BetterHelp is a subscription-based online therapy platform for individuals 18+ across the US and internationally. During our independent review of their services, they earned an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. With BetterHelp, you can attend weekly video, phone, or live texting sessions, plus have access to messaging with your therapist between live sessions. BetterHelp costs $240 – $360 monthly (advertised as $60 – $90 weekly), making it an affordable out-of-pocket therapy option.
Rating of BetterHelp Online Therapy
Over the past year, I have dedicated a considerable amount of time to researching, personally using, and reviewing online therapy platforms. Not only do I sign up for online therapy services and use their websites and apps, but I also attend live therapy sessions with each platform. I reach out to each online therapy platform before I begin researching and reviewing them to ask numerous questions about their products that users are likely to want answers to. All of this is done to ensure that consumers get the information they need to make intelligent purchases. During our independent review, BetterHelp earned 4 out of 5 stars overall, performing best in the categories of geographic location, extra features and resources, and user experience. However, BetterHelp underperformed in the categories of online therapy cost, therapist matching, and insurance and out-of-network benefits compared to its competitors.
Pros & Cons of BetterHelp
BetterHelp is a great way to connect and receive help from a licensed therapist or counselor. Its affordable cash-pay option is great for those seeking therapy who don’t have insurance. BetterHelp does not offer medication management at this time and they don’t accept insurance.
How to Sign Up for BetterHelp
To sign up for BetterHelp, please visit the BetterHelp website. You will be asked a series of questions before being able to sign up. These questions help them match you with the right therapist. Once you complete the questions, you will be able to create an account and select a subscription plan. Use the following link to get 20% off your first month.
What Is BetterHelp?
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that quickly connects you with a licensed counselor or therapist. BetterHelp has one subscription option, which includes a weekly, 30 or 45-minute video, phone, or live texting session. A BetterHelp subscription also includes unlimited messaging with your therapist between sessions, with therapists typically responding within 24 hours. A BetterHelp subscription also provides access to their journaling tool and group webinars.
During the signup process, you will take a short assessment and select your preferences for what kind of therapist you would like (e.g., gender, age, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, etc.). You will initially and automatically be placed with a licensed therapist in your state, which unfortunately earned BetterHelp 1 star in the “Therapist Matching or Selection” category on our scoring rubric. BetterHelp says that this matching process can take up to 48 hours, but I was matched with my therapist within an hour.
If you decide you want to work with another therapist later, it’s easy to switch therapists and you will get to select your own from a curated list. In general, all therapists with BetterHelp are able to help you manage anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as stress, self-esteem issues, overall unhappiness, and more. Before being able to message your therapist, you must fill out another consent form and share your real name, address, and phone number. Once this is done, you can begin texting with your new therapist.
While BetterHelp is geared toward individual therapy for adults, they also operate brands that offer services for couples and teens. Additionally, BetterHelp has brands that specifically serve Christians and the LGBTQIA+ community. Due to the fact, you must visit a different website to sign-up for these services, BetterHelp earned 3 out of 5 stars in the “Clientele Served” category of our online therapy scoring criteria. These options help BetterHelp connect people with therapists who will be a good fit for them, but only through their “sister sites.”
To learn more about BetterHelp’s site sisters, you can read our in-depth review of ReGain, our Teen Counseling review, or our Faithful Counseling review.
Unlike Talkspace, BetterHelp’s top competitor in the online therapy space, BetterHelp does not prescribe medication, and they do not accept insurance. This is one of the main drawbacks when comparing Talkspace vs BetterHelp.
Types of Therapy Offered
BetterHelp offers individual therapy, couples counseling, and family therapy. BetterHelp therapists and counselors utilize a wide range of modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and interpersonal therapy (IPT), which is why they earned 4 out of 5 stars in the “Range of Therapist Specialties & Treatment Approaches” category of our scoring criteria.
Who Is BetterHelp Right For?
BetterHelp is great for individuals looking to improve their anxiety symptoms or depression symptoms, for teens, couples, faith-based communities and LGBTQIA+ community, and those who want therapy but do not have insurance.
Anxiety and Depression Treatment
Those suffering from anxiety symptoms or depression symptoms will find qualified, fully licensed counselors and therapists on BetterHelp. Many therapists use a combination of techniques, like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, to help you learn to manage symptoms. It is important to note, however, that BetterHelp cannot prescribe medication at this time.
