlimited messaging with your therapist between sessions.
Traditional, in-person, face-to-face therapy costs $60 to $200 or more per hour.
If you can’t afford to pay for BetterHelp, financial aid is available. Answering a few questions about employment status, income, and number of dependents may save you 25% or more off the regular price — no discount code required.
BetterHelp promo code: Does BetterHelp offer any discount codes?
BetterHelp offers new clients a 10% discount — no discount or coupon code needed! They also offer financial aid for those who qualify. Also, the more you pay upfront — subscribing monthly or annually vs weekly — also gives you significant savings. For example, if you pay weekly at $80/week, that would cost you $320 per month (before the 10% discount). But if you sign up for monthly billing, you pay just $280 per month, or $65 per session.
This really stands out amongst the online therapy and counseling platforms. Go to Betterhelp.com/emmajohnson to get the discount automatically.
You can also apply for financial aid.
Is BetterHelp covered by insurance?
Some insurance plans will cover online therapy, although BetterHelp’s website states their services aren’t covered by insurance.
Even if you have health care coverage, paying out-of-pocket for online therapy is likely less expensive than paying co-pays for traditional therapy via an insurer.
Is BetterHelp worth it?
In my experience, after a few live sessions with my therapist, I have been very satisfied with BetterHelp. The quality of the therapist is remarkable and he has given me both the insights to understand my feelings and behavior, as well as some concrete steps to take to make my relationships better.
I really appreciate the quality of technology for both BetterHelp's website and app — they are easy-to-use, look great, and make finding information, payments, and changes to my account straightforward.
As for the effectiveness of BetterHelp, it is fair to apply all the research that concludes that counseling helps people, as my experience with online counseling is so similar to face-to-face sessions.
There is a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that online therapy is just as effective as in-person traditional counseling:
The question is not whether BetterHelp or other online therapy sites are “worth it” — but rather whether counseling and mental health services overall are worth it.
As troves of research has found, the answer is: yes.
A recent study published in Translational Psychiatry found that not only does cognitive behavioral therapy change a client's life, it changes their brain. A Forbes journalist summarized it like this:
The study in Translational Psychiatry, which suggests that people who have cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have measurable changes in the way certain regions of the brain are connected. Given what we already know, this isn’t so surprising in and of itself, but the results are noteworthy because the participants had more serious mental health issues than are usually the subject of CBT studies. This is the latest in a growing body of evidence suggesting that talk therapy not only has significant and lasting effects on mental health, but that these changes can actually be measured in the brain.
With the help of cognitive behavior therapy, your counselor can help you retrain your emotional responses to people, situations, and events. This method can deliver the quickest results, and you may even notice a difference right away.
The value of online therapy sites like BetterHelp is that it is very convenient, affordable, anonymous, secure and takes away all the challenges that can stand between a person and the counseling they need.
BetterHelp cancelation and refund policy
You can cancel your BetterHelp subscription at any time.
Reputable therapists never guarantee any results, and BetterHelp is no exception. However, if there are customer service issues: this is BetterHelp's policy, per the website:
We will evaluate your issue on a case-by-case basis and, at our discretion, take steps to resolve any issue, including but not limited to helping you find a new Counselor, extending your subscription at no cost to you, and issuing partial or full refunds when applicable.
Again, even the very first email from BetterHelp highlighted a link to cancel my subscription. The site makes it easy and straightforward to get what you need — including cancelations.
Here are some client reviews posted on BetterHelp's site:
BetterHelp reviews on Better Business Bureau
BetterHelp has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2015, and the BBB gives BetterHelp an A+ rating based on 148 reviews.
BetterHelp reviews on Trustpilot
BetterHelp has a 4.5-star rating based on 1,833 reviews on Trustpilot, where it has had a profile since 2015.
BetterHelp reviews on Reddit
There are several threads and comments about BetterHelp on Reddit — there are mixed reviews, but the takeaway is that the quality of therapy depends on the therapist, and the therapy-client chemistry:
BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: Which is better?
