BetterHelp is a popular web-based platform that matches consumers with licensed professionals for the purpose of online counseling (affiliate link). With over 3,000 licensed counselors and therapists, it is one of the largest providers of its kind.
For a monthly membership fee that costs about the same as an hour of face-to-face psychotherapy, BetterHelp gives you unlimited access to your own online counselor – via chat, phone, or video sessions.
But is it a legitimate mental health provider or a scam?
In this review of BetterHelp Online Counseling, you’ll find the answers to these questions and many more.
What You’ll Learn in this Review
In this Review, we’ll take a thorough look at BetterHelp.
We’ll look at what online counseling offers consumers, how the BetterHelp app works (i.e., the mechanism), and the pros and cons of using it.
We’ll walk through the sign-up process and go over things like costs, confidentiality, and ease of use, too.
You will know everything you need to know about BetterHelp by the time we are done.
A Note About the Author
I am a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) and Clinical Addiction Specialist (LCAS) in the State of North Carolina. In other words, I’m a therapist. I have Master’s degrees in Education and in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I’ve worked in the field of Mental Health for a decade. You can learn more about me here.
I spent several months using and testing BetterHelp. I’m basing this review on:
- My personal experience as a client of BetterHelp;
- My professional opinion of its services.
When you make a financial commitment to therapy, you invest in yourself and your future. And you will absolutely see a return in that investment. For the vast majority of people, therapy is effective.
Why Is Counseling So Important?
Tens of millions of men, women, and children are diagnosed with a mental illness in the United States every year. Millions more deal with substance use disorders, various types of process addictions like self-harm and compulsive gambling, and alcoholism.
And aside from all that, tens of millions deal with major life stressors like marriage and divorce, death of loved ones, losses of jobs, and the end of relationships. We are all dealing with something. Every last one of us.
Consider the following information, collected by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
|Fast Facts About Mental Illness in the United States|
|47.6 million adults experienced mental illness in 2018;|
|Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34;|
|9.2 million adults suffer from co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illness;|
|17.7 million adults are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder every year;|
|Serious mental illness costs 193 billion dollars in lost earnings each year;|
|37% of incarcerated adults suffer from serious mental illness;|
|41% of Veterans have a diagnosed mental illness or substance use disorder;|
|7.7 million children between the ages of 6-17 experience mental illness each year.|
|Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).|
Mental illness affects males and females, children and adults, individuals and couples, families and businesses. Nobody is immune.
These are the four most common mental illnesses in the United States:
- Anxiety Disorders (19.1% of the population);
- Substance Use Disorders (9.5%);
- Depression (7.2%)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (3.6%)
The only good news is that all four of these conditions are highly treatable. And one of the most effective ways to treat them is with individual psychotherapy (i.e., counseling).
But even if those four things don’t affect you personally, take a moment to consider the myriad ways life throws curve balls at us. Sometimes, we need to talk about our problems. Sometimes we need a helping hand.
What Are the Benefits of Counseling?
Individual psychotherapy is effective for most people who participate in it. Studies show that as many as 85% of respondents reported a marked decrease in symptoms and an increased quality of life. That success rate is astounding.
Most people begin therapy feeling bad and they leave therapy feeling better. It really is that simple.
Therapy is most effective when paired with lifestyle changes and the effective use of medication, but many report that the simple act of talking to someone about their problems is the greatest benefit of therapy.
That’s because we all hunger for healthy, high-quality connections to others. Humans were not meant to live in isolation, nor are we meant to shoulder our burdens alone.
Many mental illnesses like depression and anxiety make us feel alone, misunderstood, isolated, and rejected.
These illnesses thrive on these feelings, but connection with others smothers them and replaces them with a sense of belonging and acceptance.
The more we feel connected to others, the less we tend to struggle with depression and anxiety, which are two of the most common forms of mental illness.
Why Should I Pay for A Counselor?
People enlist the services of qualified mental health professionals because to properly support a mentally ill person requires special skills and expertise not typically found in the general population.
When you see a licensed mental health professional, here are just some of the things you can expect:
- Master’s of Doctoral Degree in Psychology, Counseling, or Social Work;
- Thousands of hours of clinical supervision and training;
- Expert-Level understanding of mental health conditions;
- Use of Evidenced-Based Models designed to affect positive change;
- Adherence to ethical statutes and best practices;
- Professional demeanor with an emphasis on confidentiality and client’s rights.
Mental illness is a medical illness. While social supports do indeed have their uses, it’s best to leave medical interventions to the professionals. Hence, the need for quality and effective psychotherapy and counseling.
And now that we have established not only the benefits of therapy but also the need for well-qualified therapists, it only makes sense to ask whether online counseling offers the same benefits.
The short answer, thankfully, is yes. Yes, it does.
N.B. I’m using the terms “Counseling” and “Psychotherapy” somewhat interchangeably in this review. Technically, the two terms have different meanings. But BetterHelp offers both, so I feel that the use of either term is appropriate.
Is Online Therapy As Effective As Traditional Therapy?
The evidence is quite clear – therapy works for most people. But is that true for online counseling?
Again, the evidence is clear: yes, it is.
Research shows that online counseling can be just as effective as traditional counseling (source). It also provides some additional benefits that we’ll discuss here.
Convenience may well be the biggest selling point for online counseling apps like BetterHelp. With it, traditional barriers to treatment like distance, transportation, or access to providers simply no longer exist.
If you live in a rural community and you have limited means of transportation, traditional therapy may not even be a possibility. This is also true for the physically disabled and for those without insurance.
With online counseling, all you need is an internet connection and a Smartphone, tablet, or computer. This is a godsend for many.
Online Counseling is not free.
There are some websites that offer free support services, but it needs to be stated that these services rely on the services of untrained volunteers. That’s not always a bad thing, but I do recommend that you respect your own needs enough to solicit the services of a trained professional.
BetterHelp is one of several large online counseling providers. Cost varies depending on who you go with. However, almost all of them end up being far less expensive than traditional face-to-face counseling.
Consider the following:
In my private practice, my office bills patients $185.00 a session. It’s not uncommon for my clients to see me weeks, though most opt to see me twice a month, which is standard.
That’s 370-740 dollars a month. For two to four 50-minute sessions.
The cost for online counseling ranges between 160-320/month.
My face-to-face clients see me in person two to four times a month. It’s not appropriate for them to call me whenever they want or to send text messages to me whenever they have a question. That’s not how traditional therapy works.
If they need assistance in the evening or on the weekends, we refer to mobile crisis or the local hospital, depending on the nature of the issue.
This is not the case with online counseling. In theory, you have access to your counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
BetterHelp has an app on the App Store and on Google Play. You can message your therapist directly using the chat feature and you’ll usually get a response within 12-24 hours. My therapist usually got back to me within a few hours.
You can also schedule sessions via chat, video, or phone through a convenient calendar feature. But one of the features I liked most about BetterHelp was my ability to text Krys (my therapist) a question before one of our arranged sessions.
The bottom line here is that online is less expensive, more convenient, and more accessible.
Now that we have reviewed the benefits of both traditional and online counseling, let’s narrow the focus of this discussion to a review of BetterHelp and all that it offers. We’ll start with an overview of the company.
Is BetterHelp Legit?
BetterHelp is an online company that provides direct-to-consumer access to behavioral and mental health services. These are collectively referred to as either “online counseling” or “online therapy” services.
Interactions between counselors and consumers are primarily web-based, via chat, video, or phone communication. BetterHelp has an app on the App Store as well as Google Play.
Founded in 2013 by Alon Matas and Danny Bragonier, its mission is to make high-quality professional counseling services more available to the general public.
The company was bought in 2015 and is now worth over 60 million dollars. It’s not a scam. BetterHelp is the real deal.
What Are the Qualifications of BetterHelp Therapists?
Therapists on BetterHelp go through the same rigorous selection process as do therapists in real life – because they are usually one and the same.
In order to be a therapist on BetterHelp, you must earn a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Counseling, Psychology, or Social Work, and be fully licensed by the state in which they work.
Therapists must also have at least three years of practical experience as well as 2,000 hours of clinical supervision.
On BetterHelp, you are likely to see several different types of therapists, all of whom are fully licensed and credentialled. These include:
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Licensed Mental Health Counselors
- Licensed Clinical social workers
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists
You don’t have to worry about which one is best for you. BetterHelp does an excellent job matching you to the right therapists when you first sign up. And if you and your therapist don’t see eye to eye, requesting a new one is a breeze.
What Kinds of Issues Do BetterHelp Therapists Help With?
Therapists tend to specialize, from the treatment of mental illness to couples and marriage counseling. Many are experts in addictions while others tend to focus on trauma, family dynamics, or relationship issues.
When you first sign up, you will be able to select from a wide variety of topics. These are some of the ones from which to choose:
- Anger Management
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Communication Problems
- Couples Issues
- Divorce and Separation
- Emotional Regulation
- Healthy Eating
- LGBTQ+ Issues
- Faith and Spirituality
- Panic disorder and Agoraphobia
- Negative Thinking Patterns
- Relationship Issues
- Family Problems
- Relationship Issues
- Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem
- Work/Life Balance
- Weight Issues
You don’t have to pick just one, either. It’s rare that we only struggle with one isolated issue. It’s more often the case that we struggle with multiple related issues that feed off one another.
Therapy helps us get to the root of those problems so that they stop controlling our lives. Along with your therapist, you will explore the nature of the problem as well as ways to manage and even overcome it.
Online Therapy Works.
Talk with a licensed, professional therapist online.
Sign up today for a special discounted rate.
A Review of BetterHelp Features and Services
BetterHelp is packed with a ton of features and services that more than justify the relatively low price point.
Here is what you can expect with your membership:
- Over 3000 counselors & therapists with different areas of expertise;
- All counselors are licensed, trained, accredited and highly experienced;
- All therapists have a master’s degree or a doctorate in their respective field;
- You’ll be matched with a counselor who is the best fit for your needs;
- Unlimited private one on one communication with your therapist;
- Option to schedule live sessions with your counselor or use the secure messenger;
- Access to constructive, educational group webinars;
- Professional help that is personalized for you;
- 24/7 availability;
- Video, Chat, and Phone Sessions;
- Apps available on The App Store and Google Play;
- Encrypted and secure communication.
How Does BetterHelp Work?
BetterHelp is very easy to use.
First, download the App from either The App Store or Google Play.
Second, create an account and enter relevant personal information.
Third, answer questions about the type of therapist you’re looking for.
Fourth, enter your payment information and be matched with your own personal counselor, usually within 12-24 hours.
After you get started, you and your counselor will get your own secure “room”. This will be your private place to communicate day or night. You can access this room from any internet-connected device, wherever you are.
While the chat feature provides the most immediate results, you also have the option to schedule Video and Phone sessions as well. If you prefer, you can use one or all three of the communication methods at your disposal. It’s whatever works best for you.
You can interact with your therapist in two ways.
First, you are welcome to post questions or responses in the chat feature, just like you might do in a private forum.
Rest assured, your information remains private and is only seen by your therapist.
Your therapist then responds to your questions or gives you homework designed to help you in your therapeutic journey.
Or, you can schedule a formal session. These can be in the form of chat, video, or phone sessions. It’s your choice. There is a calendar feature in the app that allows you to select a time and a day that works best for you.
This ongoing one-on-one dialogue is the foundation of your work with your counselor.
Together you’ll work towards making a positive change in your life, accomplishing your goals and overcoming your problems.
Here are some screenshots of what a chat session looks like:
How Many Sessions Can You Have?
You aren’t limited to a certain number of messages or sessions. The frequency of your interactions depends on your availability and the availability of your counselor. You may want to have 5 or 6 short interactions per week, or 1-2 very long and thorough session.
You can use the service as much or as little as you like, depending on your needs. Your therapist will work to accommodate your changing needs in a timely manner.
How Much Does BetterHelp Cost Per Month?
Many people avoid getting professional help because it can become extremely expensive. BetterHelp’s mission to make access easy and accessible to everyone, so they developed a plan which is simple, predictable, risk-free, and affordable.
Plans range from as low as $35 per week. With any plan you choose, you will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional counseling.
I recommend that you sign up with BetterHelp and see which plan works best for you and your budget. From time to time they also offer free 7-day trials, so check your email and be on the lookout for money-saving deals.
Can I Cancel BetterHelp?
When you accomplish your goals or if you find that it’s no longer helpful, you can cancel your subscription.
Canceling is easy and done online.
BetterHelp has taken pains to ensure a quality user experience. This also includes the cancellation process.
Is BetterHelp Covered by Insurance?
This is one of those frequently asked questions that does not have a simple answer.
First, BetterHelp does not accept third-party insurance. There is no mechanism in place to enter insurance information.
Second, this is a question best answered by your own insurance company. Often, insurance companies allow you to submit receipts for a partial or full reimbursement. Some insurance companies do this for online counseling and others do not.
One of the reasons why online counseling is not covered by insurance is that online counselors do not provide diagnoses. An official mental health diagnosis is usually required by insurance companies for billing purposes.
Some diagnoses can affect life insurance rates and disqualify you from certain types of jobs. In many situations, it’s best to avoid insurance if this is a concern for you.
How Do I Sign Up with BetterHelp?
In this section, I’m going to walk you through the sign-up process from start to finish. I’ve taken screenshots of almost every question they ask and every screen you’ll see from the moment you log in to the moment you are asked to submit payment information.
As you will see, the process is super simple and easy.
Also, keep the following three things in mind:
- Your talks remain confidential;
- Your information is securely encrypted;
- You can choose to remain anonymous.
Let’s begin with the very first thing you’ll see:
And that’s it. That’s how you sign up for BetterHelp.
As soon as you submit your payment information, you’ll receive a series of emails that walk you through your next steps. You will have already been matched to a counselor by this point, so now all you do is sit back and wait for their first message to arrive in your inbox.
If you’re ready to sign up and start feeling better, you can click on the link below and get a special discounted rate:
What Do Some of the Reviews Say About BetterHelp?
BetterHelp has a 4.5 Star Rating on TrustPilot with more than 800 verified reviews. These are some of the 5-star reviews taken from TrustPilot:
“Making the appointment to “chat” holds me to the appointment. I have no excuse for not taking 30 minutes to chat. My counselor is wonderful and interacts with me throughout the week between chat sessions. Spectacular program for those of us that tend to cancel stuff like this and don’t follow thru or follow up.”– “Kye Kye”
“…I faced two huge problems after I decided to get help. 1) It’s so hard to find and start mental health treatment. 2) It’s so tough to find someone I’m comfortable with and can trust. BetterHelp solved both of those problems very well. Additionally, not being in person seemed like it’d be a hindrance, but I’m finding it to be an accelerator to the process. I think differently when I talk in a video call than when I’m typing messages to my Dr. This has helped me communicate better…”– “Tyler Abair”
“My therapist has helped me navigate some difficult times in my life. I appreciate her clear-sightedness, honesty, and compassion.”– “Jennifer”
“Normally I’m… don’t write reviews…, but BetterHelp is different. Affordable even for the lowest poverty bracket, convenient to access, and some of the most effective clinical help I’ve ever received. Within days of beginning the free trial I had resources to help me and an open, successful dialogue established with my counselor. Committing to the membership was an easy choice, especially since my insurance doesn’t cover ANY mental health services in my city. BetterHelp and its counselors are helping me become a better, healed person, and their whole team is run by cooperative, pleasant, empathetic individuals. I’m so glad I found BetterHelp, and I hope others find the same positive outcomes from it that I have.”– “C.A.”
“BetterHelp has been life changing for me…The cost may seem somewhat expensive, but it is well worth it to have basically unlimited counseling, plus you would end up spending about the same or more in copays, not to mention if your insurance doesn’t cover counseling then you would end up spending even more.”– “JC”
The BetterHelp App has a 4.6 rating on The App Store with more than 7,600 reviews. It has a 4.4 rating on Google Play with over 6,700 reviews.
My Experience With BetterHelp
BetterHelp was good enough to give me two full months of their service for free in order to test their product. So that’s exactly what I did.
It gives me great pleasure to say that I am proud to recommend BetterHelp, both as a licensed therapist and as one of their clients. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but my experience with the app and with my assigned therapist was remarkable.
If you’re curious, I used BetterHelp to better deal with some relationship issues I was having. I chose a female therapist named Krys because I wanted a woman’s perspective.
She did a great job validating my concerns, calling me out on some of my own nonsense, and helping me to develop a few strategies to deal with things like anger, resentment, and building trust. It was time well spent.
Here are some of my thoughts about BetterHelp.
Strengths of BetterHelp
- My therapist, Krys, was excellent. Compassionate, empathetic, and kind. She also taught me a thing or two that I didn’t already know.
- Therapists make use of CBT worksheets. “Homework assignments are part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so I was relieved to see that I was given assignments to complete. For example, one assignment was to read about the concept of “The Wise Mind.” It was quite helpful.
- I liked the chat feature and the ability to leave questions. Sometimes I felt like having conversations and other times I just wanted some feedback or the answer to a question. I’d usually hear from Krys the same day. I loved it.
- You can attend these free group sessions called “groupinars” that center around a special topic – post-traumatic stress, for example, or coping with depression. I’m a big fan of Psycho-Education. It seems as if BetterHelp is, too.
- I tested the video and phone features as well. Frankly, I thought the video would be awkward, but it wasn’t.
- Discounted rates for students.
- Discounted rates for readers of my blog.
Drawbacks of BetterHelp
Here are some of the drawbacks as I see them:
- Cost is a relative issue depending on your income bracket. For some, $40-65 a week is tough to manage.
- I found the chat sessions to be a bit cumbersome, but I’m not sure if this was my phone or a fault with the app. I could not see what I was typing for some reason. It happened once, and not when I was sending individual messages. Go figure.
- I have heard that BetterHelp does not compensate their therapists well, but I doubt that takes away from the user experience.
- Sessions are scheduled in 30-minute blocks. This worked fine for me, but if you need longer, make sure you ask.
- Not appropriate for suicidal, psychotic, or developmentally disabled people.
- Therapists do not diagnose, though this is not always a bad thing.
My Clinical Opinion of BetterHelp
The platform is solid. It’s easy to sign up. It’s easy to customize. Your information is secure. They take confidentiality seriously.
Therapists can be hit or miss, but this is true everywhere. It’s also true in every profession.
My therapist was terrific. She was experienced, compassionate, and knowledgeable. She certainly taught me a thing or two.
I was concerned that online counseling would be like a watered-down version of traditional counseling. That wasn’t the case. The phone and video sessions, in particular, were practically identical to a face-to-face session.
BetterHelp emphasizes quality control. I was asked several times for feedback on my therapist. I suspect the bad ones don’t remain long. They have strict requirements for their therapists. All of them have either a master’s degree or a doctorate.
You should also know that therapists on BetterHelp don’t perform formal clinical assessments. They don’t make an official diagnosis, either, as the ethics of doing so online are shaky. If you need something like that, it’s best to go to a professional in your area.
For many clients, formal assessments aren’t necessary. Therapists usually get the information they need from your conversations with them.
As for a formal diagnosis – it’s not as important as you might think. Sometimes they don’t apply. Here are some situations where a diagnosis is not needed:
- Relationship issues
- Balancing work and life
- Parenting issues
- Stress Management
- Life Coaching
- Faith and spirituality
- Job transitions
- Grief and Loss.
Frankly, there are benefits to avoiding formal diagnosis as well. Be sure to be thorough and honest with your therapist about your current symptoms and any previous disorders with which you have been diagnosed.
All in all, my experience with BetterHelp has been marvelous. It relieves me to say that, as I promote it with near regularity. It’s a fantastic program that provides much-needed services to millions who might not otherwise have access to them.
So, is BetterHelp legit? Yes, of course it is.
Is it a scam? Heck no. That’s just silly.
Is it right for you? Sign up and find out.
The primary benefit of using BetterHelp is the support and accountability that your therapist offers.
But the program is only as good as what you put into it, so don’t expect miracles to happen just because you sign up. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, get honest, and work on developing self-awareness and personal insight.
Make use of your therapist. Ask them for assignments. Do your homework. Participate in regular sessions. And attend their Groupinars. Don’t ignore that opportunity.
90% of therapy is committing to it. Seriously. If you can do that, your chances of finding success are almost assured.
Too often in life, we are content to stay in misery rather than do something about your situation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Commit to therapy. Make a decision to change your life for the better.
If you can do that, you’ll be amazed at what else you can accomplish.
To take advantage of a 10% discount for new members, make sure to sign up using this link. And make please drop me a line to let me know if it was helpful for you.
BetterHelp Online Counseling