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.

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Read 492 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 395 4 star: 25 3 star: 2 2 star: 6 1 star:  64
Bottom Line: 86% would recommend it to a friend
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  • Editor’s Note: It is our understanding that this company has been asking its customers to leave feedback on HighYa. We assure you that each of these reviews has still been subjected to the same verification & vetting process that all submitted reviews go through. Learn More Here
  • A truly beneficial experience

    • California,
    • Sep 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've only been using BetterHelp for a few weeks, but my assigned counselor has been compassionate and helpful in guiding the sessions. I've been using the text chat option and it seems to really help as I'm far more eloquent in text form than verbal. It also makes for a much more relaxed session as my anxiety doesn't appear so often when I'm writing. 10/10 would recommend..

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

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  • Counseling at BetterHelp

    • New Zealand,
    • Sep 17, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I would definitely recommend using BetterHelp. I have been using them for 3 weeks and I have never felt better. The counselors are very caring and professional. They listen and just help in any way they can. I can't imagine my week without talking to my counselors now. They have changed my life.

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

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  • Great resource

    • Florida,
    • Sep 16, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp.com is a great resource that provides affordable counseling on your schedule. I highly recommend it if you are looking for some assistance in working through some issues.

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

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  • Convenient AND excellent counseling

    • London, United Kingdom,
    • Sep 14, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Heather listened and got me. She saw how my problem at this moment is a pathway to a transformation from doormat to person. Thank you Heather and BetterHelp for a quality session.

    The tech needs a bit of work (even this message is not sending well), but overall it was an excellent experience. Makes time for self-care.

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

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  • Best thing I've ever done

    • West Sussex, England,
    • Sep 14, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is something everyone should at least know about it, if not use. Given the proportion of mental illness in the population, this has never been more imperative. BetterHelp does what it says on the tin - the help provided is only as good as the user makes it. Get out there and get better!

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

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  • BetterHelp is awesome

    • Memphis, TN,
    • Sep 11, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp set me up with a counselor whom I have been with ever since. They're screening questions are excellent for helping them pair you with a counselor, but you are able to switch counselors if you're needing something different, or if for some reason you and your counselor don't "click".

    BetterHelp's site is user-friendly, which is great for people who have anxieties, who like order and organization, and efficiency. Everything you need is right in your account profile. They offer so much like groupinars, live video sessions, and now you're very own journal, which you may share with your counselor if you so choose.

    Good communication is another wonderful thing that BetterHelp has going. They truly are respectful, timely, professional, and on top of things. You can expect a prompt email with pertinent information.

    I have recommended BetterHelp to people, and will continue to do so. It has been a blessing in my life and I'm most grateful.

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

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  • BetterHelp has helped me

    • Atlanta, GA,
    • Sep 6, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Before seeking help through BetterhHelp I had reached out to local counselors by phone and email to schedule a face to face session. None of the counselors called or emailed me back. I was in desperate need for someone to talk to and the price didn't matter. I read reviews about BetterHelp and I wasn't for certain if the service would work for me, but after reading several counselors' profiles I found one that was a good fit. I am beyond happy with the results that I have achieved and I could not have done it alone. I was battling with depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and compassion fatigue. My symptoms decreased weekly upon talking to a counselor through this service.

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

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  • TOO EASY

    My experience with BetterHelp has been amazing. The level of convince offered by their service makes it so easy, almost TOO easy, to get help when I need it. I receive life skills and advice and guidance from my counselor. And what’s great too is they not only offer a free 7-day trial upon request, but they have a financial aid option for those struggling to afford their service. I highly recommend this service. It’s probably saved my life.

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

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Pointless therapy

    • Michigan,
    • Sep 2, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Just yet more pointless "therapy". I wasn't challenged or questioned to find out more about what's wrong. Therapists are supposed to do more than just sit there and listen to a patient vent. Ask the right questions and find out what's wrong with me.

    Oh, and homework? Seriously?

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

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  • BetterHelp saved my life

    • Indiana,
    • Sep 2, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp has really helped me manage my anxiety and depression in a healthy way. Even when I don’t have the strength to keep up with it, it’s comforting to know that it is always there!

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

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  • Excellent substitute for conventional talk therapy

    • Texas,
    • Aug 31, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have really enjoyed my experience with BetterHelp. I came to their website after being unable to find an in-person therapist that was both available and affordable. BetterHelp's platform makes therapy affordable for me and I am really grateful for it!

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

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