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BetterHelp Review | How the Online Therapy Platform Works

How it Works   |   Vs Traditional Counseling   |   Cost   |   Conditions Covered   |   Counselor Credentials   |   Confidentiality   |   Is BetterHelp a Scam   |   Reviews   |   Pros & Cons   |   FAQ

How It Works

Given today’s technology, online medical treatment of every kind—including counseling—is becoming more commonplace. For online therapy, Fearapy partners with BetterHelp, the world’s largest e-counseling platform. The process works much like regular in-person counseling, except you are meeting with the therapist online:

  1.  You begin by completing a questionnaire regarding your personal information (age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, relationship status, etc.) and the issues leading to your seeking of counseling (depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep, overall physical and financial health, etc.)
  2. After the initial questionnaire, you’ll be prompted to create an account, which includes entering payment information
  3. It’s now time to set your preferences for a counselor: areas of expertise, experience, etc.
  4. Based on all of your input, you are matched with a therapist, generally within 24 hours. If you would prefer a different counselor initially or after working with your assigned counselor, you can request a change through the platform
  5. You can begin communicating with your assigned therapist and making appointments

The signup process is fairly streamlined, since you are clicking radio buttons, not entering text for the questionnaires.

BetterHelp Vs. Traditional Counseling

Similarities

  • Counselor Training: All BetterHelp counselors are licensed and accredited, so they have the same training and credentials you would get if you saw a local therapist.
  • Treatment Plans: The counselors also develop treatment plans in the same manner as those in a local office.
  • Cost: Some insurance carriers cover BetterHelp. If they don’t BetterHelp treatment charges are in line with typical insurance copays

Differences

  • Communication Methods: BetterHelp sessions are held online rather than in a brick and mortar office. Additionally, clients can communicate with their therapist via live chat, text messages, video conferencing, and phone calls. 
  • Frequency of Contact: Traditional sessions are held weekly; with BetterHelp, you can communicate with your therapist whenever you need, as often as you want

BetterHelp Cost

The cost of counseling through BetterHelp ranges from $35 to $70 USD per week for unlimited access to your counselor. This flat membership fee covers both the use of the platform and unlimited counseling. Your payment will be the same regardless of the number of messages and sessions you have with your counselor, so you can communicate with your counselor as often as you like without it affecting cost. Face-to-face counseling can cost $150 to $250 for a single session without insurance, so BetterHelp could be a viable option for patients without insurance.

Is Online Therapy Covered by Insurance?

In some instances, your insurance could reimburse the cost. However, many insurances only cover face-to-face video conferencing using HIPAA compliant video services. They often do not cover emails, chats, or phone calls between you and your therapist.

Also note: If you have an insurance plan with a high deductible, you can expect to pay nearly half using Better Help than you would billing sessions to your insurance. Even insurance plans with a simple copay per session are comparable to Better Health costs.

In many cases, before you can get reimbursed by your insurance company, your therapist would have to diagnose you with a mental disorder or issue. This diagnosis would be sent to the insurance company and recorded in your medical file. In some cases, the therapist would also have to provide additional clinical information to the insurance company, such as treatment plans, summaries or copies of the entire record.

Is Financial Aid Available?

BetterHelp does offer financial aid based on a client’s income. The amount of aid will vary, but clients have reported anywhere between 20% and 50% discounts off the normal cost.

Conditions Covered

BetterHelp offers a wide range of counselors with varying specialties and areas of expertise. These include:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Self-Esteem
  • Addiction
  • Relationships
  • Grief

BetterHelp Counselor Credentials

BetterHelp employs counselors with the following licenses:

  • Psychologists (PhD / PsyD)
  • Clinical Social Workers (LCSW / LMSW)
  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
  • Family Therapists (LMFT)

All counselors have earned a Masters or a Doctorate Degree in their fields and are licensed through their respective state professional boards. Additionally, BetterHelp requires their counselors to have a minimum of three years and 2,000 hours of clinical experience.

Privacy / Confidentiality

Technology

  • The BetterHelp platform databases are encrypted and scrambled, which renders information useless in the case of theft or wrongful use
  • Servers are hosted in an “A Grade” facility, offering added security
  • The browser security protocol (SSL) is rated A+
  • Messaging between counselors and clients are encrypted by banking-grade 256-bit encryption

Privacy Policies

BetterHelp states that they not only follow applicable industry laws and regulations, but have also implemented other privacy policy standards to ensure confidentiality:

  • Client anonymity: Clients do not have to register with their legal name; an alias is permitted
  • BetterHelp does not work with insurance companies or employers, so there is no communication between them and those entities
  • Information divulged to counselors is protected by strict state and federal laws
  • Client authorization is required before any information can be released to third-parties (outside of legal instances)

Is BetterHelp a Scam?

