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Cerebral is a telehealth company offering online therapy and medication. It may help people who have difficulties accessing mental health care, but customers should be aware of the company’s mixed reputation.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illness affects nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults, or about 53 million people.

However, treatment can be expensive and difficult to access, and people may not always have appropriate health insurance coverage to help them pay for services.

According to the mental health nonprofit Mental Health America, 56% of adults with a mental health condition do not get the treatment they need.

Online mental health services like Cerebral could help, although they may not be suitable for everyone.

This article looks at the Cerebral brand, and the mental health services it offers, and answers some frequently asked questions.

Cerebral is a subscription-based mental health service provider. A person pays a monthly fee for access to physicians, counselors, and licensed therapists who provide regular online counseling and prescription medication management. People can also engage in unlimited online messaging with members of the service’s care team.

Cerebral also currently employs prescribing providers who hold licenses to practice in all states.

Cerebral professionals can diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They can also prescribe medication if necessary, sending it directly to a person’s home in discreet packaging.

People taking previous prescription medication can also use Cerebral’s services for medication management and refill requests.

Cerebral is for people aged 18 or over.

Cerebral offers treatment for a range of mental health conditions, including:

However, a person does not have to have a diagnosed mental health condition to use Cerebral. The company’s doctors can provide a diagnosis and an ongoing care plan as well as medication.

Cerebral’s services may also suit people who cannot easily access in-person medical appointments due to location or finances. People can have video or phone calls with a doctor, which may be useful for those who want greater anonymity than an in-person appointment.

Cerebral is unsuitable for people with severe symptoms and those in a mental health crisis. In these instances, people should contact emergency services or a mental health hotline.

Suicide prevention

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 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. People who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

People can consider the following pros and cons before using Cerebral.

Pros

  • The service is convenient.
  • The service may be more private than in-person appointments.
  • The doctors can diagnose people and prescribe medication.
  • It is simple to set up an account and start treatment.
  • It offers lower costs than traditional mental health appointments.
  • There may be shorter wait times to see doctors.
  • There is a selection of therapists for people to choose from.
  • There is a range of plans.
  • Some insurance plans cover Cerebral.
  • Cerebral is also accessible to people without health insurance.

Cons

  • Some people may prefer in-person conversations to video or phone calls.
  • People cannot pause their treatment plan.
  • Users must book appointments 1 week at a time.
  • Health insurance does not always cover Cerebral’s services.
  • People under the age of 18 cannot use Cerebral.
  • The company is currently under investigation regarding controlled substance violations.
  • Cerebral is unsuitable for people with severe mental health symptoms or those in a mental health crisis.

Cerebral has a B rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It is not BBB accredited. Based on more than 200 customer reviews, it has an average rating of 1.07 out of 5 stars.

Positive reviews on BBB praise the care they received from therapists and say it was easy to connect with prescribers. However, negative comments raise complaints about unexpected payments and prescribing controlled substances.

On Trustpilot, Cerebral has an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars based on more than 4,700 reviews.

Reviewers on this site claim it was easy to schedule appointments and the therapists were easy to work with. However, negative comments mention poor therapist availability, unexpected payments, and that doctors did not prescribe appropriate medication.

A person must take the following steps to sign up and use Cerebral:

  1. Complete an emotional assessment, which informs the company about their symptoms.
  2. Select one of Cerebral’s three plans.
  3. Meet the therapist, prescriber, or both online, depending on the plan a person has chosen.
  4. Develop an individualized treatment plan with the healthcare professional.

If a person wants medication, they can have it sent to their home or a designated pharmacy once a month. Those having therapy sessions can schedule phone or video appointments each week.

A person can schedule appointments, send and read messages, access self-care resources, and look at their progress on the online interface.

Members can also access care through the Cerebral mobile app, available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. With this app, people can schedule appointments, track their progress, and manage their accounts.

Clients with in-network insurance must sign up for video appointments, but those without can opt to meet through video or by phone. The company aims to schedule the initial appointment within 7 days of signing up for services.

People can cancel their appointments with 24 hours notice. They can cancel their Cerebral plan at any time.

The company’s care counselors guide clients in learning self-care practices, such as mindfulness.

Cerebral’s medication prescribers guide new clients through safe and effective strategies for starting and managing medication such as antidepressants. In some situations, the platform’s providers may also help users modify their medication plans and develop safe plans for switching or coming off medication.

Cerebral’s therapists treat clients with evidence-based techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Cerebral providers prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

It does not offer stimulants or controlled substances.

The company writes that users should not stop taking any medication without the supervision of a prescriber.

At the time of publication, Cerebral plans are priced as follows:

  • Medication and care management: This plan costs $99 a month. A person can speak with a doctor to get a diagnosis and a prescription and have regular checkups.
  • Therapy: This plan costs $259 a month. The first month costs $99. A person can choose their therapist and have weekly sessions via phone or video call.
  • Medication and therapy management: This plan costs $325 a month. The first month costs $139. A person will have access to all therapy and medication services with this plan.

The plan prices do not include the cost of medication. A person must pay for this themselves or use health insurance. Shipping costs for medication are included in the plan prices.

Cerebral has partnered with several insurance companies across the United States, so people can get coverage for their treatment in some cases.

Additionally, all three Cerebral treatment plans are eligible for coverage with flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) funds.

Cerebral claims that it follows all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and standards to safeguard personal privacy.

