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BetterHelp is an online counseling platform. The company describes itself as the world’s largest counseling organization, with over 23,000 licensed therapists serving more than 2.5 million people.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Founded in 2013, BetterHelp is based in Silicon Valley. In 2015, a major telehealth company called Teladoc acquired it but kept the original brand name.
The BetterHelp online platform makes it possible for a person to access professional counselors from any place and at any time. Individuals can use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to seek counseling services, which makes the process more convenient, flexible, and affordable. It also allows a person to maintain their privacy while receiving therapy.
Mental health conditions are common throughout society. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental health conditions each year, as do 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6–17 years.
Medical News Today has carefully vetted BetterHelp to ensure that there are no safety risks for individuals.
The vetting team looked at several factors before writing this article, such as:
- Medical accuracy and integrity: BetterHelp is transparent about the coverage it can provide and its standard of care.
- Best practices: The company uses licensed healthcare professionals and complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Indicators of trust: BetterHelp has third-party regulation and certification of security standards.
- Reputation: The company has not received any warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission, has no pending or past lawsuits, and has a high rating on its Better Business Bureau (BBB) page.
BetterHelp provides counseling services for adults, couples, teenagers, first responders, and veterans, among others.
The company works with thousands of licensed counselors, all of whom have a master’s or doctoral degree in their fields, as well as at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience.
Counselors come from the following backgrounds:
BetterHelp pairs individuals with the therapists based on how they respond to an online multiple-choice questionnaire. If a person is not happy with their match, they can ask to change therapists.
The company will then assign a person to a private online chat room that only they and their therapist can access. The chat room is always “open” for the counselor and client. Individuals have unlimited chat time with their counselors through their chat room, although the chats are not usually live.
BetterHelp offers people one live session with their counselor each week. These live sessions can be online chats, phone calls, or video sessions that individuals can schedule with their counselors in their chat rooms.
BetterHelp offers various features that people can use to access its services.
A person can opt to talk with their designated therapist via a chat room at any time. While people can access this messaging service whenever they wish to, a therapist may not respond immediately.
Individuals can schedule a session with their therapist through the live chat function. This feature is similar to the chat room feature. However, people can message their therapist and receive responses in real time.
A person can return to and view this message exchange whenever they like.
BetterHelp also offers phone sessions.
To use this feature, a person needs to schedule a session with their therapist. Then, they need to log in to their BetterHelp therapy room, and the system will ask for their phone number. The system then calls this number and connects the person with their therapist.
Alternatively, a person may schedule a live video session with their therapist so they can speak face to face. As with the phone session, a person signs into their therapy room at the appropriate time.
The therapist sends an invitation to begin a video chat. Once the participant accepts the invitation, the session will begin.
BetterHelp works on a subscription basis and offers a 7-day free trial. Subscribers pay $60–90 per week after this trial period. The exact price depends on a person’s location and preferences and therapist availability.
The company sends bills every 4 weeks. The bills are payable by credit card or PayPal. A person can cancel their subscription at any time.
BetterHelp financial aid
BetterHelp may offer some financial aid. In the initial questionnaire, BetterHelp will ask for information about a person’s financial position. A person can also reach out to the company’s customer service to apply.
When a person selects their plan, they can apply for financial aid.
Does BetterHelp accept insurance?
While some health insurers may cover part of the costs of the BetterHelp platform, the company warns that a person’s copay may be more expensive than the cost of using the services without insurance.
If an individual has insurance and wishes to use it, they should check whether their provider offers coverage for BetterHelp.
Does BetterHelp offer discounts?
At the time of publication, BetterHelp offers a 25% discount for the first month of counseling to support people through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changing or canceling a subscription
A person can change or cancel their BetterHelp subscription whenever they wish to.
Additionally, people can switch which therapist they contact, at any time.
BetterHelp offers the following types of therapy:
- Individual: This therapy is suitable for people who wish to discuss their mental health with a professional.
- Couples: This therapy is beneficial for a person and their partner. If a person chooses this option, BetterHelp directs them to ReGain, which it operates.
- Teens: People can choose to set up counseling for teenagers. BetterHelp redirects them to Teen Counseling, which the company operates.
- Pride: The company can match people with a therapist experienced in LGBTQ matters by directing them to Pride Counseling, which it operates.
- Faithful: The company directs individuals interested in religion-based counseling to Faithful Counseling, which it also operates.
- First responders: This type of counseling is for people who work on the front lines of natural disasters, at crime scenes, and in other potentially traumatic or stressful situations.
- Veterans: This counseling is for people who serve or have served in the military.
- COVID-19: The company offers this counseling to doctors and other healthcare professionals who have worked or are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The therapists on this platform may have certain specializations, such as anxiety, depression, anger management, and more. A person can choose the areas they would like to focus on when registering with BetterHelp.
In addition to providing counseling for individuals, BetterHelp partners with a variety of organizations to help create effective, affordable, and convenient mental health services in a number of industries. These include the private and nonprofit sectors, educational institutions, and municipalities.
When individuals register online to use BetterHelp, they fill out an online questionnaire that seeks information such as:
The questionnaire also asks about a person’s objectives in seeking counseling and the types of issues they are experiencing. A person may also select any characteristics they would like in a counselor, such as religion, gender, and ethnicity.
BetterHelp reviews a person’s completed questionnaire and then pairs them with an appropriate counselor. This process may take up to a few days.