Common Criticisms

BetterHelp has received its fair share of criticism. Much of the criticism centers around the online therapy industry rather than BetterHelp specifically. Here are five of the most common BetterHelp complaints:

  • Online counseling doesn’t replace in-person therapy
  • BetterHelp doesn’t actually provide services, only the platform that connects clients to providers
  • BetterHelp is not affordable
  • Counselors miss appointments
  • There are billing errors

In our opinion, BetterHelp is not a scam. None of the above claims appear to justify the conclusion that BetterHelp is willingly trying to cheat consumers. That doesn’t, however mean the service is perfect or appropriate for all circumstances. The service does state in its terms and conditions that BetterHelp may not be a suitable replacement for in-person counseling.

BetterHelp is also clear that it hires third-party providers, although due to its thorough vetting process, only 15% of applicants are accepted. Regarding affordability, it is true that in some cases BetterHelp may not be affordable enough for clients. At the $70/week rate, clients could pay more than they would if they used their insurance, depending on their plan. And if a client doesn’t have insurance, they still may not be able to afford BetterHelp, even with financial aid.

Regarding billing errors and counselors not being available for appointments, BetterHelp admits it has not been perfect, but claims it is committed to correcting any issues. Founder Alon Matas addressed these and other criticisms—including those arising from the “YouTube controversy” involving BetterHelp—in this article.

Despite the negative claims, hundreds of thousands of people have used BetterHelp over the last five years, including many of our Fearapy readers. Moreover, BetterHelp’s ratings across the web are good overall, further validating that BetterHelp is not a scam. This also indicates a large number of people have accepted online counseling as an affordable and viable treatment option, and have had a positive experience with the service.

BetterHelp Reviews Across the Web

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

BetterHelp currently has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau as of 1/29/19. There are 92 complaints, all of which have been resolved or answered. There are 110 reviews, with an aggregate rating of 4.3/5.

Trustpilot

On Trustpilot, BetterHelp has an aggregate rating of 4/5 stars across 290 reviews.

Google Play Store

The Android BetterHelp app in the Google Play Store has a 4/5 star rating across 4,353 reviews and 100,000+ installations

iPhone App Store

In the iPhone App Store, BetterHelp has a 4.4/5 star aggregate rating across 3,027 ratings

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Convenience: Online therapy can be experienced from home, so there is no traveling required
  • Privacy: Many people suffering from phobias will appreciate being able to conduct a session without having to appear in public
  • Cost without insurance: BetterHelp is less expensive than the typical out-of-pocket costs for traditional therapy

Cons

  • Price if you have insurance: BetterHelp will likely cost more than a typical insurance copay or coinsurance fee
  • Lack of live interaction: Some clients may not be able to form an adequate connection with a therapist via video, phone or chat
  • Scope: BetterHelp online counseling may be inadequate for some conditions

FAQ

  • Why do you partner with BetterHelp?
    • After interviewing a number of potential partners, we were simply the most impressed with BetterHelp’s commitment to helping clients. We also appreciated the time the staff took to explain their platform to us and what they look for in partners and clients, as well as ongoing communication about how we can work together to connect people to the help they need. We value our audience’s trust and only recommend resources we trust and respect
  • How often do I meet with a counselor?
    • How often you meet with your counselor depends on your own individual needs and the treatment plan that your counselor recommends. While communication is unlimited, you will not have a counselor on-demand outside of scheduled sessions. The counselor responds to your messages in a timely fashion, but not necessarily instantaneously.
  • How do I communicate with my counselor?
    • Counselors are available through live chat, exchanged messages, video conferencing, and phone calls. The means you use to communicate are completely up to you and what your therapist recommends. 

BetterHelp Company Profile

Industry:Online Therapy
Headquarters:Sunnyvale, CA
Founded:2013
Founder:Alon Matas
Type:Privately Held
Number of Counselors:1,500+

Hopefully this review of BetterHelp has answered your questions, but if you need additional information, feel free to use our contact form to get in touch. We obviously can’t provide the details of therapy sessions for privacy reasons, but we’ve tried to make this resource as useful as possible.

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