Teens, Relationships, Faith-Based, & LGBTQIA+
BetterHelp offers teen counseling, relationship counseling, faith-based counseling, and counseling to the LGBTQIA+ community through their subsidiary companies. All of these companies are owned and operated by BetterHelp, and to our knowledge, use the same technology and pool of therapists as BetterHelp.
Per BetterHelp, “Therapists opt-in to the relevant specialized sites based on their previous work experience, training, and areas of expertise, knowing that this decision will strongly influence the style of referrals they receive through the platform.”1
Teens seeking therapists are directed to Teen Counseling, couples to ReGain, those in the faith-based community to Faithful Counseling, and those who want LGBTQIA+ specific counseling services to Pride Counseling.
Those Without Insurance
BetterHelp subscriptions are a great option for those who want counseling from a licensed therapist but do not have health insurance. Out-of-pocket costs start as low as $240 monthly, depending on your location and therapist availability.
Who May Want an Alternative to BetterHelp?
BetterHelp is a great solution for many but there are some groups of people who may need an alternative. Those struggling with severe mental health symptoms, those searching for psychiatric services, those wishing to use insurance, or who are under the age of 13, will need to seek out an alternative to BetterHelp.
Those Struggling With Severe Mental Health Symptoms
If you currently have severe mental health symptoms and need immediate help, you should dial 911, visit the nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or by dialing 988. BetterHelp is not a safe choice for those in an active crisis, as therapists cannot respond immediately.
People Seeking Psychiatric Care & Medication Management
Those who have a current diagnosis, are in need of a diagnosis or need medication management will need to seek out an alternative to BetterHelp. Platforms like Talkspace or Brightside Health can provide medication management as well as therapy and both platforms accept insurance.
For more information on what subscriptions are currently available, you can read our comprehensive review of Talkspace. Or if you want more information on how cognitive behavioral therapy plus medication could work for you, please read our in-depth Brightside Health review.
You’d Like to Use Insurance
Those who have therapy covered through insurance may find their co-pays are more affordable than paying out of pocket. A great choice to look at, in addition to Talkspace, would be Cerebral Mental Health. Cerebral has a stand-alone therapy subscription option in addition to a therapy plus medication plan for those who need extra care. To learn all about their subscriptions and what else they offer, you can read our in-depth review of Cerebral.
Children Under 13
Children and preteens will not be able to sign up for BetterHelp and those seeking care for the younger teens and kids may want to look at a platform like Brightline Mental Health. Brightline can offer therapy, coaching, and medication management to kids as young as six-years-old. For more information about how subscriptions work, please read our comprehensive review of Brightline Mental Health.
BetterHelp User Reviews
BetterHelp has a 4.7-star rating based on 34,000+ reviews in the Google Play Store and a 4.8-star rating based on 90,000+ reviews in the Apple App Store. BetterHelp also has a Better Business Bureau page, which currently has them at a 4-star rating based on over 350 reviews and they have been awarded an A rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). During our independent review of BetterHelp, we rated them 3 out of 5 stars in the “Customer Service” category of our scoring criteria.
Easy & Convenient
User reviews on the BBB website talked about how easy it is to connect with a therapist and how convenient it is to schedule appointments with BetterHelp. Many talk about how therapy has really helped their overall mental wellness and that they love being able to attend therapy while being at home.
Refunds Can Be Hard to Get
Despite the high star ratings and glowing reviews, there are over 400 complaints filed with the BBB. After reading through several of them, it seems that people often have a very difficult time receiving refunds from BetterHelp. If you need help with getting a refund from BetterHelp, I recommend emailing them at: [email protected] or calling them at: 1 (888) 688-9296. I have needed to seek refunds on several occasions across BetterHelp’s sites and have never had any issues obtaining them.
As for the reviews in the app stores, users mentioned it was really awesome to be able to take their therapy on the go with them. This is especially true when you download the BetterHelp app as you will be able to attend your live sessions in the app. As long as you have mobile service or are connected to Wifi, you can attend live sessions from anywhere in your state.
Several users noted that the video calls frequently had errors and that the app crashes or lags a lot. During my first review, I did notice that the app was pretty laggy, even when connected to wifi. However, the app worked really well for me this time and I had no issues with the video or audio quality of my live therapy session.
How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?
BetterHelp costs start at $240 – $360 monthly (advertised at $60 – $90 weekly), with the ultimate cost depending on your location and therapist availability. Due to this, BetterHelp earned 2 out of 5 stars in the “Online Therapy Cost” category of our scoring criteria. However, the low monthly cost makes BetterHelp an affordable out-of-pocket option when compared to in-person therapy, which can cost $80 – $150 per session/week ($320 – 600 monthly).
