BetterHelp has made online therapy and counseling truly accessible to all people. With great pricing & flexible communication methods, BetterHelp is the #1 provider in America. Read on for our in-depth review of one of the largest and most well-known virtual therapy platforms today: BetterHelp.
BetterHelp Company Overview
With the sudden explosion of online therapy services, many traditionalists are afraid that one of the most important components of therapy is being lost: face-to-face, person-to-person interaction. Some claim a counselor’s soothing voice, understanding look, and feeling of compassion are extremely important and unlimited text chat online therapy removes these elements.
Today we will be taking a look at BetterHelp, an online counseling platform that also believes in the importance of face-to-face therapy. It’s known for catering to users who want to increase happiness, productivity, and relationship skills; the platform also treats depression, anxiety, and other biological mental health disorders.
Founded in 2013, BetterHelp has risen as one of the leaders in online therapy. This mental counseling platform has a network of over 5,000 licensed professionals. But it’s not just the sheer size of its service that has pushed more than 1 million people to use the platform. The company is known for its highly-personalized therapy and excellent user experience. Patients can also expect total anonymity and privacy.
Pair all that with stellar customer service? There are few online mental health providers that can check all those boxes.
A few years ago, BetterHealth’s impressive growth caught the attention of Teladoc, the largest telehealth provider in the United States. BetterHelp was then acquired by the company.
With the full might of Teladoc’s resources behind it, BetterHelp has been refining its online mental health platform to be one of the best in the industry; however, the main thing that sets BetterHelp apart from the competition is its belief that the platform is not here to replace face-to-face therapy but rather to use today’s technology to make personalized therapy more accessible and effective.
Is BetterHelp Right For You?
BetterHelp is marketed toward people who don’t have enough time for traditional therapy, are worried about the stigmas of therapy, and want to enhance the quality of their lives.
Essentially, this platform is for people who want to see a therapist (or feel they should see a therapist) but hasn’t because of certain roadblocks. BetterHelp is geared toward anyone who:
- Can’t afford traditional in-person therapy
- Doesn’t want to spend time commuting to and from a therapist’s office
- Can’t get away from work during traditional therapist hours
- Wants to try therapy for free for seven days to see if it’s a good fit
- Prefers mini text or audio chat therapy sessions in addition to weekly real-time video sessions
- Feels timid visiting a therapist’s office in person
- Wants to pay for therapy without the help of health insurance companies
Is BetterHelp Credible?
All of the online counselors at BetterHelp are fully trained, licensed, and accredited online mental health specialists (including psychologists, family counselors, couples therapists, clinical social workers, and more), all of whom carry either a Masters or Doctorate in Counseling and/or their specific field of expertise, have at least three years and 2,000 hours of experience and are in good standing.
All therapists are board-certified by the state in which they’re licensed. They have completed all training, exams, and practice hours. Users will find that therapists have varying degrees of experience, yet all therapists on the platform must meet these minimum requirements.
BetterHelp thoroughly vets all providers through a four-to-five-week process; therapists and doctors must send documentation of licensure, proof of identity, and references from other licensed therapists and doctors who have worked with the provider first-hand. All information is then cross-checked with the board and references.
After BetterHelp has verified the therapist, the company takes the verification and quality-control process a step further by requiring that each provider complete a case study exam (verified by a BetterHelp licensed clinician) and complete a video evaluation.
The result? Only about 15% of therapists are accepted to the platform.
Once users are matched with a therapist, they will receive a message with complete licensure, education, and credentials of the service provider. Since users can request to switch therapists at any time, they can always request a different therapist if they don’t feel the service provider’s specialties are aligned with their goals. Users can also check up on their therapist’s credentials once they receive that information.
This is also the point in the matching process where the therapist will send an introductory email to the patient.
BetterHelp was involved in an extensive study at Berkeley University and USC on the effectiveness of multimodal digital psychotherapy platform for adult depression. The findings?
- 98% of patients in the study made significant progress
- 94% of patients preferred the platform over traditional therapy
- 70% of patients reported reduced symptoms of depression
This online mental health platform doesn’t just specialize in finding great therapists; it also hires the best tech talent to ensure your sessions stay private. Federal and state laws mandate telehealth companies to abide by the same standards as in-person doctors. Your information will not be shared without your permission.
BetterHelp will even do you one (or a few) better. You don’t need to use your real name to create an account on the app. All information passed between you and your therapist is confidential and can only be accessed by you or the practitioner. Instead, you’ll use a nickname or username to chat back and forth between your therapist. In fact, your credit card or PayPal information is the only info stored in the system (which no live person has access to).