The Cerebral privacy policy defines a person’s protected health information (PHI) as demographic information that could identify them, their physical health or condition, treatment, and payment. Cerebral states that a person’s PHI may be disclosed by healthcare professionals and staff to coordinate and manage a person’s healthcare, billing, or as required by law.

Learn more about the Cerebral Privacy Policy.

Cerebral’s therapists play an important role in treating mental health. The company states that it is physician-led and employs board certified psychiatrists, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

According to Cerebral, its licensed therapists hold a PsyD, PhD, MSW, or MSEd from an accredited institution. They are all licensed — or in the process of getting a license — to practice in one or more states. Some therapists have Associate level licenses, meaning they are working under the supervision of a professional clinical supervisor.

Cerebral therapists may also:

  • be a licensed clinical social worker
  • be a licensed mental health counselor
  • be a licensed professional counselor
  • be a licensed clinical professional counselor
  • be a licensed marriage and family therapist

Cerebral currently works with prescribing providers who hold licenses in all states.

Cerebral offers three membership plans, outlined below.

Therapy

  • Price: $259 a month

Therapy with Cerebral involves licensed therapists using evidence-based practices to help clients address past or present trauma, navigate life transitions, and adopt ways of thinking and working with their emotions that improve symptoms of a mental health condition.

Under the Cerebral therapy plan, a person can meet with their therapist up to four times a month by phone or video.

Medication and care management

  • Price: $99 a month

With this plan, a person can get evaluations and diagnoses from healthcare professionals. Cerebral says these are usually nurse practitioners with specialized training to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

A person will get a personalized treatment plan and ongoing support through phone or video calls.

Medication and therapy

  • Price: $325 a month

Cerebral says this is its most clinically effective plan. It includes medication management, if necessary, and therapy.

It involves a complete evaluation and diagnosis, and a prescriber can offer medication if necessary. A person can then meet with a therapist up to four times a month for ongoing support.

The table below compares Cerebral with its main competitors.

Services offeredPriceOffers prescriptions?Insurance
Cerebral• therapy
• medication
• medication management
$99–325 per monthyes• yes
• HSA
• FSA
Talkspace• individual online therapy
• couples therapy
• teen therapy
• psychiatry
• messaging and video options
$69–849 per monthyesyes
Brightside• medication
• therapy
$95–349 per monthyesyes
BetterHelptherapy$240–360 per monthnoyes

At the time of publication, Cerebral is involved in multiple lawsuits.

A former Cerebral employee filed a labor lawsuit against Cerebral. They claimed they were fired for speaking out about the company overprescribing ADHD medication. According to the employee, who was a former executive of the company, Cerebral’s chief medical officer told employees to prescribe stimulants to all customers with ADHD to improve patient retention.

They also claimed that users were able to make multiple accounts on the platform to receive additional medication.

The Department of Justice is also investigating Cerebral regarding the overprescription of ADHD medication, which could be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

The company has stopped prescribing stimulants for ADHD and offers nonstimulant medication instead.

The company has also drawn criticism after changing more than 200 employees’ salaries to hourly pay contracts.

Initial research suggests that online therapy is effective.

A 2022 study involving university students found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, online counseling was almost as effective as face-to-face counseling for reducing the symptoms of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. However, it did not significantly improve their overall life satisfaction. In-person counseling was more effective in this case.

A small 2021 study looked at online therapy from the perspective of therapists. The study found that therapists believed online therapy removed some physical and financial barriers to care that may affect certain populations.

Online therapy can also offer people greater anonymity than in-person counseling and reduce feelings of shame.

However, the authors wrote that technological disruption and the possible blurring of boundaries between therapists and their clients could have a negative effect on the therapeutic relationship.

Additionally, some therapists felt that online therapy may affect therapeutic presence, as nonverbal cues may not be detectable online.

The authors wrote that therapists need more specific training on how to deliver care online.

Although some people can find the decision to see a doctor for their mental health difficult, it is important to get support.

It is normal to have short-term periods of low mood or stress. However, if a person experiences long-term distress that interferes with everyday life, it may be time to speak with a doctor.

Signs that a person could benefit from professional care include:

  • they find meeting their responsibilities at work, school, or in their private life difficult
  • they have withdrawn from friends and family
  • their energy levels, appetite, and sleeping habits change
  • they have difficulty concentrating
  • they have lost interest in hobbies and interests
  • they have recurring and distressing thoughts
  • they worry excessively

A doctor may suggest support groups, individual therapy, or medication. They may also discuss lifestyle changes to help improve a person’s symptoms.

Below, we answer some of the top frequently asked questions about Cerebral.

Does Cerebral prescribe Xanax?

No. Cerebral cannot prescribe controlled substances such as Xanax.

Will Cerebral prescribe Adderall?

No. Cerebral no longer prescribes stimulants for people with ADHD.

Is Cerebral under investigation?

Yes. A grand jury from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern New York subpoenaed Cerebral for information regarding possible controlled substance violations. The Federal Trade Commission may also investigate the company.

Can Cerebral diagnose me with ADHD?

Yes, if a Cerebral doctor thinks it is an appropriate diagnosis. A person seeking an ADHD diagnosis should choose the medication and care management or medication and therapy plans from Cerebral.

At present, Cerebral does not offer stimulant medication for ADHD.

Cerebral is a telehealth company providing online mental health support and medication management.

Online mental health support can reduce some of the physical, financial, and emotional barriers to care. It may also cost less than traditional in-person care.

However, Cerebral has a mixed reputation regarding patient care, and a person should research current customer reviews before signing up for the service.

Anyone experiencing severe symptoms of a mental health condition should contact a doctor.