Get 20% Off Your First Month with BetterHelp
Those who have been a previous BetterHelp client may be offered a “maintenance plan” which costs $200 monthly (advertised at $50 weekly). This plan includes text, video, and audio messages with your therapist plus one live session. Additional live sessions can be purchased for $80 each.
If you are redirected to one of BetterHelp’s subsidiary sites, Teen Counseling, Pride Counseling, Faithful Counseling, or ReGain, you will be offered the same subscription option and same pricing structure as BetterHelp.
Does BetterHelp Take Insurance?
No, BetterHelp does not currently accept insurance for therapy and there is no timeline for when this may become available.
BetterHelp Out-of-Network Benefits
While you can use select out-of-network benefits, like using your FSA or HSA funds for therapy, BetterHelp will not create a superbill for you. Due to all of these reasons, BetterHelp earned 2.5 stars out of 5 stars in the “Insurance & Out-of-Network Benefits” category of our scoring criteria.
Getting Started with BetterHelp
Getting started with BetterHelp is a fast and easy process that takes less than ten minutes. You can get started with your account on the BetterHelp website, but I highly recommend downloading the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
Follow these steps to schedule your first therapy session with BetterHelp:
- Go to the BetterHelp website and choose “Get Started”.
- Fill out a short survey about your symptoms and create your account.
- Share why you are interested in beginning therapy and what your preference is for communicating with your therapist, (i.e. texting or phone/video sessions).
- Enter your payment information; choose to pay with your credit card, PayPal, or use your HSA/FSA card.
- Download the BetterHelp app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
- Set a password for your app.
- Read about the therapist you were matched with and then select “Schedule” in the app.
- Choose a date and time to meet with your new therapist.
- Log in to the app when your sessions starts and stay in the “Session Room”. Your live session will start automatically.
BetterHelp Therapy: Detailed Review
BetterHelp is designed to help those seeking therapy when in-person therapy is not available or an option. It is quick and easy to sign up and matching with a therapist or counselor in your state happens within the first 48 hours. BetterHelp costs $240 – $360 monthly (advertised at $60 – $90 weekly) depending on your location and therapist availability. All live therapy appointments are held in the “Session” room of the app or on the website
During my first review, the therapist I was matched with did not offer video or phone sessions, despite selecting my preference for video/phone sessions. I ultimately switched to a different therapist from the list BetterHelp provided and it was a simple process in the app. This time, I was again matched with a therapist that did not offer video or phone sessions and it took me about ten minutes of searching to find someone that seemed like a good match for me.
For my first live session, I chose a mid-morning appointment and I made a list of what I wanted to talk about during my session. My therapist started our session on time and there were no video or audio issues whatsoever. To say my therapist was absolutely outstanding is an understatement. She asked me what I was seeking therapy for, I explained, and then she responded with follow-up questions that made me feel like she was really listening to me as an individual.
BetterHelp’s website says all of the live sessions are 30 minutes long, but my session was closer to 45 minutes long! This longer session is because depending on your therapist’s availability you may be able to have longer sessions, which is an awesome option to have. I felt like this extra time in the live session helped me and my therapist develop a good starting relationship. Throughout our live session, she was calm and caring, and by the end, I felt like I had concrete ways to help me manage my stress and anxiety. Compared to other online therapy sessions I’ve attended, this one ranks as one of the best ones overall. My Therapist was also able to set specific goals for me to work on outside of our live session.
Extra Features of the BetterHelp App
There are two extra features of BetterHelp, the “Journal,” and “Groupinars.”
The “Journal” section gives you a journal prompt suggestion, with options to shuffle or see all. There are quite a few journal prompts to choose from in categories like depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and general suggestions. Once you select a prompt you like, you will title your journal and then begin your entry. An interesting thing about these journals is you can choose to share with your therapist or keep them private.
You also do not have to use the journal prompts and treat this as a free writing journal.
“Groupinars” are webinars you can attend through the app. These are on various mental health topics from relationships and trauma, to anxiety and skill building. Each topic provides you with a group session name, date, time, and a description of what each group session will cover. If you click on “more information” then you can register for your first group session.
