BetterHelp Review - How Effective Is It?

By Rocklend Davis, Ph. D.
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Aug 11, 2020

Our mental health is vital throughout our lifetime, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

According to the CDC, our emotional, psychological, and social well-being make up our mental health and help us handle how we deal with stress, relating to others, and making healthy choices.

In 2015, mental illness affected approximately 43 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States.

What is BetterHelp?

There has been an increasing demand for the availability of adequate mental healthcare. BetterHelp can also be thought of as telemental health, which involves the ability to offer mental healthcare across a distance using communication technologies.

Further, the likes of videoconferencing, text messaging, and mobile applications are increasing as well.

A review has indicated the rise of telemental activities in low- and middle-income countries while showing the need to expand these services further to reach more people who need mental health services.

According to their website, BetterHelp may not be the right solution if any of the following are true:

  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
  • You are a minor or you are under the care of a legal guardian.
  • You are in an urgent crisis or an emergency.
  • You have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness or have been advised to be in psychological supervision or psychiatric care.
  • You were required to undergo therapy or counseling either by a court order or by any other authority.
  • You do not have a device that can connect you to the internet or have a reliable internet connection.

The purpose of this article is to share with you the available research that supports the delivery of online counseling through the BetterHelp platform and to help you determine if this platform is appropriate.

How To Get Started

To get started with BetterHelp, there is a link at the top right of the page that will ask you what type of counseling you are looking for. The options include individual counseling, couples counseling, and teenage counseling.

You will have to answer a series of questions before you get paired with a counselor that may take up to a few hours or a few days.

Once you have set up your account through BetterHelp, you can get counseling based on your needs, availability, and convenience in four ways:

  • Exchanging messages with your counselor
  • Chatting live with your counselor
  • Speaking over the phone with your counselor
  • Video conferencing with your counselor

After being matched with your counselor, there are numerous ways to communicate with first being messaging. You and your counselor will gain 24/7 access to a private and secure dedicated “room” where you can share things that are going on in your life.

Live chat, video, and phone sessions will need to be scheduled with your counselor by clicking a time on their available schedule.

According to BetterHelp, they recommend using their BetterHelp app that can be downloaded from the app store for an iPhone or iPad device.

Android users will need Google Chrome or Firefox on a computer or laptop for video sessions.

Further, video sessions are not currently supported in Internet Explorer or Safari.

Proposed Benefits: Science Determining The Efficacy of Online Counseling

Counseling series may be required when you are experiencing stress, anxiety, relationship troubles, parenting, depression, self-esteem, and anything that is causing interference with your happiness or preventing you from achieving your goals.

Psychoeducational interventions such as face-to-face counseling is classified as a front-line intervention due to its delivery of accurate information to individuals, families, and caregivers about mental health or a specific diagnosis (which may include possible causes and symptoms), management (including associated risks/side-effects) and prognosis, and how affected individuals can stay well.

Also, under the umbrella of mental health is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). The effectiveness of CBT has on alleviating depressive symptoms, and lowering the risk of relapse has been studied extensively.

Because BetterHelp can provide you with a licensed counseling professional, it is reasonable to assume that counselors utilizing BetterHelp as a platform may use tailored CBT protocols to target psychiatric disorders beyond depression.

That may include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.

Online Counseling

Availability and access to technology are growing, contributing to more innovative ways linking you to services that may have been only accessible in-person.

Increasing in popularity are synchronous (text messaging) written conversations as web-based mental health interventions.

One study was done to review the available literature regarding the evidence of the feasibility and effectiveness of online one-on-one mental health interventions utilizing text-based synchronous chat.

Through the wide range of mental health targets such as anxiety, distress, depression, eating disorders, and addiction, mental health interventions that were transitioned to online showed significant and sustained improvements in mental health outcomes.

The improvements were equivalent but not superior to treatment as usual.

However, the researchers urge that further research is required to determine whether time requirements for online interventions were feasible in clinical practice.

For instance, authors of a review have determined that it is still too early to recommend e-health interventions based on low-quality evidence, especially for children who are under the age of 10.

Safety

A feature of BetterHelp and their synchronous formatting of text messaging is that messages are saved.

However, there are risks to this as the information on your device may not be safe for others who can access your messaging and conversations.

Each counseling session has the options button to “shred” a previous message and will no longer show in your account.