You can choose to ‘shred’ confidential messages (that are encrypted by 256-bit bank standards). Databases are also encrypted, so information will not make sense if it gets in the hands of cyberattackers. Each time you open the app, you must enter your four-digit pin or use touch or face recognition to access your info. Even if you back out of the app for just a moment, you’ll need to enter your passcode to get back in.
Since BetterHelp doesn’t take insurance, your information will never be sent outside of the platform.
BetterHelp does request you enter an emergency contact’s information when you create your account. This is not mandatory, but developers recommend doing so in the unlikely event your therapist thinks you may be in danger of hurting yourself. If you’d like to transfer your chats or information to another person (such as your doctor or a therapist), you are free to do so by filling out an authorization form.
Healthcare Conditions Treated by BetterHelp
One of the biggest benefits of using BetterHelp is its extensive network of qualified e-counselors that cover just about all areas of mental health. This is something that most of the competition cannot claim. Some of the mental health issues BetterHelp covers include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Career counseling
- Chronic impulsivity
- Eating disorders
- Educational assessments
- Family issues
- Grief counseling
- Health issues
- Intimacy problems
- Life transitions
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disorders (such as insomnia)
- Social behavior problems
- Substance abuse
- Trauma and abuse
If you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder but don’t see it on the above list, fill out BetterHelp’s symptom questionnaire anyway. Since the platform is home to so many therapists, there’s a good chance BetterHelp can match you to a therapist who specializes in your treatment options.
The best part about this online mental health platform is its huge network of therapists. While a request for more specific therapy techniques may result in a longer counselor matching wait time, the results will be worth the wait.
BetterHelp Treatment Techniques
BetterHelp’s therapists are trained in specialized fields and can treat a variety of issues. Some of the techniques therapists are certified to practice include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Couples therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Family therapy (adults only)
- Interpersonal therapy
- Mindfulness therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
Therapists provide counseling for patients when the goal is bettering one’s life through talk therapy. This is one of the most common forms of therapy used both on BetterHelp and in in-person therapy.
Counseling offers patients cognitive tools to help discover reasons why life may have become unmanageable — and how to fix problems and prevent setbacks. Just some of the issues counseling can address include anger management, relationships, self-confidence, and anxiety. Counselors can even help people overcome career hurdles and deal with trauma.
Many other forms of therapy fall under the umbrella of ‘counseling’ and use talk therapy methods combined with some of the other techniques below. Sessions can run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour-long. Most counselors also encourage consistent follow-up sessions on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually).
Many therapists on BetterHelp use counseling as the main tool on the path to better mental health. If you think you need counseling, this online mental health platform would be a great fit.
Mindfulness-based therapy is used to treat a variety of mental illnesses, ranging from depression to anxiety. This type of therapy helps patients remove triggering feelings from events and creates space between people and their feelings. Similar to techniques used in meditation, mindfulness-based therapy helps reduce anxiety about the future and guilt or negative feelings about the past by asking the patient to stay in the present moment. These techniques help to remind people that their fears, worries, and regrets are not necessarily real. Just some of the mental illnesses that mindfulness-based therapy can ease include:
Many therapists combine this type of therapy with cognitive-based therapy (see below) to help people with bipolar disorder and other more extreme forms of mental illness (often combined with medication).
Patients are also encouraged to incorporate healthy activities into their schedules, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and healthy eating habits.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness-based therapy or feel like this is the right fit for you, make note of it in your intake questionnaire to be matched with a therapist that utilizes this technique.
Possibly one of the most common types of talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) treats a long list of mental issues. Similar to behavioral activation (see below), CBT changes mindsets by switching the focus from negative thought patterns to positive ones.
It is most commonly used to treat depression and anxiety but is also often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias.
The idea is that CBT changes the thought process to help patients remember that they are in control of their own thoughts and feelings. It encourages people to embrace positive feelings and change thought patterns. Often, this type of therapy is used in conjunction with medication, as it does not change the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous systems; though, it can change the way neurons fire in the brain. Using CBT in conjunction with medication can greatly help boost the effects of medication and can sometimes be used without meds altogether.
This type of therapy can be used in individual, couples, and group therapy. Most BetterHealth therapists are trained in CBT; if you’re looking for this type of therapy specifically, ask for a therapist that specializes in it.
A type of cognitive-based therapy, behavioral activation (BA) therapy helps patients find the positive side of every situation.
People with severe depression can often only focus on the depression itself (especially when combined with a chemical imbalance) and feel as though depression is taking over every inch of their lives.