During my first review, I attended “Coping Skills for Stress and Depression” under the Anxiety & Depression topic. The session was led by a licensed therapist and was an hour-long PowerPoint presentation. None of the participants could see each other but there was a chat box where I could interact with them and the therapist if I wanted to. Since BetterHelp offers such great extra features like these webinars and the journal, plus all of the excellent articles on their website, they earned 5 out of 5 stars in the “Extra Features & Resources” category of our scoring criteria.
Online Vs. In-Person Therapy
There are several benefits to online therapy vs. in-person therapy, like ease of use and the convenience of speaking with a therapist on the go. People often choose to sign up for teletherapy due to personal schedules, lack of therapists available in their area, or lack of therapists with certain specialties available. It is important to note that much like in-person therapy, you may have to shop around to find an online therapist that works best for you.
According to Melanie Person, PhD, LMHC, LCPC, “Online therapy has been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy for the treatment of depression.2 When speaking specifically of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), research has found online therapy to be as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy for the treatment of depression, panic, and anxiety disorders.3 Online CBT treatment is showing no significant difference in effectiveness compared to in-person treatment4 Further, online Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is indicating effectiveness in helping clients with anxiety.5
BetterHelp Vs. Competitors
BetterHelp is one of the top online therapy platforms available in the US and internationally, but may not be the best fit for everyone. Talkspace and Cerebral are BetterHelp’s top competitors and knowing which one to choose for your personal mental health journey can be challenging.
TalkSpace Vs. BetterHelp
Talkspace offers very similar options as BetterHelp, with the ability to message your therapist, attend live phone or video sessions, and access additional in-app mental health features. In the end, both BetterHelp and Talkspace do use a matching program to connect you with a licensed therapist in your state.
A big difference between BetterHelp and TalkSpace is that TalkSpace offers psychiatric services. You can book appointments with doctors, psychiatrists, or other prescribing professionals who can provide you with medication. Appointments can be made online, but are billed separately from the subscription. TalkSpace psychiatry costs $249.00 for an initial visit and then $125.00 for follow-up appointments. You can choose to pick up medication at your local pharmacy, or if covered through insurance, you may be able to have it mailed to you.
BetterHelp’s cost depends on which state you live in, the service starts at $240 – $360 monthly, and Talkspace costs $276 – 436 monthly, with both platforms stating final costs depend on your location and therapist availability. However, TalkSpace accepts some insurance plans, which may make the cost lower for some. Determining the best online therapy option for you is an important decision and one you should take the time to make.
For more specifics about subscriptions, please read our detailed Talkspace review.
BetterHelp Vs. Cerebral
BetterHelp and Cerebral both offer subscription-based therapy options, with Cerebral also offering medication management as a subscription. While BetterHelp’s ultimate costs depend on your location and therapist availability, Cerebral offers a therapy subscription for $259 monthly and they accept insurance. This makes Cerebral just as affordable, if not more so, than BetterHelp for subscription-based therapy services.
A big difference between BetterHelp and Cerebral is the fact Cerebral offers medication management. You can choose to sign up for the Medication + Care Management plan or the Medication + Therapy plan. Cerebral can prescribe non-controlled medications that you can pick up at your local pharmacy or ask for them to be shipped directly to you.
For even more information about their subscriptions, please read our comprehensive review of Cerebral.
How Has BetterHelp Evolved?
Founded in 2013, BetterHelp is one of the most recognized names in the online therapy industry. According to their website, they have 30,000 licensed clinicians in all 50 states and claim to be the largest online counseling platform in the world. BetterHelp earned a 4 out of 5 in the “Reliability & Longevity” category on our scoring criteria due to how long they have been offering therapy services. The company’s stated mission is to make counseling “accessible, affordable and convenient.”6 In 2015, the company was acquired by Teladoc, a dominant corporation that has a stronghold on the industry and continues to acquire smaller businesses in the telehealth sector.
In 2018, BetterHelp found itself in the middle of a scandal with its paid partnerships with certain big-name YouTubers. Many of the creators on YouTube were touting services that, at that time, BetterHelp was not actually offering and making a lot of money off of affiliate links. This brought up the question of whether or not it was right for big online teletherapy companies to use influencers to gain customers.
Furthermore, it was reported that during this time, BetterHelp had a much different vetting process for its counselors. Their terms of service stated, “We do not control the quality of the Counselor Services and we do not determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service as well as whether a Counselor is categorized correctly or matched correctly to you”. 1 People were upset that they were paying so much per month for a service that was not what it claimed to be. BetterHelp has since updated its ToS, and its vetting process for therapists and counselors is much more rigorous these days.