If you wish to have your information or records be released to a third party (Primary Care Physicians, Lawyers, and Insurance companies), you will need to notify your counselor and fill out and sign an authorization form before.

How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?

Membership through BetterHelp ranges from $40 to 70$ per week and you will be billed to your credit card or PayPal account monthly.

You also have the availability to cancel your membership at any time for any reason.

To get further details regarding pricing for membership, you will have to complete a questionnaire.

From there, you will be directed to a page that offers a comparison of BetterHelp versus Traditional In-Office setting, at which they will ask for your payment information.

For an individual membership, you will get unlimited access to text, video, audio messaging, and a weekly live session for $65. As you are being billed every four weeks, the total cost will be $260 monthly.

A la carte services are not listed on their website.

Your subscription and billing cycle will start once you have been paired with a counselor.

Alternatives to BetterHelp

Performing a general search through google will provide you with results to an alternative platform of BetterHelp.

Talkspace is another alternative online platform that provides users with access to licensed therapists to help with mental health.

Starting with Talkspace will require you to perform an online assessment. You will select your therapist from a list of available matches.

Talkspace also has a search bar feature that can allow you to look up in-network partners and providers to work with your employers, health plans, and employee assistance programs to make this service more affordable.

Talkspace offers an array of pricing for its therapy service, and it is not cheap. There are three unlimited therapy messaging subscription services for individuals at Plus, Premium, and Ultimate.

The price range per month for each of the services start at $260 to $396/month with all packages giving you unlimited messaging with your therapist. However, the increase in cost is associated with the live video call.

With the Premium package, you will receive one live 30-minute session, and the Ultimate contains four live 30-minute sessions.

Monthly couples therapy and teenage therapy are also available at $396 and $260, respectively.

Live video calls are available a la carte for a cost of $65 per session.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Flexibility of schedule that is convenient for your schedule
  • Access to a licensed professional counselor
Cons
  • Results and efficacy are dependent on your paired provider
  • Scheduled counseling sessions will require and will depend on available internet connection and speeds
  • Not covered through insurance

The Bottom Line

Robust research exists in providing CBT and psychoeducational through counseling sessions.

Still, a lack of consistent research regarding web-based therapy indicates that it may be too early to recommend this service long-term.

While the services that you are getting through BetterHelp may be comparable to face-to-face counseling sessions, reimbursement from insurance may not be covered.

Online counseling should not serve as a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It is important to note that your BetterHelp provider will not make any official diagnosis to fulfill a court order or prescribe any medication.

Meaning your services may be limited by the severity of your condition or urgency of your request.

Certainly, BetterHelp will provide ease and convenience of receiving counseling sessions without leaving the comfort of your own home.

However, you are still required to put in the same effort as if you were in a face-to-face counseling session.

Compared to the alternative, Talkspace, BetterHelp may be a more affordable and reasonable option for online counseling help.

While most insurance providers do not cover mental health, Talkspace may have the ability to lower the cost, but this is dependent on their available partnerships.

It is imperative that you seek approval from your physician before receiving counseling sessions, even if it is from a licensed provider.


Customer Reviews

Start your review of BetterHelp:
  • 1117 Customer Reviews
  • 92% Recommend This Service
4.6 out of 5
5 star: 85% 4 star: 6% 3 star: 0% 2 star: 0% 1 star: 7%

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  • Fraud

    • By Irene,
    • Dallas, Texas,
    • Mar 11, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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


  • Dropped for being "in crisis."

    Overall Experience:

    Great for neurotypicals with basic problems. Any possibility of ever experiencing a crisis situation? Look elsewhere.

    I thought things were going well. My first counselor was sketchy and useless, but my second one was fairly competent, giving me lots of advice and very successfully supporting me as I worked through the rough patch I was going through.

    While I understood that BetterHelp does not help with crisis situations specifically, what I didn't know is that they will not tolerate clients experiencing any form of crisis. As a matter of fact, they outright abandon them. My counselor suggested that she may not be a good fit because she was having trouble finding time to communicate with me due to the holiday schedule, which is understandable. I asked who to contact and what to ask in order to get a more qualified counselor due to my diagnoses, but she never specified. Instead, after I admitted once again to struggles with suicidal ideation, going into detail about some of the delusions I had been having, I tried to log in the next day only for the website to claim that I did not have a valid account. In my email account, I find that the money was refunded on my PayPal account as well.