Not all online therapy platforms are equal. While most use cognitive behavior therapy online as the primary method of treatment, the intake process, services, and pricing options can vary.
Talkspace and BetterHelp are among top online therapy sites.
|Price||$35-70/week||$49-99/week + $65 per 30-minute live session|
|Wealthy Single Mommy discount?||10% discount||X|
|Live sessions?||Always included||For an extra fee|
|Mobile video sessions?||Yes||Yes|
|Desktop video sessions?||Yes||X|
|Free group therapy?||Yes|
|More BetterHelp info >>||More TalkSpace info >>|
BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: What has better pricing?
When considering BetterHelp vs. Talkspace, the cost for both is well below traditional, in-person counseling, but BetterHelp pricing is lower, with prices starting $35 per week with one-on-one sessions included, while TalkSpace pricing starts at $49 per week, but you have to upgrade to benefit from phone or video sessions.
Plus, BetterHelp offers new clients 10% off, as well as financial assistance if you cannot afford to pay BetterHelp's prices.
Talkspace offers unlimited text messaging as well, although the number of responses from your therapist depends on which plan you purchase. If you want to add video or phone sessions, you may pay more for those features.
The option to choose among different pricing structures can make online therapy more affordable for some, but you should make sure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison between the two programs.
Betterhelp vs. Talkspace: Which accepts insurance?
Talkspace works with a number of health insurers and employers — call your carrier to see if they work with Talkspace.
BetterHelp only works directly with users — you. BetterHelp does not work with insurers.
BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: Which has the best reviews?
|BBB accredited?||Since 2015||Since 2017|
|BBB avg. review||4 (out of 5) for 158 reviews||1.5 for 18 reviews|
|Trustpilot review||4.5 + 1,187 reviews||2.5 + 6 reviews|
BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: Which offers a sliding fee scale?
BetterHelp offers financial assistance to those who cannot afford online therapy. Talkspace does not mention any financial assistance on its site.
BetterHelp vs. Amwell
While BetterHelp is solely focused on online therapy, Amwell is primarily a telemedicine service for medical issues, but does offer online therapy. BetterHelp's packages start at $35/ week for unlimited text access to your therapist, with prices increasing for weekly phone sessions. Amwell simply offers access to a counselor online for a flat rate starting at $85 per session.
|Price||Pay monthly, for plans priced at $35-70/week for unlimited text, video, phone support||$85-99 per 45-min session|
|Prescriptions?||n/a||Psychiatrist visits cost $199 for the first visit, and $99 for subsequent visits|
|Discounts?||10% off for Wealthy Single Mommy readers, plus discounts if you pay for multiple months at a time.||n/a|
BetterHelp vs. Brightside
Brightside offers a combination of talk therapy and/or psychiatric prescription.
For online therapy, take an online assessment from Brightside, get unlimited text support from your counselor, and get access to self-paced audio lessons.
For prescriptions, you are evaluated remotely by a physician, and your medication is delivered to your door monthly. You also receive ongoing physician support and monitoring of your care.
The Brightside Medication Plan costs $95 per month + your pharmacy copay or $15 per medication.
Medication + Therapy costs $240 per month plus your pharmacy copay or $15 per medication. Medication and therapy-only plans vary.
|Therapy options||Chat, text, video and phone sessions available||Unlimited text counseling plus audio recording guidance|
|Price||Pay monthly, for plans priced at $35-70/week for unlimited text, video, phone support||Therapy only costs $165 per month for unlimited messaging.|
|Discounts?||10% off for Wealthy Single Mommy readers, plus discounts if you pay for multiple months at a time.||Occasional coupons and discounts|
How to schedule a therapy appointment with BetterHelp
Getting started is easy, and the price seems reasonable considering you can message your therapist 24/7. Plus, you can schedule video sessions, phone calls, and live chats around your own schedule.
Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker,” her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.