BA is another mindfulness-based technique that asks patients to focus on the good things in their lives — from small things, like the twinkling of wind chimes or the smell of bread baking — to the joy of chatting with a friend or even the birth of a child. Therapists often also encourage patients to take part in positive activities and to try new things.
Essentially, this type of therapy is kind of the ‘Mary Poppins’ or ‘Pollyanna’ of the therapy world. The good news is that for a lot of patients, it works extremely well. The extra good news is that many therapists on BetterHelp are skilled in it and utilize this method in online sessions.
While BetterHelp doesn’t treat teens (or anyone under the age of 18), this platform can help adults with family-related issues. Family therapy is simply a type of counseling, CBT, mindfulness, or other types of counseling geared toward familial relationships. Many users seek out a family therapist to help overcome a specific issue; some users seek family therapy to help with ongoing childhood trauma or behavioral patterns.
BetterHelp therapists are skilled in helping users with situational problems such as divorce, death, trauma, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. This type of therapy can be extremely helpful in discovering root problems for current issues (such as linking an eating disorder to childhood trauma).
Couples therapy is similar to group therapy or family therapy. The biggest difference is that it focuses on the relationship between two people in a (platonic, romantic, or intimate) relationship. While couples therapy has been popular with romantic partners for some time, it’s now becoming popular with friends, coworkers, and one-on-one family problems.
Therapists try to help duos overcome problems, understand each other better, and realize their own underlying issues. Many couples enter therapy after a big argument, in the aftermath of a breach of trust, or simply to understand the other in a safe environment.
Therapists use individual therapy techniques as well as exercises to help individuals communicate their needs to their partners. Exercises may include trust, communication, or emotional exercises. It’s common for BetterHelp therapists to use exercises to create empathy between partners as well.
Couples therapists generally charge by the couple — not by the person.
Exposure therapy is another type of CBT therapy that encourages patients to put themselves in stressful situations (or imagine they are in fearful situations) to help them face their fears.
The idea is that most situations aren’t dangerous or harmful — but the fear associated with some situations can be extremely harmful. After patients are exposed to the situation enough times, they realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, and the situation loses its irrational charge.
This type of therapy is used commonly with OCD and phobias. Many OCD patients seek out BetterHelp therapists to help them realize there is no logical reason for their obsessions; people with debilitating phobias often learn that their fears are worse than the triggers.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) follows a science-based formula that combats three symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression. The program usually takes 12-to-16 weeks and consists of one-hour sessions each week. The three symptoms IPT focuses on are:
- Symptom formation
- Personality disorders
- Societal triggers
This program helps patients put space between their depression and reality. It helps them realize that they have the power to reduce symptoms and maintain solid relationships with friends and family members.
BetterHelp therapists who specialize in IPT often give patients tools to handle depression and anxiety while reducing symptoms.
Religion-Based Therapy Options
BetterHelp understands that religion and spirituality can play a major role in a person’s life (and mental health). This is why the platform is equipped to match patients with a therapist that shares the patient’s religious and spiritual beliefs.
During the sign-up process, simply state whether or not you adhere to a certain religion, and BetterHelp will try to match you with a therapist who specializes in religion-based therapy.
If you’re spiritual (but don’t adhere to a specific religion), make sure to note that on your intake form, and you’ll be matched with a non-denominational therapist; this can often be helpful, as many patients may feel judged or misunderstood for their religious or spiritual beliefs.
And let’s be honest: therapy is about being as vulnerable as possible. You shouldn’t need to hide your religious or spiritual beliefs to anyone — especially your therapist.
Counseling and Therapy Resources
BetterHelp offers therapy resources outside of counseling. Some of its resources include webinars and video broadcasts in subjects ranging from family therapy, couples counseling, and individual challenges.
Just some of the webinars (or groupinars as they call them) offered in the past include Self-Care 101, Finding Balance in Parenthood in a Pandemic, Family Feuding: Your Biological Bully, and The Process of Change.
These ‘groupinars’ can be accessed at any time but happen in real-time on the date and time in the description. Participants may register for these webinars or watch the replays at a later date and time.
For those patients looking for a little more than just talk therapy, BetterHelp also partners with Brightside, an online healthcare provider that connects people with psychiatrists, doctors, and nurse practitioners, who are licensed to prescribe mental health medications.
Patients chat with doctors via video chat, and doctors can prescribe medications (in most states). This service goes hand-in-hand with talk therapy, and while it doesn’t replace talk therapy (in most cases), it’s a convenient service to offer customers who don’t want to commute to a psychiatrist’s office (in addition to a talk therapist).