    Finally, after discovering my account was gone AND having the money refunded, someone bothered to contact me, determined that "online counseling may not be the best resource for you," and sent me a link to PsychologyToday so I could "consider scheduling an intake with a licensed counselor who can provide [me] with in-person counseling in [my] area."

    I don't understand why their counselors are not trained to hold the hand of their clients through making an appointment with a proper counselor. I do not understand why the crisis situation that I was in meant that the best course of action was "cut and run," though I can see the presumed liability involved. However, due to the fact that people with any kind of mental illness can reach a crisis situation, that makes this business incredibly unsafe for anyone who might need their services. Every single client currently enrolled in their services may one day experience the feeling of wanting to end their life and, if they risk sharing it with their BetterHelp counselor, they may find themselves with even more reason to back the idea that no one cares if they do it.

    I am disgusted by the lack of compassion from a company that claims to help the mentally ill. I do not see how dropping clientele entirely will somehow "wipe the blood from their hands" if the client does decide to end their life. All I see is the potential for them to destroy the lives of thousands of people because they will not support them at their worst. A company that plays into the stigma surrounding suicide in a way that is not only careless, but outright dangerous.

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


  • A month up front

    • By AJ,
    • New York, NY,
    • Mar 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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


  • Pretty good, unless you want to end the subscription.

    • By Eddie L,
    • Los Angeles, CA,
    • Dec 8, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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

    • 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.


  • They're abusing depressed people

    • By Miray,
    • Germany,
    • Apr 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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


  • If you're in a vulnerable place, please avoid this app

    • By Vee,
    • Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
    • Dec 26, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I'm going to try to be as concise as I can, which is a huge task because, boy, do I have a few gripes to pick here.

    First of all, the customer service.

    I kept seeing ads about a 7-day free trial (which makes sense because no one is ready to spend $180 USD per month without making sure they'll get something out of it). The ads we false. There is no 7-day free trial. I did receive one after asking about it, but the point is why is this false ad still going around?

    Then when I realized I wanted to stop my plan altogether and cancel my account (for reasons I will get into in a minute), there was no option to do it in the app. So naturally, I emailed customer service again and asked them to cancel my subscription. They forced me to ask my counselor to do it. Now, without disclosing too much about my condition or why I used the app, confrontation, plus the prospect of having to excuse myself, plus give reasons why I don't like someone's style of counseling is a trigger. Yup! It gave me a panic attack! An app that was supposed to be a safe mental health space.

    Second of all, the reason why it didn't work for me.

    I tried two different counselors over the span of the month subscription I paid for and IMMEDIATELY, I caught the problem. I saw the pattern. On both occasions, I felt like I was being rushed, or like my case wasn't being treated seriously enough, or with the same urgency that I needed and felt. I didn't feel like my counselors cared or were taking the time or really understood what I needed.

    I have come away from this app feeling even more hopeless than when I tried it. That's because I went in full of expectations and came away feeling like maybe I am beyond help or care, which is how the counselors made me feel. I am actually more suicidal and crushed then I was before I paid all that money with a heart full of hope.

    I even question if I'll ever feel happiness. This app, and online therapy as a whole, was my last resort to start trying to recover from rock bottom.

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


  • Oh, so you wanted to meet?

    • By Alyssa R.,
    • Mountain View, CA,
    • Oct 2, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I've had a pretty miserable time actually meeting with counselors. I had a counselor that several times had agreed to meet but then would change the time or would simply not show. Finally, I changed counselors to give BetterHelp another chance, but this happened again. The counselor agreed to meet at 1 pm on Saturday, asked to change the time to 8 am on Sunday, and then did not show for the 8 am appointment.

    Thanks, BetterHelp, for wasting my time and taking my money. This continues to be an issue. I've switched counselors, and she has rescheduled and canceled on me last minute multiple times now. For example, this past week, we were scheduled to meet on Saturday at 8 pm and then she rescheduled for Sunday at 8 pm without my consent. Then she didn't show up for the 8 pm appointment on Sunday. When I messaged her at 8:05 pm, she asked to reschedule for later in the week. This is unacceptable and poor customer service. I would like to cancel my subscription and have my money back.

