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 445 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 355 4 star: 23 3 star: 2 2 star: 5 1 star:  60
Bottom Line: 85% 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
  • 38 out 40 people found this review helpful

    Fraud

    • Dallas, Texas,
    • Mar 11, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was contacted by one of the "trained therapists," a Dr. Dixon, through BetterHelp. Within the first five messages, this person did not seem like a trained therapist. By the last message I received from Dr. Dixon, it was painfully obvious I had been duped. When I asked if we would have a Skype session, I received no more messages.

    Other unsuspecting and trusting people could receive guidance from a fraud. This is potentially dangerous. Thankfully, I did not disclose too many personal things to this person. I would like to know how BetterHelp verifies their therapists. His profile says he has a Ph.D. but I'm curious, a Ph.D. in what?

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

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  • 28 out 36 people found this review helpful

    A month up front

    • New York, NY,
    • Mar 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    They charge a month up front when it isn't clear that they'll do that. For me, that was $180. I can't afford that; I'm in college!

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

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  • 23 out 31 people found this review helpful

    Charged me $45 per week without my knowledge

    • Lisbon, Portugal,
    • Apr 4, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Probably a useful service for many, but decided it wasn't for me after trying their free trial. When I signed up, the wording was not clear that they would begin automatically charging me $45 per week. When it finally showed up on my bank statement, I requested a refund, which they refused despite the fact I never used the service after my trial.

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

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  • 25 out 35 people found this review helpful

    They're abusing depressed people

    • Germany,
    • Apr 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    On January 10, I wanted to give it a try because there was a one-week free trial. When I was enrolling, I was asked to give my credit card details to pay $1, saying that that money is to be sure that everyone was serious about the counseling. I thought that was okay.

    They immediately found me a counselor who was very nice to me. But in 3-4 days I understood online counseling wasn't good for me. So I stopped using their service in less than a week.

    This week, I realize that they charged me $135 in March. So they started taking my money on March 1st, $45 weekly. I immediately canceled my membership and wrote to their customer service. The customer service is offering to pay me the last payment only, that means $45, and adding that they don't check if I get any help or not.

    I can understand that they have policies, but I am very sure that I didn't accept to pay $45 weekly because I don't have that much money! I'm a student, and this is a huge amount of money for me. The only reason that I gave my credit card information was paying the $1 at the enrolment.

    I think they aren't honest. I think they waited for a while and then they gave it a try to get my money, and they could do this for three weeks until I realized that I was getting robbed.

    Now I kindly ask them to pay $135 back to me. Because they weren't clear about their policies, and they're abusing the people who need help and who are in a depression.

    I could have recommended them to my friends if they didn't do that to me.

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

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  • 22 out 25 people found this review helpful

    Do not use!

    • Ohio,
    • Jul 12, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was told I'd be charged $46, but I was charged $180 with no warning. It took me hours to finally reach them by phone, where they told me I'd have to wait for an email the next business day (funny because they took my money within seconds). I'm already broke, and now I'm in a complete hole until next payday. And all because I wanted "affordable help." Do NOT use!

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

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    • Aug 1, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Hi D,

      If you need to get in touch with us, please email us at contact@betterhelp.com. We'd be happy to assist you with your subscription plan!


  • 18 out 23 people found this review helpful

    Scam

    • North Carolina,
    • Jul 24, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I saw this ad on Facebook and thought it'd be nice to talk with someone in the comfort of my own home. Next day, I was contacted by a counselor, at which time I responded that I did not want the service. I can talk to friends/family for free, and to cancel my subscription.

    After several months, and a VERY long phone call with the number on my credit card bill, repeating that I've never used the service and that I want it canceled, and a full refund, I'm STILL being billed $180 a month. I'm trying to obtain an itemized bill, and obtaining legal counsel to get all this money refunded. Total scam. Apparently, if you tell anyone you don't want this, or try to stop it, they can't relay that info to the "billing" department.

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

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    • Aug 1, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Hi Gina

      Please get in touch with us at contact@betterhelp.com. We can assist you with any charges made on your account with our Support Team.


  • 14 out 15 people found this review helpful

    Make sure you read the billing rules

    • Memphis, TN,
    • Oct 12, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Dr. Hamm is great! There is an Allison that will send you emails trying to get you to write a good review, but if there is a problem, she will not contact you back. Be careful, they say $45 a week but hit you with a $180 bill for a month. I know I saw others having billing problems. I should have listened and hope you do too.

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

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    • Oct 12, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Hi Ron, thanks for leaving your review for us here. It looks like our team members have gotten back to you within one business day and assisted you with your account. Please check your email!


  • 13 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Do NOT pay for this service!

    • Wisconsin,
    • Oct 22, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I paid $45 to speak with a therapist, and I was never matched with one! I got the same message numerous times saying they were looking for a therapist for me. They ripped me off, and I don't want them to rip you off too. Do not waste your money!

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

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    • Nov 2, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Hi Emma. Thanks for your review. Please contact us at contact@betterhelp.com for any billing issues!


  • 15 out 17 people found this review helpful

    Rubbish

    • Somerset, United Kingdom,
    • Nov 8, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I registered for an account, and they told me to wait 24 hours for a therapist. Three days later I get an email telling me that BetterHelp is not suitable for me. My anxiety has now been so bad. I've even had to stay off school.

    Don't bother with this crappy service.

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

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    • Nov 10, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Thanks for letting us know, Jess. We understand that online counseling is not the best resource for everyone at this moment, and we apologize. You can utilize any of the free resources that we provided you in our email to seek any additional help that you may need.


  • 15 out 15 people found this review helpful

    Hard to cancel, etc.

    I was going to do the trial and briefly speak with a counselor. I didn't realize my trial was up, but today I was charged a lot more than what I had in my checking account. So I am overdrawn in my checking account. They only refunded most of my money. They also stated that my counselor would reply after I messaged her that I wanted to quit counseling and give me instructions on how to quit counseling. I think this is ridiculous. I will see what my counselor says as I since messaged her again. But last I spoke to her, she said all she had was the site's email address (?).

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

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  • 27 out 27 people found this review helpful

    Pretty good, unless you want to end the subscription.

    • Los Angeles, CA,
    • Dec 8, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I must say I do like the BetterHelp service. My therapist was great until the time came that I requested to discontinue the service.

    This is a subscription service, and you will be charged every week! The only complaint I have is their process for ending the subscription.

    First of all, there's no one to contact the company. No phone number, no email, nothing. If you want to cancel, you must email your assigned therapist. I followed this process with this message,

    "I would like to stop counseling effective now. You're great. I just don't have time to check in, and I'm spending money for no reason. So I want to end service for the time being.

    Thank you, Mark."

    And one week later I get a message from the therapist saying,

    "You are still on my roster."

    That was it. No reason given. No suggestions for a resolution. Nothing.

    I was happy with the service up until this point. They should call this Hotel California because apparently, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

    I can't stand poor customer service or being taken advantage of. This experience tainted my entire experience with this organization.

    Subscribe at your own risk.

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

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    • Dec 11, 2017

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      Hi Eddie, thanks for your review. It sounds like your counselor was not able to send you the "quit instructions" on your account. (It should be in a beige box in your messaging room.) You can get in touch with us at any time at contact@betterhelp.com or (888) 688-9296. We respond to all inquiries within one business day.


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