BetterHelp Online Therapy Review

Being the biggest name in online therapy has its advantages and its drawbacks

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4.4

BetterHelp Online Therapy

BetterHelp Review Logo

BetterHelp

BetterHelp is one of the biggest names in online therapy and many aspects of the service are streamlined, convenient, and efficient. While the platform functions well, the quality of the actual therapy at BetterHelp is not as high or as specifically tailored as you might find elsewhere.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Available in all 50 states and internationally

  • Dedicated “room” for unlimited chats with your therapist

  • Free group therapy sessions with a large, vibrant community 

  • Switch therapists easily 

  • Portal has a journal you can share with your therapist or keep private

  • Large selection of therapists 

  • Well-managed, efficiently run site

Cons
  • Many therapists are relatively inexperienced 

  • Video platform can be buggy

  • No matching service for switching therapists

  • Lose all previous messages with your therapist if you switch

  • Controversy over questionable advertising practices and company honesty

  • Difficult to find a specialized therapist

4.4

BetterHelp Online Therapy

BetterHelp Review Logo

BetterHelp

Even before the pandemic, the United States was facing a therapist shortage. Now, as the nation struggles with an increase in issues like grief and burnout, finding accessible mental health care is more important than ever. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a third of US adults had symptoms of anxiety and depression,compared to just 11% pre-pandemic. At the same time, though, over 150 million Americans live in areas that are federally designated as having a shortage of mental health professionals.

Enter BetterHelp, the largest online therapy company in existence today. Its platform has broad appeal and offers a quick, easy solution for almost anyone looking for mental health care. With a stable of over 28,000 licensed therapists on board, the platform has considerable reach and provides coverage across remote areas where it might otherwise be difficult to access therapy. In order to evaluate the company, I did a one-month trial of the service and we surveyed 105 users. Here’s how it stacks up against other top online therapy providers.

What Is BetterHelp?

BetterHelp is sort of the McDonald's of the online therapy world—it’s ubiquitous, convenient, fast, and serves millions. The company was founded in 2013, and acquired by Teladoc (an online telehealth provider) in 2015. There are several other online therapy brands in the BetterHelp family—ReGain, Pride Counseling, Teen Counseling, and Faithful Counseling—that offer more specialized services than the individual therapy found at the parent company. 

The company has come under fire several times in recent years, though. In 2018, BetterHelp chose the questionable advertising tactic of partnering with YouTube influencers, a move some found exploitative of followers and dishonest, as the influencers’ descriptions of services were not always accurate. It hasn’t stopped using influencers, either; I’ve gotten ads for BetterHelp featuring personal testimonies from the musician Banks (whom I love), an Asian “dermatologist/blogger,” (I’m Asian) and a “VeganBeautyGuru” (I like vegan food). Compared to the straightforward plain-text-on-pastel-background type ads its competitors are running, BetterHelp’s advertising methods are in a league of their own, and not in a good way—for instance, partnering with Travis Scott to use the Astroworld tragedy as an advertising platform.

In April 2022, BetterHelp was also hit with a class action lawsuit from investors claiming the company had failed to disclose just how much competition was affecting profit. A few months later, in July, BetterHelp was hit with another lawsuit—this time by Therapy for Black Girls, which sued for trademark infringement after BetterHelp allegedly used the company’s trademark in advertising. It would appear BetterHelp is willing to sell integrity for successful advertising, and despite the legal fees, it seems to be working. 

Privacy issues are also a major concern. Most online mental health providers have the same worrisome issues surrounding their exceedingly vague, potentially exploitive policies, but BetterHelp has been specifically called out by government officials, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, who each wrote letters to BetterHelp asking it to clarify its loosely worded privacy policies. Many companies collect and sell user data to advertisers, but with the particularly sensitive nature of personal mental health data, and considering the large scale BetterHelp operates on, its privacy policy— particularly what information they are sharing with Facebook—is especially concerning. 

What Services Does BetterHelp Offer?

The BetterHelp site itself specializes in individual therapy, but there are buttons for couples or teen therapy displayed on the homepage that will redirect you to ReGain and Teen Counseling, respectively. 

If you stick with the BetterHelp site, you can choose to have weekly therapy sessions over live chat, phone, or video, all native to the BetterHelp platform. You’re also entitled to unlimited texting with your therapist and free therapist-moderated group therapy sessions that focus on specific issues, such as loneliness, ADHD, or addiction, as part of your membership. 

According to a therapist I interviewed, sessions can be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes long, but when I tried the service, if I didn’t try to end early, all of my sessions lasted a full hour. 

There are no psychiatry services offered by BetterHelp, so anyone seeking medication will have to go elsewhere. 

