BetterHelp Review - Is It Legit or Hype?

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 588 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 477 4 star: 32 3 star: 2 2 star: 7 1 star:  70
Bottom Line: 87% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 588
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  • Super recommend this app for busy working professionals

    • By Nicole B.,
    • California,
    • Jan 18, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    This app makes seeing a counselor/therapist so easy. I highly recommend this app to anyone that has a busy life but also needs to make time for healing old wounds and desires to improve their behavior.

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

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  • Accessible counseling for the busy mom

    • By Rachel M.,
    • Mosier.rachel@gmail.com,
    • Jan 17, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    As a mother on maternity leave, my income is little and my free time is even less. Most therapists/counselors aren’t available evenings and weekends when my partner would be home to take the baby. This has provided me an avenue with which to access real support within my busy day. It has been the missing puzzle piece to get me through this difficult time.

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

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  • Good service - would recommend it to friends and family

    • By Bassam E.,
    • New Zealand,
    • Jan 17, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I encourage the use of this service, it’s been a great help! I found the platform easy to use on both mobile and PC. There are a number of great counselors to choose from with a vast number of years of expertise too. They're knowledgeable and most likely if not surely will have a good grasp and understanding of the problem you're facing. I like the price affordability too, in-office therapy has a price tag some people can’t afford or would rather not spend money on, this service makes it affordable. Anyone can share their thoughts via Chat, Audio Clips and also schedule Live Chat sessions, Audio Calls, and a Live Video call. I suggest picking someone who has expertise in your problem to do that just head over to their profile and find the right counselor. It has been a very positive experience for me because I didn’t feel too comfortable in sharing what was going on with the people around me and wanted to talk to someone with years of experience on the matter. This service is for anyone seeking insight to what they're going through and wanting support during a difficult time or just want to better themselves in general and haven’t been able to find those answers they are searching for. The other convenient thing I found is being able to control the payment plan with the membership and the billing cycle. They have made it easy by including a variety of payment options, weekly, monthly.

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

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  • BetterHelp online counseling is helping me to improve my life

    • By Madelyn W.,
    • Essex, England,
    • Jan 17, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Although I did not feel that my first BetterHelp counselor was a good match for me, it was quick and easy to switch to a new one and I was given a complimentary free week as a goodwill gesture. My new counselor is far better and now that we are developing a relationship I feel she is really getting to know me and is able to help me work towards my objectives. I find her approachable and easy to talk to - like chatting with a good friend - and I come away feeling reassured, validated and heard. This gives me the confidence to keep making positive changes and to trust myself. Thank you BetterHelp and Dr. McGrath Fair!

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

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  • Terrible. Avoid at all costs.

    • By Daniel B.,
    • California,
    • Jan 16, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp has a lot of problems. The video session service didn’t work and the support representatives couldn't resolve the issue because their senior staff member kept trying to blame it on my "internet connection". Eventually, I figured out the actual cause was that BetterHelp doesn't work with many versions of Chrome. Thanks BetterHelp!


    Oh and for counseling services are advertised as "monthly" except BetterHelp secretly defines a month as four weeks in order to shave a few days of service away from customers. ON TOP OF THAT, I went through ten counselors without seeing one who had experience with career-related issues, even though that’s what I kept requesting help with.

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

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  • Best decision I've made in a while

    • By Andrea L.,
    • Pennsylvania,
    • Jan 13, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is one of the best things that has ever happened to me! I was hesitant to start therapy because I felt like my problems weren't serious enough but BetterHelp was the perfect option for me. I got paired with an amazing therapist who has become someone who I really trust and feel supported by. I can count numerous, concrete ways in which I have improved my life since starting BetterHelp and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to change their life for the better!

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

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  • Good talk

    • By Keonwoo K.,
    • Utah,
    • Jan 13, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    My therapist is a good man.

    He encourages me to grow and learn more about the world. He listens to me carefully and tries to come up with the best solution possible. I had very low self-esteem, but I am trying my best to escape from that dark reality. I am coming up with a better future about my life and fixing my problems. I am taking things step by step and learning to be humble always.

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

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  • Great counselors, great platform

    • By Summer H.,
    • Valparaiso, IN,
    • Jan 12, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have used BetterHelp twice in my life, and I have had great experiences with both counselors. The online sessions plus the unlimited messaging finally make therapy convenient for me, which made me stay with it longer, resulting in better progress. Also, with BetterHelp, I get 4 sessions for the same price as one session when I was doing traditional counseling. I do not have any complaints with the company. Even their customer service was quick and friendly. I will always come back to BetterHelp for all my therapy needs.

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

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  • The best counseling experience I’ve had.

    • By Anna H.,
    • Shreveport, LA,
    • Jan 12, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    This is the best counseling experience…

    I got connected with the perfect therapist. She and I have progressed so far in just six months. I feel like a different person. Being able to text anytime and record my thoughts and feelings as they are being experienced is the key to a successful experience. Every week I am given an assignment or something to write and think about. That too is something I’m not used to. I’ve been through many counselors. This is it for me. I won’t go anywhere else. Every week when I have my FaceTime session, I can be anywhere. Home, pulled over on the side of the road, on vacation in the pool. Doesn’t matter. Being open and hungry for change is important, and this I believe will inspire through the times when it is difficult to find the hunger.

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

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  • 100% recommend BetterHelp

    • By Samantha W.,
    • New Mexico,
    • Jan 10, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Absolutely love BetterHelp, it had helped me so much, and is so convenient and will fit any schedule!

    Many counselors work at night and weekends!

    My counselor really cares and really listens to me, that's not something I found with any counselor I ever saw in person.

    There is a counselor at BetterHelp for everyone, they are so diverse and you can change at any time.

    I recommend BetterHelp to everyone I can, it had made such a difference in my life.

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

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  • Helpful

    • By Twalisha W.,
    • Dallas, TX,
    • Jan 10, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I did the two weeks and it has been amazing with Jessica. I wasn't able to afford it but BetterHelp has found ways to help me to continue with my need for counseling and it is amazing and very appreciated.

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

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