You can do many things online nowadays -- shop, manage finances and even watch movies. But have you tried online therapy? The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic gave way to the exponential rise of telemedicine. Although not new to the telehealth scenery, online therapy saw a surge of new patients during the pandemic.
According to the American Psychological Association's COVID-19 Telehealth Practitioner Survey, 74% of psychologists reported seeing more patients with anxiety disorders, and 60% said that they had more patients with depression than before the pandemic. Most professionals polled in this survey noted that they treated patients remotely, and about a third reported that they were treating patients living in a different state from where they practice.
Virtual therapy is a convenient way to take care of your mental health. It gives you access to mental health practitioners anywhere and at any time. BetterHelp is one of the many online therapy platforms that match you with an online therapist based on your preferences and needs.
To review BetterHelp, I looked at the services provided, pricing, special features, benefits and therapist qualifications. I didn't consider the experience of working with a therapist on BetterHelp since treatment and results vary widely from one person to another. Here's what I found.
What is BetterHelp?
BetterHelp markets itself as the largest online therapy network in the world. It gives you access to diverse licensed therapists you can contact via live chat, video and phone sessions and online messaging weekly.
Better help offers the following:
Individual counseling: One-on-one live weekly sessions with a licensed therapist through phone, live chat or video.
Couples therapy: Offered through ReGain, a site operated by BetterHelp, you'll get matched to a therapist specializing in relationship matters. You can work on developing multiple skills like finances, conflict resolution and communication.
Teen counseling: This service is offered through the sister site, Teen Counseling for ages 13 to 19. There is a wide array of mental health professionals that specialize in teens. Your teen can receive support and learn healthy coping skills through this service.
LGBTQ counseling: BetterHelp caters to members of the LGBTQ community through the subsidiary site Pride Counseling. You can access mental health professionals with experience on issues the LGBTQ community often encounters.
How does BetterHelp work?
When you've decided to enroll with BetterHelp, you can do so through the app or the website. Here's a step-by-step guide to signing up.
1. Answer questionnaire: You'll be prompted to answer a questionnaire about demographics, relationship status, religious preferences, type of therapy you are looking for, medical history and areas in your life you'd like to improve.
2. Create an account: Once you've answered all of the questions, you can create your account with a username and password.
3. Choose your preferred payment method: Here, you'll enter your payment information. You can also apply for financial assistance in this step.
4. Get matched: This is the most exciting part! Based on your answers, BetterHelp will match you with a professional therapist. It can take up to a few days to be matched.
5. Start therapy: Once matched with a therapist, you are ready to contact your therapist in any way you like: text, live chat, phone or video.
Methods of treatment
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to counseling. BetterHelp does not offer one particular treatment style but rather tailors counseling around your preferences and needs.
You might see some of these common treatment methods when you start counseling with BetterHelp:
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy
- Emotionally-focused therapy
- Mindfulness therapy
- Trauma-focused therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Motivational interviewing
- Client-centered therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
Benefits of BetterHelp
Besides being a convenient way to get access to licensed mental health professionals, there are a few things we like about BetterHelp:
- A diverse network of licensed therapists
- You can easily contact your therapist via text, live chat, phone or video conferencing
- Pricing transparency
- User-friendly apps available for Android and Apple
- The option to switch therapists if the one you are matched to isn't to your liking
- Financial aid is available for those who qualify
- You can contact your therapist anytime during the day
Disadvantages of BetterHelp
Like any other mental health service, there are a few disadvantages to using BetterHelp. Some of them include:
- You are matched with a therapist deemed a good fit by BetterHelp. You can choose your own therapist, but the option isn't easily found on the website
- No insurance is accepted at the moment
- No therapist can prescribe medication
- Counselors can't diagnose mental health conditions through BetterHelp
BetterHelp communication methods
Once you fill out the questionnaire and are matched to a therapist, you can choose your preferred method of contact: phone, live chat or video call. BetterHelp also has a journaling feature, group therapy sessions and a chat room, which I'll get more into below.
If you prefer to talk through the phone, you can schedule a live phone session with your therapist. Your personal information -- including your phone number -- won't be shared. Your phone therapy session will be initiated through the app, kind of like how you contact an Uber driver.
Live chat sessions
If you prefer the feeling of texting a good friend, the live chat option may be for you. You can schedule a live chat session with your therapist. The entire session will be through the chat and you'll get an instant response.
Live video sessions
This allows you to have a virtual one-on-one session with your therapist. You can schedule your video session on your calendar, and when the time and date come, all you have to do is log in to start the video chat.
Besides talking to your counselor via phone, chat or live video, BetterHelp offers other features to help you stay in tune with your mental health. Some of them include:
Journaling: You'll have access to a virtual journal where you can write down your thoughts, goals and feelings. Your journal isn't visible to anyone else, not even your therapist, unless you choose to share it.
Chat room: Once matched with a therapist, you can start messaging them in a chatroom created for the two of you. You can access the chat room and message your counselor at any time. However, since it's not a live chat, your therapist might take some time to respond.
Group therapy: You have access to multiple live seminars every week. BetterHelp refers to these as "groupinars," and they cover various topics like anxiety and depression and offer resources and ways to cope.
How much does BetterHelp cost?
Counseling with BetterHelp costs anywhere from $60 to $90 per session (weekly). For the first four weeks, the company will bill you upfront, so you can expect to be charged between $240 and $360. After that, you'll be charged every four weeks. You can schedule recurring payments with your credit card or PayPal.
Does BetterHelp take insurance?
BetterHelp doesn't take any insurance to cover the costs of therapy. Instead, it focuses on offering monthly packages that cover four sessions with a therapist at a lower cost than what you'd find in the market. According to GoodTherapy, in most areas of the US, the cost per therapy session ranges between $100 and $200.
Does BetterHelp offer financial aid?
For those who qualify, there are financial aid options available at BetterHelp. Once you've created your profile, you can click on the payment page to apply for financial aid. Your application will be reviewed, and if accepted, you'll receive a discounted price.
To apply for financial aid, you'll be asked about your current employment status, how much you earn monthly (and your spouse, if applicable) and if you have any children or dependents.
BetterHelp therapist qualifications
According to the BetterHelp website, all therapists and counselors are licensed, experienced, trained and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers or licensed professional counselors. Each BetterHelp therapist has a Master's Degree or Doctorate in their field of specialization. Even though their backgrounds may vary, they all possess at least three years and 1,000 hours of experience.
It claims to mostly use this information to improve the site and will only share information with third parties for marketing purposes. Some of the information that may be shared include activity while using the platform. It will not share activities while logged in or information shared in therapy. Better help is HIPAA-compliant.
BetterHelp holds a 4.6 out of 5 star review amongst its reviewers on Trustpilot, an independent platform where consumers can review a business from which they have purchased a product or service.
In the most positive reviews, people say BetterHelp has done a good job matching its clients with therapists who have the right experience. Other reviewers have reported that BetterHelp is convenient and easy to use.
On the flip slide, a handful of reviews show unhappy customers due to long wait times for the first appointment (more than a week after subscribing), inconsistency with treatment plans and difficulty reaching customer service.
Is BetterHelp right for you?
BetterHelp may be a good place to start your mental health journey if you want to attain specific goals or need support working through difficult life changes. Other areas where BetterHelp therapists specialize include:
- Eating disorders
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others, BetterHelp is not the appropriate platform. If you are in an emergency or a life-threatening situation, please seek immediate help through the local police or the nearest emergency room.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.