Who Is BetterHelp For?

BetterHelp offers individual therapy for people struggling with general issues such as “stress, anxiety, relationships, parenting, depression, addictions, eating, sleeping, trauma, anger, family conflicts, LGBT+ matters, grief, religion, self-esteem, and more,” according to its site. 

You must be an adult (or use the teen counseling site instead), and your symptoms should be mild to moderate. If you are in crisis, or have been ordered to seek therapy by a court, BetterHelp is not an appropriate resource. 

A large number of BetterHelp users sought out the service to treat depression—62%, according to our user survey, compared to just 38% of users across all the services we looked at. There is no unifying approach or modality to BetterHelp’s therapy—individual therapists are welcome to use whatever form of therapy they prefer, so the site is best for people who aren’t picky about a therapist’s specific methods. 

How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?

BetterHelp only offers one plan, which is weekly one-on-one individual therapy, with a price range between $60 and $90 a week, billed every four weeks. You can choose to switch to weekly billing from the default monthly billing, although there is a $15/week surcharge. 

The FAQ states an individual therapist’s rates are dependent on “location, preferences, and therapist availability,” but BetterHelp told our editors that it practices surge pricing: In areas where mental health care is in higher demand, BetterHelp charges more for the exact same services it offers in areas where its services are not as sought after. This is ethically questionable.

Membership includes one private session and one group session a week, and unlimited texting with your therapist. Additional private and group sessions can be booked for a possible extra fee, which is not disclosed until you are booking. (All my extra sessions ended up being free.) 

In our user survey, 58% of BetterHelp users said they found the service affordable to very affordable, compared to only 54% of all users feeling this way across all the platforms we studied.

Does BetterHelp Take Insurance?

BetterHelp does not take insurance, unlike many of its competitors, including Talkspace.

Its FAQ states you are welcome to try to get reimbursed yourself using a superbill it will provide, but basically, don’t hope for much.. 

Does BetterHelp Offer Discounts?

Yes, BetterHelp offers all Verywell Family users 20% off your first month. You can also often find promo codes on the internet for discounts.

In addition, during your intake questionnaire, the last question will be financial, giving you a chance to state whether you are low-income, a student, or financially impacted by COVID-19. Depending on your response, BetterHelp will slide you down from the top rate of $90/week and offer you a lower rate, down to $60/week. 

If you indicate you still cannot afford this, BetterHelp may offer you an even better deal. I know of one person who recently joined and pays $40 per week. There is no guarantee as to what rate BetterHelp will offer you, as it depends on location, availability, and, as noted above, surge demand, but if $60 to $90 per week is prohibitive for you, it’s worth filling out the questionnaire and trying to negotiate a lower rate.  

Navigating the BetterHelp Website

BetterHelp’s website is very straightforward and easy to navigate. The sleek, simple design doesn’t give you much to click on—it’s geared toward someone ready to sign up, rather than individuals looking to learn more about therapy and mental health. 

Betterhelp homepage

There are three buttons in the middle of the homepage allowing you to choose between Individual, Couples, and Teen therapy. The Individual button is the only one that keeps you on BetterHelp’s site, while the other two divert you to subsidiaries. 

betterhelp

The simplicity of BetterHelp’s site and business model (it offers only one plan, which is weekly therapy) makes signing up a stress-free process. There are almost no decisions to make, no medication options to consider, and no therapist selection to contemplate. All you do is opt in, fill out a questionnaire, and then schedule your session. 

opt in to betterhelp

Does BetterHelp Have an App?

BetterHelp does have an app for iOS and Android devices. You can use it to access your private portal, which is how you schedule and attend sessions, text your therapist, and make changes to your account. The portal appears in almost identical form on the website and the app. 

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at BetterHelp?

BetterHelp’s sign-up process is also pretty simple. There are several buttons scattered across the homepage, but they all take you to the sign-up process, which starts with a brief questionnaire. 

betterhelp signup

The questionnaire leads with basic demographic information—gender, age, sexual orientation, relationship status—and then gets into your mental health by asking what you’re here for, and giving you a list of issues you’re invited to check off. It asks a bit about what you’re looking for in a therapist, your daily habits, and then more questions about symptoms you may be experiencing. It’s all very straightforward and serves both to match you to a therapist, and to help give your therapist an idea of your situation. 

therapist questionnare

During sign-up, you’re given access to your private portal, which hosts your scheduling and sessions. The portal also has a “room” where you can message your therapist, a journal with writing prompts, and dropdown menus for technical help and account settings. 

Matching With a Therapist at BetterHelp 

A therapist is assigned to you within a few days of you signing up, or sooner—my match came through in a matter of hours. I was excited to see the therapist I was assigned had 13 years of experience and was a woman of color. 

