BetterHelp Review: The Right E-Counseling Service For Your Problems?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Apr 18, 2019

BetterHelp is the self-proclaimed world’s largest counseling service. This 100-percent online platform promises to make professional counseling accessible and affordable for anyone who wants it.

The company website states that BetterHelp members pay a flat weekly fee and gain unlimited messaging access to licensed psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counselors.

It’s their goal to help you tap into a network of specialists that can help you through a range of personal issues from mental health to relationship counseling and more. In fact, BetterHelp claims that you will get the same professionalism and quality through their service as you would through in-person appointments, but with the added benefit of flexible, unlimited communication.

But can online counseling really take the place of visiting a therapist’s office? We’ll address this issue and look at how BetterHelp works to help you decide if the service is right for you.

How to Sign Up for BetterHelp

When you first sign up for BetterHelp, you will answer a series of online questions designed to narrow down the kind of counseling service you require.

These include whether you want individual, married, or teenage counseling, your gender, age, sexual orientation, religious background, relationship status, history with therapy, current physical health, financial status, emotional state, and more.

Once you complete the questionnaire, you must create a private account through the website and verify it by email.

You can then state your preferences for a counselor and indicate whether you want someone of a particular age, religious background, gender, or specialty.

Next, you will rank several issues traditionally addressed in counseling based on whether they are relevant to why you are seeking therapy. Finally, you are asked to write a few sentences about why you are seeking therapy.

From there, BetterHelp will match you with one of their licensed counselors, and he or she will review your information and begin the communication process through the site’s message platform.

Who Are BetterHelp Counselors?

The BetterHelp website tells us that their counselors are “licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (Ph.D. / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC).”

They state that all counselors have at least a master’s degree in their field, certification in their home state, and a minimum of three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience. You can review the full list of counselors here.

How Does BetterHelp Communication Work?

At the time of writing, BetterHelp offered four primary ways to connect with your counselor.

  • Messaging: You and your dedicated counselor gain access to a private and secure online chat room where you can send and receive messages from each other. This room is open 24/7, and you will get a notification through email when your counselor messages you.
  • Chat: You can schedule a time with your counselor to message you within your chat room so that you get instant responses and feedback.
  • Phone: It’s possible to use any phone to speak with your counselor. You will need to schedule a time in advance and then both log into your counseling room at the set time. The system will then request your phone number and connect you with your counselor through a secured connection that keeps both numbers private.
  • Video: Similar to Skype, BetterHelp offers a virtual face-to-face video feature. You will schedule your session in advance and log into your counseling room at the set time. Once you both arrive, your counselor will send you a prompt to start the video session.

Is My Privacy Protected on BetterHelp?

The BetterHelp website makes it clear that your privacy is protected at every stage. You aren’t required to give your full name or contact information when you sign up, and many people choose to use a nickname.

The system does require that you provide emergency contact information before beginning the counseling process, but this information is secured within the system and only accessible if your counselor indicates that you or someone else is in danger.

What Does BetterHelp Cost?

At the time of writing, BetterHelp offered three tiers of weekly membership at different price points.

  • $45 per week: unlimited text-based counseling (option to add live sessions for $25 each)
  • $55 per week: unlimited text-based counseling and two live sessions per month
  • $65 per week: unlimited text-based counseling and four live sessions per week.

Each membership plan is charged monthly by credit card or PayPal, and your subscription continues to renew until you cancel it.

How long should you commit to BetterHelp counseling? The company states that membership timelines vary and that some people stay for just a few weeks while others stay committed for the long term.

If you have questions, the company asks you to direct them to their contact page.

Is Online Therapy Effective? Experts Weigh In

Mental health is a serious topic, so regulating a therapy session to your smartphone isn’t a decision to be made lightly. Is online counseling equally effective as in-person appointments? We posed this question to some experts to get their insight.

The overwhelming response we received from licensed therapists, social workers, and psychiatrists was that online therapy is a valuable tool that serves a critical need today.

Says Health Tech futurist Dr. Alfred Poor, “online therapy is not just a good idea; it’s a great idea. It is clearly effective, but it’s also much more efficient and convenient for both the doctor and the patient.”

Poor pointed us towards the results of a study on elderly veterans in treatment for depression. This research found no significant difference in the results achieved from in-person counseling sessions and counseling through video chat technology.

It’s also true that online therapy increases counseling accessibility for many people.

“In the past, rural patients had very limited access to counseling, especially specialized types of counseling,” says Houston psychiatrist Jared Heathman. “The pro that I am most excited about [for online therapy] is increasing access to patients in less populated areas.”

However, online counseling does have some limitations, says Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and author.

“When I work with a client, the actual words they say are a small proportion of what they’re communicating. Usually, I’ll get a strong sense of how they're feeling before they utter a word, from their body language, eye contact or lack of it, or their posture,” Burke said. “Online therapy can never replicate the level of insight that comes from physical closeness.”

