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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  • 35 out 36 people found this review helpful

    Dropped for being "in crisis."

    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

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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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  • 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.


  • 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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  • 24 out 24 people found this review helpful

    Oh, so you wanted to meet?

    • Mountain View, CA,
    • Oct 2, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    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

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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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  • 23 out 23 people found this review helpful

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

    • Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
    • Dec 26, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    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

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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!


  • 21 out 21 people found this review helpful

    The illusion of therapy

    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

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    • 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.


  • 20 out 27 people found this review helpful

    They have a trick to steal your money

    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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