BetterHelp has four subsidiaries that offer counseling services for the LGBTQIA+ community, for those seeking faith-based counseling, for teens, and for relationships and couples. All of these subsidiaries are owned and operated by BetterHelp, and to our knowledge, have the same pricing structure, use the same pool of therapists and use the same technology.
Frequently Asked Questions About BetterHelp
Therapist Vetting and Credentials
All therapists and counselors on BetterHelp are licensed and accredited psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional therapists. All professionals on BetterHelp must have at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience.
According to BetterHelp, counselors must provide proper licensure documentation and proof of identity when they apply. BetterHelp then cross-checks their licensure information with their respective state licensing boards. Additionally, BetterHelp requires each therapist or counselor to complete a case study exam to be graded by a licensed clinician and evaluated in a video interview. Because of all the rigorous attention to licensing and credentials BetterHelp does, they earned 5 out of 5 stars in the “Therapist Credentials & Expertise” category of our scoring criteria.
Matching on BetterHelp happens automatically based on your answers from the assessment and preferences you selected during the sign-up process. Due to this, BetterHelp earned 1 star in the “Therapist Matching” category of our scoring criteria.
Can I Choose a New Therapist?
Yes, you can choose a new therapist at any time. In the app, tap “More” and you will see “Change Therapist”. Select this and the process will begin for you to choose a new therapist. You will then see a selection of therapists from the directory and you can read profiles and choose someone that fits you better.
Can I Use My HSA/FSA for BetterHelp?
Yes, you can use your FSA or HSA for therapy expenses with BetterHelp. You will simply enter your HSA/FSA card information as your payment type.
How Do I Cancel My BetterHelp Subscription?
You can cancel your BetterHelp subscription at any time. All you do is log in to your BetterHelp account, select “My Account” from the menu then “Payment Settings” and then you’ll see “Quit Therapy”. According to BetterHelp, you must go back to the menu, click “My Account”, select “Personal Information” and then click on “Request Erasure”. Once this process is successfully completed, you will receive a cancellation confirmation email from BetterHelp.
If you have further questions about canceling your account, please contact BetterHelp at: [email protected]
Does BetterHelp Issue Refunds?
BetterHelp offers refunds on a case-by-case basis and you must meet their criteria to receive a refund, although the criteria is unknown to us at this time. You can choose to email BetterHelp at: [email protected] or call them directly at: 1 (888) 688-9296.
Is BetterHelp HIPAA Compliant?
Yes, BetterHelp has policies that are consistent with HIPAA standards, however, the company does not state that it is compliant with HIPAA regulations. Prior to any sessions (messaging or live sessions), you will be required to sign a form agreeing to their privacy policies. Due to these reasons, BetterHelp earned 3 out of 5 stars in the “Privacy & HIPAA” category of our scoring criteria.
Final Verdict of BetterHelp
BetterHelp does a really great job of connecting people with licensed therapists or counselors and definitely earned its 4-star rating during our independent review. The app makes attending therapy sessions very convenient and allows people to really focus on their mental health. The out-of-pocket costs of BetterHelp could be a deterrent for some and while they offer financial aid, some may find that therapy through their insurance may be more affordable.
After using BetterHelp several times, I can confidently say it takes time and work on your part to find a therapist that is going to work for you. However, when you do find that perfect match for yourself, BetterHelp’s platform works really well for live therapy sessions. The video and audio quality were great during my live session and all the extra features in the app make checking in fun. I also loved that longer live sessions were available, as I think 45 minutes is the perfect length for therapy. Overall, I do recommend BetterHelp to those new to therapy or those wishing to start therapy again.
Get 20% Off Your First Month With BetterHelp
|Cost of Online Therapy||$240 - $360 monthly, depending on location |
|Age Limitations for Therapy||18+ |
|Is Insurance Accepted?||No|
|Frequency of Appointments||Weekly|
|Messaging with Therapist Between Appointments||Yes |
|Provider Choices||Automatically Matched|
|Can You Change Therapists?||Yes |
|Speed to First Appointment||3-4 days|
|Geographic Coverage||All 50 US States + International|
|Online Psychiatry Offered||No|
For Further Reading
- Review all the top online therapy providers
- Dig into the differences between Talkspace and BetterHelp
- Need something for your teen then check out Teen Counseling
- Looking for a therapy alternative? Take a closer look at the best mental health apps available