Likewise, a few counselors expressed the importance to us of bringing their patients into a designated therapy space for their sessions.

“Some people want to physically move to a different space because the body can have a sense of relaxation,” clinical social worker Vanessa Benzan-Monteiro told us. “That way, [your body] recognizes, ‘Oh, I’ve stepped into my therapist’s office.’”

BetterHelp also weighs in on this debate. While they claim that 98 percent of their patients made significant progress and that 94 percent prefer BetterHelp to in-person counseling, they acknowledge on their website that their services aren’t capable of substituting for traditional therapy in all situations.

A fundamental limitation is that they can’t make official diagnoses, fulfill court orders, or prescribe medication. Likewise, insurance is less likely to cover E-therapy services than in-person appointments.

Overall, we’ve found that online therapy is still an emerging field, and more research needs to be done to about its effectiveness compared to traditional treatment.

For now, the National Institute of Mental Health’s stance on the topic is that consumers should be cautious before trusting an online therapy program because there are currently no national standards for evaluating their effectiveness.

Our View: Should You Try BetterHelp?

From this analysis, it should be clear that an online counseling service like BetterHelp is a blessing for many people.

If you lack access to local counselors who specialize in specific fields, don’t want to pay for traditional therapy sessions—$75 to $160 per session on average, according to Healthline—and want the convenience of unlimited messaging access with your therapist, or feel intimidated by in-person meetings, BetterHelp might be a viable counseling option.

However, there are limitations to this service, and it is not the right option for many people. If any of the following are true, we suggest pursuing traditional therapy instead.

  • You are a minor
  • You lack access to a reliable internet connection
  • You are suicidal or have thoughts of hurting yourself/others
  • You are dealing with an urgent crisis
  • You have been diagnosed with a mental illness
  • You have been advised to be under psychiatric care
  • You are looking for a diagnosis, prescription, or to fulfill a court order

For those who still aren’t sure whether a service like BetterHelp fits your situation, Mark Pines, CEO of OpenCounseling, suggests bringing the topic up with a therapist.

“Whether [your therapist] is online or not, they should be able to give you objective feedback where this is an effective form of therapy for your specific condition,” he said.

Here’s our summary: So long as you keep the service’s limitations in mind, we think that e-therapy services like BetterHelp can be an effective way to work with a mental health professional.


Read 542 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 437 4 star: 29 3 star: 2 2 star: 7 1 star:  67
Bottom Line: 86% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 542
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  • BetterHelp is amazing.

    • Louisiana,
    • Nov 21, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is amazing. It was super easy to find a counselor that fit and was knowledgeable of my needs and ways of expressing myself. They matched me with an amazing doctor who has gotten me on to the path of better mental health.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • BetterHelp

    • Texas,
    • Nov 20, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp has been incredibly helpful. They are not just a company advertising to help people, they are really here to help. They offer financial aid on top of their already low subscription for people who are in serious need of help but don't have the means. They also offer a one-week free trial so that you can get in contact with your matched counselor and test for yourself if it would be a good fit before you pay for their services. They also moved my payment date one day further to help accommodate my needs. I cannot express enough how genuine this company is.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Exactly what I was looking for.

    • Marysville, CA,
    • Nov 19, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is exactly what I was looking for and needed. Pricing is great and worth it. You literally have mental health help at the tip of your fingers. The counselors are knowledgeable, kind and matched well. I would highly recommend BetterHelp to my family and friends.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Highly recommend

    • Washington, DC,
    • Nov 19, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Using BetterHelp and specifically my counselor, Brittany B., has been an incredible assistance to me during a very difficult time in my life. Being able to go online at any time is so convenient and actually rewarding via the written word. It works in an honest approach so as to develop a close relationship as patient/counselor. Writing is much more therapeutic and helps to explore feelings so much more in-depth. I feel like I am in very good hands, respected and validated.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    BetterHelp lives up to the name

    • Boston, MA,
    • Nov 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    The web app is easy to navigate. You get assigned a counselor right away. The LSW I have been paired with is a great match for my needs. Overall, I would recommend that anyone wanting therapy but has scheduling issues try BetterHealth. It's been a convenient comfort. I only wish insurance covered it.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Not for me

    • Kentucky,
    • Nov 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I started using BetterHelp because it was free with my insurance; however, it doesn't feel right or helpful.

    In its defense, I have never received counseling of any type, but the two counselors with which I've interacted felt distant and superficially sincere. In a way, BetterHelp feels like a forum for providing counselors an opportunity to connect with clients for the counselor's benefit (I'm guessing monetarily) rather than a forum for patients to connect with counselors.

