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BetterHelp and Talkspace are online mental health services that offer teletherapy, such as virtual counseling and group therapy. They are an alternative to in-person therapy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 people in the United States will experience a mental health condition in any given year. The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for online therapy and counseling services, and the American Psychological Association predicts that this trend will continue.

This article looks at two online counseling services: BetterHelp and Talkspace.

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.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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BetterHelp has been operating since 2013 and claims to have more than 30,000 therapists available.

The company offers counseling services for individuals, couples, and teenagers. It also runs group seminars.

BetterHelp has an average customer rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. At the time of publishing, 84% of more than 6,500 reviews award the service the full 5 stars.

Positive reviews frequently mention the efficiency, convenience, and flexibility of BetterHelp, whereas less favorable reviews report bad experiences with therapists.

Sign-up process

When signing up with BetterHelp, a person has to fill in a questionnaire and indicate whether therapy sessions are for themselves, their child, or whether they are attending with their partner. They also have to state why they wish to see a therapist and indicate the issues they have been facing.

The platform also asks about any preferences individuals might have for their therapists, such as age or gender. After that, BetterHelp can match them with a therapist. A person can change their therapist at any time if they are not happy with their match.

Counselor qualifications

BetterHelp works with accredited psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and counselors. These individuals must have a master’s or doctorate degree in their field. They must also have at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience.

Types of treatment

BetterHelp offers therapy sessions for:

  • individuals
  • couples
  • teens

They may help individuals manage:

BetterHelp does not offer psychiatry sessions.

Communication with counsellors

BetterHelp’s live sessions are available through text, video, phone, and voice message. People can also send a message to their therapist on their phone, tablet, or computer at any time. Chat rooms are private, and people are free to talk about their concerns. They will get an email notification every time they receive a message from their counselor.

Privacy

BetterHelp states that the company uses state of the art technology to keep conversations through its services private and secure.

BetterHelp follows Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations and encrypts all client communication.

The company also allows people to remove messages they have sent, so they no longer appear in their account.

Cost and subscription plans

BetterHelp costs $60–90 per week, depending on people’s location, preferences, and therapist availability. If they wish to stop attending therapy sessions, they can cancel their membership at any time.

People can pay using their credit card or Paypal account.

BetterHelp’s plans come with unlimited messaging and one weekly live session.

The company’s services are generally not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurers. However, BetterHelp claims that its services are more affordable than in-person visits. It may also offer financial assistance to people with financial difficulties. A person can indicate their financial position in the initial questionnaire.

Exclusive features

Below are some exclusive features that a person can benefit from when using BetterHelp:

  • unlimited text messaging with therapists
  • over 150 digital worksheets and modules
  • phone calls with therapists
  • more than 20 interactive live group sessions every week

Learn more about BetterHelp here.

Pros and cons

BetterHelp comes with advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Therapists are experienced and have a master’s or doctorate degree.
  • People pay on a monthly basis.
  • A person is free to cancel their membership whenever they want.
  • Changing therapists is possible.
  • It offers therapy sessions to individuals, couples, and teens.
  • Therapists can hold sessions through video chat.
  • A person can join group sessions.

Cons

  • It does not offer insurance coverage.
  • People cannot choose their own therapists.
  • A person may have difficulty attending therapy sessions if they do not have internet access or a private space.
  • There are no psychiatrists available, so people cannot receive prescriptions.
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Talkspace started in 2012 and offers counseling services for individuals, couples, and teenagers. It also provides psychiatry sessions that include medication management.

Talkspace has an average customer rating of 3.0 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot at time of publication. Of the current 250 reviews, 68% gave the company the lowest rating of one star, while 24% gave the company the highest rating of five stars. Positive reviews described extremely helpful and supportive interactions with therapists, easy matching with therapists, and a straightforward website to navigate.

However, some reviews said the website was difficult to work with. In other negative reviews, customers detailed problems with insurance claims, poor customer service, and dissatisfaction with therapists.