The scheduling options didn’t work for me, but the portal asked me to reach out to my therapist if I needed a different time, and my therapist was able to accommodate a time that fit my schedule. 

Therapists at BetterHelp are all licensed and can be psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or board-licensed professional counselors. Their bios list their areas of expertise, as well as their clinical approaches (cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness, etc.).

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at BetterHelp?

Contact with your therapist, including all sessions and messaging, is through your portal. 

Messaging Your Therapist

When you enter your portal, most of the screen is composed of your messaging room, and firing off messages to your therapist is as simple as typing it out and hitting enter. My therapist typically replied within a few hours, and I found her responses to be thoughtful and useful. 

She would often send me worksheets—which appeared to be created by BetterHelp, not sourced by individual therapists—as well as give me both general and specific advice for the issue I presented to her. 

Video Sessions

My first video session had connectivity issues—the volume was barely audible, even with the sound cranked all the way up. My therapist rolled her eyes and sighed, and said this wasn’t unusual, that BetterHelp was constantly tweaking the hosting platform towards HIPAA compliance, and that she would let them know about the issue. 

By our next session, the issue was resolved, but it still left me longing for a simple Zoom link instead of the in-house hosted session. 

Audio and Live Chat Sessions

The audio and live chat sessions went well, but I found myself completely understanding why many experienced therapists refuse to use them. Without eye contact, it was much harder to communicate with my therapist, to pick up on each other’s cues, and to stay focused on our conversation. I found I could distract myself undetected—with no eye contact, who knows if I’m scrolling through my phone? It was harder for my therapist to understand what I was conveying, and vice versa. Still, for situations like the one above, where the video chat is not working properly, it was nice to have these options to fall back on. 

Group Therapy Sessions 

I really enjoy the free group therapy sessions hosted by BetterHelp, which are available to search and schedule just below the link for your private sessions in your member portal. It’s a nice way to augment your weekly personal session, and it feels very supportive to meet other clients dealing with the same issues. 

The sessions are all moderated by therapists and specific to particular health issues, such as ADHD or depression. You can talk or just listen—both sessions I attended had over 10 other participants—and share your screen or hide your video. This can come in handy, as the sessions are each 90 minutes long; I don’t need everyone in the group watching me make a sandwich.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at BetterHelp?

You can cancel or reschedule an upcoming session through your personal portal at BetterHelp. I asked two therapists and called customer service with this question, and no one could give me a definitive answer as to a timeframe in which a cancellation must be made to avoid a penalty.  So perhaps there is no definitive penalty for canceling or rescheduling at BetterHelp, or, if there is, many of the therapists themselves are not sure what it is. It is possible your therapist would be willing to work out a missed session policy with you that fits your needs. 

Switching Therapists at BetterHelp

Switching therapists at BetterHelp could not be simpler. While many other platforms require users to call or at least message customer service to request a change, BetterHelp’s portal has a link specifically for swapping therapists. 

Click it, confirm, and that’s it—you’ve broken up with your therapist. Also, this is where BetterHelp hands you the keys to the castle. Instead of doing the matching for you, you are allowed to browse bios of many therapists available to you. I was given 40 to choose from—although there isn't anything offered in the way of search filters, so you have to actually read all the bios to seek out criteria you might want. 

I found my search wasn’t even limited to my state of New York. I ended up picking a therapist from Michigan, who explained to me during our session that New York had opened up to therapists licensed in Michigan (and several other states) due to a therapist shortage in New York. This is the sort of thing you can trust a huge platform like BetterHelp to stay on top of. The large selection was nice—if you’re looking to try out a few different therapists, and want a large number of options, you will be happy to have picked BetterHelp. 

The one major downside to BetterHelp’s switching process is it deletes the entire contents of your messaging room when you switch therapists, as if none of that work ever happened. Any worksheets you filled out are gone, and all messages you sent and received also disappear. I was shocked and disappointed by this; just because I wanted to switch therapists didn’t mean I found the work I did with the previous therapist to be worthless. 

Canceling Therapy at BetterHelp

Canceling service at BetterHelp is also done through the portal, under account settings, and takes just two clicks: hit cancel, then hit confirm, and your membership is terminated. 

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

BetterHelp ranked about average in terms of user satisfaction in most categories, with 76% of users saying they found a therapist who met most or all of their needs. 

I found the service very easy to use and appreciated how streamlined and quick everything was. After my initial sign-up, my match was made almost immediately, and I could book a session for just two days away, at a time that I picked that wasn’t initially listed as an option. This is an incredibly fast turnaround. I also liked the process for swapping therapists—no calling customer service, sending a message, and waiting for a reply—instead, it was automated and instantaneous. 

