BetterHelp Review - How Effective Is It?

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. 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 take the place of visiting a therapist’s office? This review examines how BetterHelp works and whether it's the right choice for your needs.

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, the company asks you 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; such 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.

BetterHelp might be a viable option to consider if you:

  • Don't have access to local specialized counselors
  • Don't want to pay $75 to $160 on average per session
  • Want the convenience of unlimited messaging with your therapist
  • Feel intimidated by in-person meetings

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 659 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 4.5
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 540 4 star: 38 3 star: 2 2 star: 8 1 star:  71
Bottom Line: 88% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 659
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  • Highly recommend

    • By Shamra J.,
    • Utah,
    • Mar 26, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is the best thing I've found! I love my counselor and how helpful she is. I love that I can choose to use the video, phone, or live chat option. One of my favorite features is being able to chat with my counselor outside of the session and she can send me worksheets and chats as well. I would absolutely recommend this!

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

  • Amazing opportunity

    • By Stacia M.,
    • Tyler, TX,
    • Mar 26, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I love BetterHelp, it’s simply an outlet and counselor at your fingertips! I wish everyone could experience this! I am so happy I gave it a try. My counselor, Kristen, has been the biggest help with my issues and she’s so personable and friendly.

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

  • Hope

    • By Shabina K.,
    • London, United Kingdom,
    • Mar 21, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I feel much better by speaking to my counselor. I feel heard and am able to really express myself. It’s like I am talking to a friend. I can message my counselor at any time. Also, I have the option of talking to my counselor via telephone or video chat. I can journal my thoughts and feelings and schedule appointments. I can also attend group seminars. Worksheets are available too.

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

  • Wonderful

    • By Fareedh S.,
    • Birmingham, United Kingdom,
    • Mar 19, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is a wonderful service. I have subscribed to this service for two weeks so far and it has been so helpful towards the problems I face. Along with having a private counselor, you also have the opportunity to join various sessions on different topics held by other counselors with other people.

    I would recommend this service to anyone that do not have time to see a counselor face to face.

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

  • Therapy for my soul

    • By Tammie L.,
    • Smyrna, TN,
    • Mar 18, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was matched at first with someone that I did not hit it off with, I quickly asked to change and Kendall came into my life. She is absolutely wonderful. She answers my questions and concerns almost immediately.

    She has great compassion and is never judgemental.

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

  • BetterHelp is one heck of an app

    • By Ahmed A.,
    • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
    • Mar 18, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Dear reader,

    Do you ever have that not funky fresh feeling?

    Do you face current challenges in your life?

    Tired of having no one to guide you?

    Well, now there’s BetterHelp.

    BetterHelp therapy team goes directly to the South Central nervous system, reducing cranky levels, regulate uptightness, and help channel love and compassion directly to your problem areas.

    So ask your doctor if BetterHelp is right for you!

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

  • Online counseling

    • By Terri M.,
    • Washington, MO,
    • Mar 17, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I had been considering counseling for some time but was reluctant to find a counselor in my area to see. I had heard of the online counseling services but was concerned that it was a scam and would not be helpful. I was very wrong. From the first day that I signed up, I was impressed. I sent my first response and was assigned a counselor quickly. I sent her a message and got a response within an hour or so. We wrote back and forth a few times a day initially and set up a phone conversation that went well. She is very responsive and answers in a timely manner. The advice has helped me and I am now a fan of online therapy if you're looking for help and don't know where to look. I am not writing her questions often because I'm feeling much better but it is good to know that she is there if I need to talk.

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

  • Very happy with BetterHelp

    • By Bernadette S.,
    • Springfield, MO,
    • Mar 17, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was reluctant to try a counseling service. I didn’t really know if it would help me work through some things. To my surprise, it has been an amazing experience. The service is great and my counselor has been awesome. I’m so pleased with the structure of the app and how user-friendly it is. If anyone is on the fence about counseling, I definitely think BetterHelp is worth a try. It has definitely been a benefit to me.

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

  • Thankful

    • By Christine A.,
    • Greenville, SC,
    • Mar 16, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I started BetterHelp so that I can grow in self-differentiation while going through some very difficult things. I was wanting to shift my focus from how overwhelmed I can feel at times and learn to honor my feelings, accept them, and shift into learning how to become stronger inwardly. I want to be able to navigate through problems with stronger confidence and inward resolve.

    BetterHelp worked with me to find the right counselor to help me go deep, be thorough, and do the mental and emotional work I need to do while feeling safe, respected encouraged and supported. It can be incredibly difficult to find the right fit in counsel when you go to an office, that task can be daunting and at times especially when in a vulnerable state. The last thing you want is the wrong counsel. What I LOVE about BetterHelp is they really help you find the right fit for you and your situation so you can get the help you need all while being in the sanctuary of your own space. It's not just "counseling" it's tailored to you and your needs. They do an amazing job to pair you with the right professional to work with you.

    My counselor is a really good listener and gives very helpful feedback, responses, encouragement, and homework so that I am actually doing the work to change not just gaining knowledge.

    I am really thankful for this resource.

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

  • It works!

    • By Gabriella J.,
    • Charleston, WV,
    • Mar 13, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have been meeting with my counselor for four months. She has been supportive, curious, and very proactively helpful. I had a couple of other counselors who were not matches for me. With BetterHelp they helped me find the fit that worked.

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

  • Saved me

    • By Christine L.,
    • Denver, CO,
    • Mar 12, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have extreme anxiety and reaching out to BetterHelp a few weeks ago saved me from destroying my life. I’m really good at making things way bigger than they are thanks to the tools and counseling I’m getting I’m in a much better place and I didn’t ruin my life. Thank you for your, I recommend anyone to reach out, this is amazing!

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

Showing 1-11 of 659

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