    I realize the last sentence seems inherently problematic, but I stand by it. My first counselor was not available for phone of video chat. When I expressed my desire for those options I was told "I don't do that," and "my profile said that before you picked me". Which (for the record), I did not pick her. The website paired us up after I requested a gay, male, counselor with experiences in relationship and intimacy issues (this counselor was not male or a member of the Queer community or knowledgeable about male intimacy problems)...interesting...

    My second counselor (picked by me) was available for phone and video communication, but had limited opportunities (scheduling more than a week out for any appointments, and 2 or more weeks for some times). Though she was also not gay, or male, or a member of the Queer Community, I picked her because she has a Ph.D. (one of my current struggles) and experience with "men's issues" (thinking this was a euphemism for Erectile Disfunction). Ultimately, I found out she "phoned-in" her Ph.D. by having a third party collect data for her, though she was proud to tell me she "didn't pay for [the third party] to do her data analysis". She also didn't have a clear grasp of qualitative research, which is my current area of focus.

    Both of these last paragraphs are about the people, and not the service, but in many ways, they go hand in hand. BetterHelp is a platform that connects people. If the pool of possible applicants is rubbish, [spoken in best Yoda voice]...so too the service shall be.

    It's important to know the platform on the computer and the phone look and work great! They send you notifications, you can schedule and discuss online, and journal your thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, it should be great. But if you're looking for a deep, and meaningful connection with someone who wants to understand you or provide additional support, this might not be the place.

    For example, I have no idea how counselors are paid on this platform, but I received several "hallmark-esk" motivational greetings from both counselors which held no bearing on my current situation. One example was...

    "Write in your journal every day. Focus on writing your story. Write down three things you are grateful for every day. The three things I am grateful for today are: my amazing family and friends, my love for writing, [and] my faith."

    Seriously?! Which card/commercial did she take this from? Are you getting paid per text? Because I haven't talked to you in a week. Also, I requested a non-religious counselor. Not that my counselor can't be thankful for her faith, but she did use it as a lens through which to understand my relationship...which was ultimately problematic as we have differing views on open-relationships, polyamory, and marriage. The counselor was accepting of my beliefs and respectful, but our interactions required continual correction regarding the fundamental nature of relationships and marriage, etc.

    My irritation with specific counselors aside, her message has nothing to do with me or my care. I objectively do not journal and have not talked to my counselor about journalling. I can extrapolate the expression "Write your story" to my life, but in the same way I can extrapolate any promotional slogan: "Just do it", "Dew the do", and "Have it your way". These sentences are effectively superficial pleasantries which make me feel I'm not unique in any way.

    Overall, BetterHelp feels like a great opportunity for individuals looking to make some money on the said as a counselor, and therefore, the candidate pool of counselors is pretty shallow.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Highly recommend giving BetterHelp a try!

    • Worcester, MA,
    • Nov 14, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have a medical situation at the moment not making it possible to drive. I very much wanted to pick back up with counseling, without having to wait until I am able to drive again. I went online and looked at options. Ultimately I decided to try BetterHelp, and I am SO glad I did. Good counselors are very hard to find, so my expectations were not too high...Defying all expectations. My counselor is one of the best I have ever had. I highly recommend giving it a try!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Getting help

    • Texas,
    • Nov 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I first started using this app because I was searching for a counselor that took my insurance in my city but it was I couldn't find anyone that fit me nor could I get calls back from those I left messages for. I finally saw a promotion for BetterHelp and thought at least I should try it for the first three months while it was free to see if it would help. I'm so thankful that I did this. My wonderful counselor has helped me overcome my first major panic attack and is always there to remind me of the importance of my mental health. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I highly recommend giving it a try.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Good place to start

    • Ontario, Canada,
    • Nov 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I found BetterHelp online and decided to give it a go. I found the service very helpful and was surprised by how attentive the counselor and the representatives were.

    Although online therapy/counseling wasn't for me, I'd definitely recommend this service to anyone looking for help and unsure of where to start.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 4 people found this review helpful

    DON'T USE THIS APP

    • Berlin, Germany,
    • Nov 5, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Tried to schedule three times and the counselors didn't show up every single time. These people don't care about your mental health, they care about making money out of people in need, seeking help. This is horrible.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Great service

    • Florida,
    • Oct 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    This is a great service. I do wish it was more affordable on my part. Even with the discount they gave it is just out of reach for me. I did get a very generous one-month trial that piqued my interest and showed me that if I ever am in a good enough financial position to put my mental health at the forefront, this is a great way to start. I have been very satisfied with the first counselor I was assigned, but I imagine that if I wasn't it would be a pretty easy process to get another one. That is very unlike real world counselors where I would have to pay AT LEAST 60 bucks to find out if I mesh with someone and usually you need to go more than once to get a good vibe. Again, if money was no option, I would sign up in a heartbeat, but with our first baby in the way, we need to prioritize our finances.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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