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


  • Charged me $45 per week without my knowledge

    • By Justin,
    • Lisbon, Portugal,
    • Apr 4, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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


  • Do not use!

    • By D,
    • Ohio,
    • Jul 12, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    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

    • 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!


  • The illusion of therapy

    Overall Experience:

    First of all, this is NOT in any way legitimate counselling.

    Everything was great at the beginning. The staff would send emails to check up on me, make sure I'm satisfied with the service, the counselor I was matched with was very polite, punctual and compassionate, albeit a little laconic. While her replies were not much (a single question here and a "oh good for you" there), I thought that maybe that's to be expected and that a therapist won't have much to say during the initial stages of therapy, possibly because they need to get to know me a little better. So, I thought I'd give it a little time.

    During that time (weeks really), certain unfortunate things happened. I needed support, and I was paying for said support but was NOT getting any. She'd either respond with a single sentence after three whole days, when she was supposed to reply in less than 24 hours (we'd established that from the beginning), or she'd ask a question which didn't really indicate that she'd even read what I'd written in my previous message. Or, I'd ask questions and wouldn't get ANY answers at all!

    What happened with the second therapist was similar in many ways but maybe even worse. While this therapist would send longer replies, I noticed something suspicious; those messages looked legit at first but were in fact template texts she'd use for every online client, she'd only have to change the name and a few minor details, and her job's done. How do I know this? After sending a reply, I got an even longer reply from her within 4 MINUTES! There's no way she was able to read, process or decide how to respond to me (or even spellcheck) in just a few minutes! She obviously had her reply ready, which by the way was full of generalizations and "anxiety management" approaches you read about on popular psychology related websites. I can do that myself, thank you very much.

    Hopefully, not all counselors do that, but I've completely lost my faith, and I'm not willing to get scammed ever again.

    After 6 weeks of "counselling" and two therapists, I can honestly say that I'm so much worse than when I started. Now, why would I stick with a therapist who doesn't even read my messages?

    Also, they offer "unlimited access" to your therapist, but they don't tell you how how often your therapist will be able to communicate with you, could be every 24 hours, every two or even three days. Since when is that unlimited?

    Keep in mind that many of these counselors are in reality life coaches who have their own private practices and use online platforms like BetterHelp to get new clients, so make sure their credentials are legitimate. It's easy to get confused with all the LMSW, ACSW, MFT, MS CMHC, NCC, LPC, CAATC, RAS, Ph.D. titles, so do your homework first. You see a Master's degree, but it's possible it's irrelevant with clinical psychology, and in reality, they have more experience in other somewhat related fields.

    Also, they claim they have experience dealing with problems relevant to your needs, but that's definitely not the case. No clue as to how they match members with counselors. No wonder you pay $180 a month; the counselors simply don't have to really deal with every online client, I doubt they'd ever find enough time. Their regular clients obviously take up much of their time while the rest of us pay smaller fees in order to get the illusion of therapy.

    I feel so much worse than when I started "therapy," because back then I felt hopeful, but now, since I can't afford traditional counseling, I've really hit rock bottom. So, if you're just looking for someone who is NOT allowed to diagnose you (no idea why though), but make some assumptions concerning your issues (if they ever read your messages), then this website is for you. If you're in need of actual help, don't waste your time and money. The worst thing that happened to me was that I opened up and was so unbelievably and painfully ignored. I was tricked into thinking I was being supported by true professionals.

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

    • Mar 7, 2018

      Company Response from BetterHelp

      We are so sorry you had this experience Fotini. You may reach us and contact@betterhelp.com if you'd like to try to find a counselor that might be a better fit. All of our counselors are licensed counselors in their respective states, and we are so sorry if you felt you were not heard by the counselors that were assigned to you.


  • They have a trick to steal your money

    Overall Experience:

    They give you a one-week trial and ask for credit card. They specify that it's to "make sure you are serious about trying the product" and that they won't charge you.

    I didn't try the product much since I didn't have time this week (and I told that to my trial counselor!). After my trial was over, they went ahead and charged me $180 without my permission (thieves, no less). Luckily I used Paypal, so I was able to report the deal as unauthorized and they refunded me.

    This is a lame method, and the credibility of this service (regardless of professional value) is poor. Not everyone is as stubborn as me, and I believe people are getting their money stolen like this by them a lot.

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


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