However, the therapy, in my opinion, did not match up with the quality of the site itself. While both my therapists were knowledgeable and gave me good advice, I didn’t really click with either of them. 

The first, I felt, talked too much and didn’t listen well, and I was often confused by what point she was making. The second was freshly licensed, and I felt that her lack of experience in guiding a session really showed. I did find both therapists useful—they were compassionate, provided professional knowledge relevant and helpful to the issues I brought up, and responded to my messages quickly and thoughtfully. Still, neither was a professional I would want to work with for the long term. 

Our surveyed users had a better opinion than I did of BetterHelp’s therapists, however. The platform scored slightly better than average for users who said they would likely still be seeing the same therapist six months from now—47% of BetterHelp users said they likely would be. 

Privacy Policies at BetterHelp

The privacy policy at BetterHelp is about the same as most online therapy companies, which is to say, not good. 


It’s surprisingly digestible,though, and does let you know up front that it “collects, uses, and stores” a lot of your personal information, including “communications between users and Counselors.” This means that your private messaging room is being recorded by BetterHelp. It then lists the reasons it might share your data—yes, targeted ads, yes, it will call the police if it thinks you’re a danger to yourself or others, and yes, “any other purpose with your consent” is also listed as something it might use your data for. 


It also really means any other purpose. Maybe it’s time for a conversation about consent with BetterHelp, because a good therapist will tell you consent is defined as explicit enthusiasm and nothing less,yet I don’t exactly remember begging for this endless torrent of targeted ads. 


BetterHelp also clearly states that it is not compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law protecting personal health information. And this noncompliance is evident in BetterHelp’s sale of personal information for profit, such as in advertising. This is something to seriously consider before signing up with BetterHelp.

BetterHelp vs. Its Competitors

For overall satisfaction, 86% of users rated the site positively, compared to 84% of users on all surveyed platforms. Its massive selection of therapists stood out in the survey, too; 77% of BetterHelp users were satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options, compared to 70% of users on all surveyed platforms. 

As far as our surveyed users' opinion of BetterHelp’s therapists’ qualifications, 87% ranked their therapists as good, very good, or excellent. Top performers for therapist qualifications included Talkspace, with 92%, Teladoc (which actually owns BetterHelp) with 94%, and Mindful Care, with 95%.

What BetterHelp has going for it is ease of use and scale, serving all 50 states and international companies. Compared to other services, it stands out for its fast turnaround time between sign-up and scheduling, easy contact with your therapist, a large selection of therapists and scheduling times, and customer service that is streamlined and highly automated. If the very thought of signing up for therapy is daunting for you, BetterHelp does make it simple.

However, in terms of the overall experience, BetterHelp is outranked by several of its competitors in the user survey, including Talkspace, Brightside, and Thriveworks. 

All three of these companies each received good to excellent ratings from 90% of their users, compared to 86% of BetterHelp users feeling the same way. Several other sites also outperformed BetterHelp in terms of matching users with a therapist that met most or all of their needs. Compared to the 76% of BetterHelp users that felt this need was met, top performers included Calmerry with 83%, E-therapy Cafe with 82%, and Amwell with 86% of users feeling the same way. 

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, accessible sign-up with a competent roster of licensed therapists and a super easy portal, BetterHelp is it. If you’re willing to take a little more time in the initial process—filling out more forms, waiting longer for responses, having fewer scheduling options—you might be rewarded with a better fit for long-term therapy.

Personally, I find BetterHelp’s advertising tactics and corporate policies to be a turn-off. Based on those factors, combined with my average-but-not-outstanding therapy sessions, I would shy away from using this service again. However, the fact remains that it received average to slightly above average rankings in most categories of our user survey, so for people looking for generalized help and instant gratification, BetterHelp is a solid, reliable option. 

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we interviewed therapists we found who either currently work or worked for this company in the past and worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

Specs

  • Product Name BetterHelp Online Therapy
  • Price $60-$90 a week
  • Is Insurance Accepted? No
  • Type of Therapy Offered Individual
  • Communication Options Messaging, Live Chat, Phone, Video
  • HIPAA Compliant? Yes
  • Is There an App? Yes
  • Accepts HSA or FSA? No
  • Prescriptions Available? No
  • Billing Cadence Monthly Subscription
Edited by
Simone Scully
Simone Scully Headshot

Simone is the health editorial director for performance marketing at Verywell. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering pregnancy, parenting, health, medicine, science, and lifestyle topics.

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and
Ally Hirschlag
Allison "Ally" Hirschlag

Ally is an expert in health, science, sustainability, wellness, mental health, and parenting. She has written for publications including The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.

Learn about our editorial process