Sign-up process

Individuals who are interested in Talkspace’s services can choose between individual, couple, or teen therapy. Psychiatry sessions are also available.

The platform requires people to answer a few questions about themselves and their preferences for therapy. The company then uses a proprietary algorithm to pair individuals with therapists within 48 hours. Individuals can change therapists at any time should they choose, with no additional cost.

Counselor qualifications

Talkspace therapists are licensed. The company states that Talkspace therapists hold credentials that meet the standards of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Some therapists specialize in different areas, including:

Types of treatment

Talkspace offesr therapy sessions to:

  • individuals
  • couples
  • teens

In addition, Talkspace offers sessions with psychiatrists, who can also prescribe medications.

These sessions may help individuals manage:

Communication with counselors

Individuals who use Talkspace can message their therapists at any time and can access the chat room on the Talkspace app or website. People can also schedule a live video, audio, or chat session.

Privacy

Talkspace conversations are private and secure. The company states that Talkspace technology is fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations.

Members use two factor identification and a password at login. Additionally, Talkspace requires users to establish a unique nickname when they register. A person can use this nickname when they converse with their therapists.

Cost and subscription plans

Talkspace has three plans starting from $69 per week. A person can get additional live session credits by paying extra fees. If a person opts for quarterly or biannual billing, they could save 10-20% on their fees.

Talkspace plans include:

  • Messaging Therapy: Daily responses five days a week. Prices start from $69 per week.
  • Live + Messaging Therapy: Send messages and schedule video calls. Prices start from $99 per week.
  • Video + Messaging + Therapy: Access to all Talkspace resources, including messaging, live video sessions, and weekly workshops.

Many insurance companies reimburse Talkspace costs, which vary among plans. Talkspace also accepts flexible spending account and health saving account payments.

Exclusive features

Exclusive features from Talkspace include:

  • psychiatry service for those who need prescription management
  • option to choose a therapist from recommended suggestions
  • instructional videos about the sign-up process

Learn more about Talkspace here.

Pros and cons

The following are some advantages and disadvantages of Talkspace:

Pros

  • It offers insurance coverage.
  • It allows people to choose from three different plans.
  • A person can request to change therapists.
  • Therapy sessions can take place via video, text, or voice message.
  • A person can message their therapist at any time of day.
  • It works with psychiatrists who can prescribe medications.

Cons

  • Video sessions are not available in every plan.
  • The cost can be expensive for people who do not have insurance.
  • Sessions may not suit people who are in a life threatening situation.
  • The majority of Trustpilot reviews are negative.
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The table below shows the key features of each service side by side:

BetterHelpTalkspace
Cost per monthabout $240–$360, depending on location, preferences, and therapist availability$25 copay for persons with insurance
about $276–$436 monthly for persons without insurance, depending on the chosen plan,
Insurancemost insurance companies do not cover BetterHelp servicesmost insurance plans cover Talkspace services
Are live video sessions available?yes, after scheduling a timeup to 4 sessions per month depending on the specific plan, with more available at an additional cost
Ways to communicate with a therapistlive video
text messaging
phone call
live online text chat
live video
video and audio messaging
phone call
live online text chat
Is psychiatry available?noyes, at an additional cost
Ways to paycredit card or PayPaldebit or credit card
Is there the option to change therapist?yesyes
Are group sessions available?yesno

How we choose products and services

Medical News Today chooses online counseling services that meet the following criteria:

  • Medical accuracy and integrity: Companies offer transparent information on coverage they can provide and standard of care.
  • Best practices: The companies use licensed healthcare professionals.
  • Indicators of trust: The companies are HIPAA-compliant and have certification of security standards.
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BetterHelp and Talkspace offer very similar online counseling services at varying prices.

When choosing, a person should look at the reviews, costs, and services each option offers. Individuals should also consider how they would like to contact their therapist, as this may determine which company and specific plan they use.