It’s also a great way to offer access to medications for anxiety, depressions, and other issues for anyone in rural areas or who is worried about the stigma of mental health issues.
Essentially, this platform adds another layer of assistance to anyone who needs both counseling and mental health medications.
How Does BetterHelp Work?
The first step to joining BetterHelp and getting matched to a counselor is a simple sign-up process. It only takes a few minutes (under 10) to fill out a multiple-choice questionnaire, choose a plan, and submit your request. Generally speaking, it takes about 24 hours for patients to be matched with a suitable e-counselor.
BetterHelp has one of the most streamlined sign-up processes in the telemental health industry — and it all starts with a questionnaire. After filling out the questionnaire, you’re matched with a therapist within 24 hours (this may take longer if you have specific requests).
The first step after choosing a package (more on that later) is to get matched with a mental health professional. This is where the questionnaire comes in. Just some of the questions on this form include:
- What is your preferred age range for a counselor?
- Do you have any religious preferences in regard to a counselor?
- Do you prefer a male or a female counselor?
- Do you prefer a gay or transgendered counselor?
- What language do you prefer your counselor to communicate in?
In addition to answering specific questions about your potential counselor, you’ll also be asked about your goals for therapy — including any challenges you’re currently facing. Therapists specialize in issues ranging from parenting, career, burnout, eating disorders, and LGBTQ-related stress. After choosing your identifiers, you’ll be asked to rate how important they are (important, most important, or least important).
Your counselor will be licensed in the state in which you live (as long as you live in the U.S.).
When you’re matched with a therapist, you’ll be notified by email, and you’ll be able to start messaging your new therapist right away! Just to ensure all expectations are met, your therapist will send an introductory email with the necessary guidelines and instructions on how to use the app. You are welcome to request a new therapist whenever you like — though, the platform doesn’t allow you to choose your own therapist from a list.
It’s common for patients to experience a ‘testing’ phase that allows them to see first-hand if their new therapist is a good fit. The good news is that BetterHelp offers a seven-day free trial, so patients are free to cancel before paying for any unwanted counseling services during the first week. No buyer’s remorse here.
BetterHelp offers online counseling using any of the following methods:
- Text messaging
- Live chat
- Voice chat/phone sessions
- Video conferencing
Patients are not limited to just one method and may choose the one that is most suitable and convenient.
Once you have been matched with your e-counselor, you will be given your own private virtual therapy room. This is a safe and secure space where you can speak freely.
You will use this room to write about anything you wish to discuss with your online therapist. BetterHelp counselors will then read your text and respond.
Please note that the conversation will not take place in real-time. You are free to text at any time and from any place or device that has an internet connection. You will know when your online therapist has replied via an email or app notification.
Betterhelp reviews state that users love the app and desktop site, thanks to its friendly interface. Private message rooms are designed to look like SMS or social media chat interfaces. Developers recommend white-listing the no-reply email address that sends out automatic alerts (or turn on the notifications on your smartphone) so you don’t miss responses.
Therapists also can attach homework and worksheets to messages in this space.
Your chat history is also saved (until you choose to shred your history), so you can review past sessions easily and at your leisure.
Live Chat Counseling
There are times when you’d prefer to have a text conversation with your e-counselor in real-time. To do this, you would need to schedule a live chat session, using the scheduling calendar. When it is time for your session, simply log in, start to chat, and receive real-time responses from your online counselor. This method allows you the convenience and privacy of text but with instant response.
Voice Chat/Phone Sessions
Voice chat sessions are a great way to communicate with your online counselor using your cellphone or landline. Much like with an instant chat, you would first need to schedule an appointment. When it is time for your appointment, log in to your virtual therapy room. Once there, the system will ask you to enter your phone number. It will then automatically call you and connect you with your therapist. The system will never share your number with your BetterHelp e-counselor.
Video Chat Counseling
Video calls are perfect for anyone who’d prefer to schedule traditional counseling sessions with an online therapist.
The setup is virtually identical to Skype. To set up a video chat with your e-therapist, you would first need to book a session and (much like with the other options) log in to the virtual therapy room. Your online counselor will then ask you to begin the video chat. Once you confirm, the video session will begin.
One way that BetterHelp rises above the competition is through assigning homework and worksheets. (Lack of this feature is actually one of the biggest complaints on other similar platforms.)
While some BetterHelp reviews maintained that this type of assignment made therapy feel more structured, some reviewers didn’t love the idea of homework. Assignments help patients understand why they are feeling the way they’re feeling and encourage them to dig deeper into their own personal development.