Once the company matches a person with a therapist, that person gains access to a private chat room, where they can communicate with their counselor. People can schedule live messaging, phone, or video sessions through this chat room.
BetterHelp has a large network of qualified therapists. The company claims it ensures that all its therapists are fully trained, licensed, experienced, and accredited and that they have a master’s or doctoral degree in their chosen field.
BetterHelp asks all therapist applicants to verify their identity and provide license documentation. The company then cross-references this information with the therapist’s state licensing board. After BetterHelp verifies this information, the applicants must complete a graded case study and a video interview.
BetterHelp states that this thorough process means that the company only accepts 20% of applicants.
The company uses multiple layers of encryption to safeguard user data, with one layer for general browsing and a second, added layer for subscribers and their counselors.
The company does not share data with insurance companies, and counselors follow all local and federal privacy guidelines, including HIPAA.
At the time of publication, the BBB gives BetterHelp an A grade, and the average customer rating is 4.1 out of five stars, based on 374 reviews.
The BBB bases its rating on such factors as the amount of time a company has been in business, the number of complaints filed and resolved, transparency of business practices, and the presence of any licensing or government actions against the company.
Positive reviews on the BBB website mention compatibility with counselors and how easy it is to use the BetterHelp online platform. Less favorable reviews note billing problems, reimbursement issues, and lack of counselor availability.
People also report difficulty reaching an agreement on the counseling format, with the company offering some individuals live chat sessions when they requested phone or video appointments.
Online BetterHelp reviews are generally positive, with customers noting that they enjoy the ease, convenience, and flexibility that the platform offers.
However, other reviews report issues with therapist availability, billing, and reimbursement. Moreover, some individuals felt that it was difficult to connect with a therapist using the live chat feature, with a few users also reporting that they were discouraged from scheduling video or phone sessions.
As with any form of treatment, online therapy has both positive and negative aspects.
Some advantages of BetterHelp include:
- timesaving nature
- unlimited chatting
Moreover, the platform is accessible from desktops and mobile devices and is more affordable than face-to-face therapy.
Some less positive aspects may include the following:
- Distance therapy provides less direct contact between people and their counselors. However,
researchsuggests online mental health services have comparable results to traditional, in-person services.
- Billing is automatic even without secured appointments.
- The counselors cannot prescribe medication.
- Most insurers do not cover BetterHelp services.
- Access to a device with a reliable internet connection is essential for using BetterHelp.
According to BetterHelp, its counselors can help those wanting to address something that may be keeping them from enjoying their life or meeting their goals.
People can choose from counselors who specialize in many key areas, such as:
Who may not benefit?
The company states that it is not a good choice for people who are in crisis, have a severe mental health condition, or have thoughts of harming themselves or others.
Individuals whom authority has directed to seek any kind of psychological treatment or supervision need in-person care.
Moreover, people who qualify as minors or who are under the care of a legal guardian cannot use BetterHelp on their own.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
Mental health can change over time and in response to specific situations. Signs that someone may be facing mental health challenges and could benefit from seeking help include:
- experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits
- withdrawing from favorite activities
- experiencing frequent, powerful, and uncomfortable feelings, such as hopelessness, fear, confusion, and distress
- feeling more anxious or nervous or worrying more than usual
- feeling a lack of energy
- having difficulty performing daily tasks
- experiencing self-destructive thoughts or behavior, such as substance misuse or self-harm
A person should contact a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible if they or someone in their care is experiencing symptoms relating to mental health.
An alternative to BetterHelp can be Talkspace.
This major online therapy provider, which employs thousands of thoroughly evaluated therapists, says that it has served more than 1 million people.
Users start by chatting with a consultation therapist. Based on this conversation, they receive a list of recommended therapists. After making a selection and starting therapy, a user is guaranteed a daily response from their therapist at arranged times.
The company also offers personalized prescription medication management through Talkspace Psychiatry.
The following table compares BetterHelp and Talkspace.
|Cost||$60–90 per week, depending on a person’s location and preferences and therapist availability||depends on a person’s location|
|Insurance||Most insurance providers do not cover BetterHelp services.||Most insurance providers do not cover Talkspace services.|
|Type of therapy||• individual|
• first responders
|Features||• chat room|
• live chat
• phone session
• video session
• group therapy
|• live chat|
• phone session
• video and audio messaging
• live video
|Option to change a therapist?||yes||yes|
|Ways to pay||credit card or PayPal||credit or debit card|
|Canceling a subscription||possible at any time||possible at any time|
Below are a few common questions about BetterHelp.
Does BetterHelp comply with HIPAA?
BetterHelp conforms to all HIPAA guidelines to protect the privacy of users.
According to BetterHelp, all information a person shares with their therapist is confidential, all messages are secured and encrypted, and users have the option to “shred” any message to remove it from their account.
Can BetterHelp prescribe medication?
BetterHelp staff cannot prescribe medications or make an official diagnosis.
Does BetterHelp work?
Although BetterHelp may not be a good fit for everyone, it can be a convenient alternative to traditional therapy and may benefit some people.
BetterHelp is an online counseling platform. It connects thousands of people seeking support with thousands of vetted counselors.
The company pairs users with counselors based on their responses to an online questionnaire, although individuals may switch if they would prefer a different therapist.
A person can schedule weekly meetings with their counselor, which can be through webchat, phone, or video connections.
If an individual is experiencing difficulty performing day-to-day tasks due to their mental health, they should seek help from a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible.