How does BetterHelp work?
BetterHelp is a teletherapy app that allows you unlimited communication with your therapist via text messages, live chat, and real-time phone or video sessions. It’s based on a membership model, and you’re free to choose and change your counselor at any time. As a user, you can access the service 24/7 — though your therapist may only respond to you during business hours.
Counseling aside, the app has a journaling feature to encourage users to record their thoughts and be more mindful. It’s made for adults, but the company caters to other groups through its sister sites: Teen Counseling for people 13 to 16 years old, Pride Counseling for the LGBTQIA community and ReGain for couples therapy.
How long are BetterHelp’s live sessions?
It depends on your therapist, but most phone or video sessions last 30 to 60 minutes.
What qualifications do BetterHelp’s therapists have?
All therapists are accredited and board-certified psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers or professional counselors. They have at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience.
Many therapists have specialized training to treat certain issues, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, mindfulness-based therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Is BetterHelp effective?
To date, there’s one published study about the effectiveness of BetterHelp as a therapy tool. It was published in January 2019 by researchers from the University of California and the San Francisco General hospital.
The study surveyed 318 active users of the app, and asked them to report on their progress over the course of three months. Users with depression experienced less severe symptoms while engaging with the app, with those who were new to therapy reporting the biggest change.
What conditions can BetterHelp assist with?
The app is designed to help users “improve their quality of life” and help treat these conditions:
- Eating disorders
- Grief and loss
- LGBTQ issues
- Life transitions
- Low self-esteem, mood and confidence
- Sleeping problems
- Relationship and family issues
- Religious issues
What is BetterHelp not suitable for?
BetterHelp isn’t suitable for mental health emergencies or psychiatric conditions that require medication management. It also isn’t ideal for people suffering from severe depression, anxiety or substance abuse, and people living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or personality disorder.
If you’re experiencing a crisis, please call 911 or a national hotline to get the help you need.
Where is BetterHelp available?
BetterHelp is available nationwide, and you’ll only be matched with therapists who are licensed to practice in your state.
The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and requires iOS 12.0 or later. It also works with Android devices 6.0 and up.
Pros and cons of BetterHelp
- Various communication methods. All plans include unlimited messaging, live chat, phone and video sessions — which is rare.
- Free trial available. You can try BetterHelp free for a week before you subscribe.
- Less commitment required. You can opt for a weekly membership, whereas most competitor apps require you to commit for a month.
- Strong financial aid program. BetterHelp offers discounts to those who need financial assistance, which can significantly lower the cost of therapy.
- Screening process for therapists. Along with having 2,000 hours of clinical experience, therapists have to go through teletherapy training. The company claims it only accepts 15% of applicants.
- Doesn’t accept insurance. You can’t apply your health insurance towards the membership cost.
- No employer partnerships. While many employers offer an online therapy app subscription as part of their benefits package, that isn’t an option with BetterHelp.
- Therapists can’t make an official diagnosis. They also can’t prescribe medication, so BetterHelp isn’t suitable for those with psychiatric conditions.
- Reliance on “homework.” Some reviewers said their counselor relied on worksheets and exercises rather than talk therapy.
Compare alternatives to BetterHelp
How much does BetterHelp cost?
BetterHelp’s prices are based on the length of time you commit to using the app. The longer the renewal period, the less you’ll pay.
As of January 2021, these are the membership options:
- Billed weekly: $80/week
- Billed monthly: $260/month — which comes to $65/week
- Billed quarterly: $540/quarter — which comes to $45/week
- Billed annually: $1,820/year — which comes to $35/week
All plans offer unlimited counseling sessions via the messaging platform, chat, phone or video. You can pay with a credit card or PayPal.
Does BetterHelp offer any discounts?
Yes. BetterHelp currently offers a 10% discount off your first month. It also offers financial aid based on your income, with most eligible clients saving 20% to 50% of the membership cost.
To apply, email email@example.com or chat with your agent via the app.
Does BetterHelp accept insurance?
No. BetterHelp’s services aren’t covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid at this time. This means you’ll have to pay for your membership out of pocket — but you’ll likely end up paying less than you would for a traditional therapy company.
Can I use my FSA/HSA to pay for membership?
It depends. You can only use your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) if you’re seeking therapy for a medical reason — unfortunately, improving your mental health doesn’t count.
Does health insurance cover the coronavirus?
BetterHelp reviews and complaints
BetterHelp is accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and has an A rating for its customer interaction. Customers award the company 4 out of 5 stars based on over 200 reviews, with many praising the app’s user-friendliness and the ability to communicate with therapists in a few different ways. The BBB recorded 292 complaints against BetterHelp in the past three years, most of which had to do with billing issues and unresponsive therapists.
The reviews are similarly positive on TrustPilot, where BetterHelp has 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 2,700 reviews. Most users seem happy with the service and the therapist they were matched with, though some said their counselor was less engaged than they’d like.
On the App Store, BetterHelp has 4.7 out of 5 stars based on over 29,000 reviews, while nearly 14,300 Android users gave the app 4.5 out of 5 stars.
How to sign up for BetterHelp
While you can join on desktop, you’ll have the best experience using the app. The signup process takes around 15 minutes, and these are the steps:
- Download the BetterHelp app.
- Fill out a short questionnaire about where you’re located, why you’re seeking therapy and what type of counseling you’re looking for.
- Answer basic questions about your sleep, energy levels and overall mental state.
- Create an account, and enter the verification code sent to your email address.
- Indicate whether you have any preferences for your therapist, such as gender, age, religious affiliation and sexual orientation.
- Choose the areas you’d like your therapist to have experience or expertise in, like anxiety or parenting problems.
- Based on the information you provided, BetterHelp will match you with a therapist — typically within 24 hours.
- If you’re happy with the match, you can confirm your plan and make a payment. Otherwise, request a new match from your care agent.
What happens after I sign up?
Once your payment is processed, start messaging or scheduling sessions with your therapist.
Frequently asked questions about BetterHelp
How can I contact BetterHelp?
For the quickest response, chat to your agent in the app. Otherwise, you can reach the customer care team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, filling out the form on the Contact Us page or sending a message via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
How secure is BetterHelp?
The platform is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA), which means everything you tell your counselor is kept confidential. The company doesn’t directly work with insurance companies or employers, so it doesn’t share any information with those third parties.
All data is encrypted and stored on BetterHelp’s servers. You can choose to “shred” messages, and all communication happens on the app or desktop.
How can I pause or cancel my subscription?
To pause or cancel your subscription, go to Account Settings > Payment Settings > Change Plan or Quit Counseling. The system will ask why you’re leaving, and whether you want to be paired with your original counselor if you decide to restart therapy. You’ll receive a confirmation email shortly after.
Can I get a refund?
BetterHelp evaluates refund requests on a case-by-case basis, and will try finding you a new counselor or extending your subscription first. The company’s open to issuing full or partial refunds “when applicable.”
Who owns BetterHelp?
BetterHelp was founded in 2013, and acquired by Teladoc in 2015.