Worksheets can also offer structure to guided sessions and text chats. Some patients also get a better grasp of why a therapist is suggesting an avenue of treatment — or even begin to emotionally understand patterns and behaviors when they see their own answers written in black and white.
Therapists can go over homework and worksheets during sessions or provide written feedback outside of the live session, though these results may vary. Since users enter therapy with a wide variety of needs and issues, therapists may respond differently to situations or not require homework or worksheets at all.
BetterHelp Does NOT treat Some Conditions
BetterHelp is a great online therapy option for anyone who wants to enjoy all the benefits of therapy — without the commute or dealing with insurance. Yet, what’s good for one patient isn’t always great for another. We don’t want to mislead anyone, so we’re gonna just go ahead and say it: some patients would do better with a live therapist (or another platform altogether). BetterHelp may not be for you if you:
- Don’t want to be matched to a therapist based on answers to a questionnaire
- Are suicidal, have thoughts of suicide, or may harm yourself or others
- Are a minor, under the age of 18*
- Want complete control over choosing a therapist
- Wish to use insurance to help pay for therapy
- Aren’t willing to try a few therapists (if necessary) to find a good fit
- Have a severe mental illness and need more personal care
- Are completely against the idea of ‘homework’ or worksheets
- Are uncomfortable offering feedback to your therapist
- Don’t have access to the internet
- Have been ordered by a court to undergo therapy
- Need a long, personalized response to every message, every day of the week
Ultimately, BetterHelp reviews in which the reviewers were most unhappy with the platform stated that they had only tried out one therapist and that their experience did not meet their expectations.
We recommend being open and honest with your therapist. If you feel responses are always very generic, request a new therapist. If your therapist doesn’t respond at least once a day (five days a week) to messages, we recommend requesting a new therapist.
It’s also important to weigh the cost of the service against the service itself. We recommend keeping your expectations in check. Therapists are likely to offer in-depth responses to well-thought prompts and questions. If you simply write, “I’m having a bad day,” and nothing else, you’re likely to get a simple response, such as, “Why do you think that is?”
*BetterHelp only offers services for adults, ages 18 and over. If you or your child (under the age of 18) wants to speak with a counselor, we recommend heading over to Teencounseling.com, BetterHelp’s tween/teen sister. This platform specializes in teen counseling and even offers a parent hub to help keep mom and dad in the loop with their child’s successes and struggles.
Pricing: How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?
The cost of e-counseling with BetterHelp is between $40 to $70 per week, depending on your particular therapist and how you choose to communicate with them (a text chat would obviously cost less than a face-to-face video chat).
BetterHelp offers a free seven-day trial period; users who cancel within the trial period won’t be charged for the week — or for future periods.
This platform offers subscription plans billed weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. The only differentiation in pricing is determined by the length in which you prepay for services. All packages include unlimited messaging and one weekly live session. Package prices are as follows:
- Weekly billing (unlimited messages and one weekly live session): $80 a week
- Monthly billing (unlimited messages and one weekly live session): $260 a month ($65 a week)
- Quarterly billing (unlimited messages and one weekly live session): $540 a quarter ($45 a week)
- Annual billing (unlimited messages and one weekly live session): $1820 a year ($35 a week)
BetterHelp is also one of the few platforms to offer financial aid for services. If you qualify for the program (meaning you make less than a specified dollar amount each year), you can get a sliding scale membership by filling out a very short (three-question) questionnaire. Users who choose this option can automatically get a deep discount on the service.
If you want to cancel, you can at any time (though, you won’t be refunded for unused time if you cancel after your payment date). When you click ‘cancel’, BetterHelp will ask if you want to switch therapists instead of canceling altogether. If you still want to quit, simply confirm your cancellation.
This two-click cancellation is one of the easiest cancellation processes we’ve experienced, as you don’t need to contact your therapist directly or email or call customer service.
What Do We Think About BetterHelp?
There are several reasons why BetterHelp is one of the best online therapy platforms.
From fully licensed and certified online counselors with at least three years and 2,000 hours of experience, low costs, a large network of virtual therapists, extensive specialized areas of mental health, various ways to communicate with online counselors, over 5,000 counselors to choose from, and the option to change counselors if you wish — the list literally does go on.
We also love the accountability and organization offered by worksheets and homework. The app’s stellar user experience and simple messaging platform definitely make it more appealing than some of its competitors. And the financial assistance program and seven-day free trial period? It happens to blow other platforms out of the water.
Yet what we feel truly sets BetterHelp apart from the competition is the belief that technology should not be used to eliminate face-to-face therapy but to make it more accessible. So, what do we think of BetterHelp? We like them. A lot.