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.


Read 535 BetterHelp Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 431 4 star: 29 3 star: 2 2 star: 6 1 star:  67
Bottom Line: 86% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 535
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  • Getting help

    • Texas,
    • Nov 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I first started using this app because I was searching for a counselor that took my insurance in my city but it was I couldn't find anyone that fit me nor could I get calls back from those I left messages for. I finally saw a promotion for BetterHelp and thought at least I should try it for the first three months while it was free to see if it would help. I'm so thankful that I did this. My wonderful counselor has helped me overcome my first major panic attack and is always there to remind me of the importance of my mental health. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I highly recommend giving it a try.

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

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  • Good place to start

    • Ontario, Canada,
    • Nov 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I found BetterHelp online and decided to give it a go. I found the service very helpful and was surprised by how attentive the counselor and the representatives were.

    Although online therapy/counseling wasn't for me, I'd definitely recommend this service to anyone looking for help and unsure of where to start.

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

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  • 0 out 1 people found this review helpful

    DON'T USE THIS APP

    • Berlin, Germany,
    • Nov 5, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Tried to schedule three times and the counselors didn't show up every single time. These people don't care about your mental health, they care about making money out of people in need, seeking help. This is horrible.

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

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  • Great service

    • Florida,
    • Oct 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    This is a great service. I do wish it was more affordable on my part. Even with the discount they gave it is just out of reach for me. I did get a very generous one-month trial that piqued my interest and showed me that if I ever am in a good enough financial position to put my mental health at the forefront, this is a great way to start. I have been very satisfied with the first counselor I was assigned, but I imagine that if I wasn't it would be a pretty easy process to get another one. That is very unlike real world counselors where I would have to pay AT LEAST 60 bucks to find out if I mesh with someone and usually you need to go more than once to get a good vibe. Again, if money was no option, I would sign up in a heartbeat, but with our first baby in the way, we need to prioritize our finances.

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

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Very helpful resource

    • Houston, TX,
    • Oct 26, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is a very useful app. You can choose whom you'd like to be serviced by instead of being given to a random person. I like the fact that I get to choose whom can service me.

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

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Great customer care from BetterHelp

    • Lexington, KY,
    • Oct 26, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    My overall experience with BetterHelp has been positive because the customer care team is committed to making things right and they respond quickly.

    The first time I got matched with a counselor, it was not a good fit. I also tried a second counselor on the platform and found that I was not benefiting from that either. Then I tried a third counselor and the match was amazing. Being able to connect to the right counselor for me was less difficult because when you do find that you need to change, it is a simple and fairly quick process.

    I also like that your live sessions can be chat, phone, or video. So far I've tried the phone and chat. I was really nervous about using the phone, but it went really well and the call was very clear. I feel listened to and heard and I also feel like I'm getting the support I need to heal and live a more fulfilling life.

    I highly recommend using this platform, just be honest about what you need and avail yourself of all the resources offered to help you get that. The more you put into the process, the better it works.

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

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  • Convenience of online counseling

    • Memphis, TN,
    • Oct 23, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp is great for anyone who needs affordable, and flexible counseling. Here when I have something on my mind, I can send it to my counselor at any time. I hear from my counselor every day pretty much. When I tried to squeeze everything into 1 hour once a week or every two weeks, it was hard to remember everything I wanted to talk about. With my Counselor Kalii, I am able to give thoughts everyday and she responds and then we can schedule a live chat, a phone call, and a live video chat when I want to do that. When we do our lives she has already seen all my thoughts and questions all week and is able to see how everything is going or how I things are when she has recommended something I should try to help with my stress, my marriage, my kids. This is the new way of counseling in my eyes. Definitely glad I chose BetterHelp.

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

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  • Client

    • Florida,
    • Oct 22, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I should be on my first scheduled appointment right now and no one is there. Is this a scam? I am very frustrated now and feel taken for a ride. I am homebound and this is the only way I can get counseling.

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

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  • BetterHelp suits my needs

    • Detroit, MI,
    • Oct 22, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    My schedule and lack of a car has made it difficult to find a therapist, but BetterHelp has really been an amazing workaround to that problem. I can’t recommend it enough. I was matched with an excellent therapist who has been super helpful to me, and I didn’t even like therapy before I got this app.

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

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  • Worst service ever

    • Kuwait,
    • Oct 22, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    So far it's been two days and I wasn't able to talk to ANYONE, no empathy at all, no one cares AT ALL. I tried also emailing customer service, still no response at all. I don’t understand how they would advertise this as 24/7 service and it's been two days without any help for my issue.

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

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Life-changing

    • Atlanta, GA,
    • Oct 21, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    BetterHelp had been ABSOLUTLEY life-changing for me. If you're someone like me who has severe anxiety to the point of not even being able to leave the house, BetterHelp is here for YOU. I literally have NOT been able to leave my house for months. I even work from home so I don't have to leave. My therapist with BetterHelp has helped me so much I ACTUALLY left my house for the first time in months (months)! Grant it was for only a very short amount of time but I DID it. If it was not for BetterHelp this would not have been possible. If you can't leave your house because of severe anxiety or ANYTHING, contact BetterHelp NOW. They even have financial aid for those of us that may need financial assistance.

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

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