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 412 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 4.3
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 326 4 star: 20 3 star: 2 2 star: 5 1 star:  59
Bottom Line: 84% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 412
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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
  • Online counseling was the best choice for me

    • New Mexico,
    • Apr 19, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Aside from a busy work schedule, the things I have been going through lately have caused a great deal of anxiety, unrest, and depression. When I'm fighting these emotions, it's hard for me to even pick up the phone to talk to someone about coming into their office and talking about my feelings. The thought of it causes a lot of anxiety! I knew I needed help though so I took to the internet. BetterHelp.com was the first result that popped up for me. It has been a very easy process to start counseling. After answering several questions, I was paired with a counselor that took immediately to get into what's happening in my life right now. He's been able to read between the lines of what I've said and has offered helpful insights into my behaviors.

    I would recommend BetterHelp.com to anyone who wants to open up about what they are going through but who may not feel comfortable in an office with eyes on them, or who may just have a schedule that is too erratic, busy or unstable.

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

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  • Amazing

    • New Jersey,
    • Apr 14, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I had thought for many years about getting therapy and finally now that I am almost forty I went for it! BetterHelp has been of great help to me in helping me release my anxieties and concerns. I love it! Nancy my therapist is amazing; she understands what I am trying to say and encourages me to keep being positive and moving forward in life with a positive mindset and not dwelling on the "what ifs." These past three weeks have been of great help to me.

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

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  • Great counselor, great customer service

    • Germany,
    • Apr 12, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I joined BetterHelp about a month ago while struggling with a lot of distress.

    I was connected to my first counselor the day I joined.

    I was not happy with my first counselor and decided to work with another one after a few days. It was possible with just one click!

    I received additional support from BetterHelp service:

    - They consulted me on getting their internal financial aid because of my economic situation.

    - They gave me good advice on communication with my counselor.

    - They provided me with a list of alternative counselors suitable for my needs.

    I was able to connect to my new counselor, the one I've chosen myself, the next day after switching. I've got several free of cost days from BetterHelp as compensation.

    My second counselor has been a great match for me, he's the best counselor I worked with so far.

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

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  • Great experience!

    • California,
    • Apr 12, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Very helpful for those of us who travel for a living - we can get help anywhere and don't have to be in one locale. My therapist is great, and has helped me a lot by making useful, actionable suggestions.

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

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  • Blown away!

    • Olathe, KS,
    • Apr 11, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I am simply blown away by BetterHelp.com. The signup process couldn't be any easier or intuitive. They were spot on matching me with a therapist that I love, right off the bat. The online communication is great, and I'm able to write as much or as little as I want whenever I want. I have been recommending this site to all my family and friends. Couldn't be any happier.

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

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  • Rejected help

    • Orange County, CA,
    • Apr 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    These people aren't real therapists. If your questionnaire reveals that you have any actual mental illness, they'll just tell you they can't help and give you a pathetic list of local therapists. Just for reference, a real service that can't help you (this happens a lot) will usually make at least some put some minor level of effort to recommend you to a different therapist or doctor. It's very clear that these people just want to get rid of you if you have a mental illness, not help.

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

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  • Feeling highly valued

    • Redmond, OR,
    • Apr 3, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I learned about BetterHelp.com through a popular YouTube person, who did quite a bit of research. I agree that they offer fair and reputable counseling.

    In a couple of occasions, I have contacted customers service and they went beyond what I expected and handled my concerns.

    My counselor is highly professional and competent and I love how easy it is to set goals. She is always kind and respectful.

    They really seem to be the "real deal" as a good business.

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

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  • 0 out 1 people found this review helpful

    BetterHelp review

    • Phoenix, AZ,
    • Apr 3, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've met two counselors on BetterHelp, and where the first one may not have fit my particular need and I decided to leave BetterHelp, I was willing to give it another chance. In doing so, I met another counselor who helps me in my time of need and makes me feel more like a functioning adult and less like an emotional wreck. BetterHelp is on the pricier side but I feel like the emotional wellness, and the multiple platforms of availability are extremely useful.

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

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  • BetterHelp is a great company.

    • Florida,
    • Apr 2, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is a great company. I have a counselor named Mary and she's very patient and understanding. Even if there's nothing going on, she always reaches out. It's always nice to have BetterHelp as an option when I start to feel overwhelmed. I message her whenever I can't seem to handle my emotions and I feel as if it's had a positive impact. I don't feel a weight on my shoulders like I used to before I started therapy. I strongly recommend BetterHelp and their services.

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

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  • Great service, recommend this for everyone.

    • Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada,
    • Mar 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Great service, very quick and easy to sign up, matched me perfectly the first time with the right therapist I needed. Easy to contact my therapist during the week and signing up for a live session is easy and straight forward. I recommend this for everyone that needs it.

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

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  • Better than face-to-face help

    • Tulsa, OK,
    • Mar 28, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    My anxiety makes it very difficult to have face-to-face therapy. Additionally, the better counselors and therapists nearby are extremely expensive, and I am without insurance currently. I can message my counselor whenever I want, and schedule live chat sessions, which makes me feel much more comfortable and open to discussion. Though I love my counselor, I think I won't be needing the service long; it is THAT good.

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

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