OpenCounseling is user supported. We may earn a commission when you follow links to sponsored providers. Learn more.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace: A Therapist's Guide (After 4 Years)

Mark PinesBy Mark Pines, MA LMFT.
Updated 11/4/2021.


I am a Licensed Therapist and I’ve been testing BetterHelp and Talkspace since 2017. During this time I've had many good experiences, but also some that gave me deep concern. In addition to signing up multiple times with both services, I’ve read thousands of reviews by actual users and hundreds of reviews by therapists who work with them. 

In this article I will explain which company is better and give you the inside scoop on how get the most from them...


We should note that BetterHelp and Talkspace are affiliate partners of OpenCounseling and we earn a commission if you subscribe to them after following a link from this site. Know that we take objectivity seriously and the views in this article reflect the independent conclusions and judgment of the writer. We pay for all of our subscriptions out of our own pocket. You can learn more about our policies regarding affiliates here.


Our Pick


Based on my research, I believe you’re much more likely to get good therapy on BetterHelp. BetterHelp therapists are better paid and happier than therapists on Talkspace. I believe that these happier therapists offer a better service to their clients. This conclusion is based on my own personal experience as a user as well as the thousands of reviews I poured through. While there are other minor differences between the services to consider, I believe this critical difference makes BetterHelp not just the better option, but the only option I would consider.

 


What Clients and Therapists Say About Each Platform

While neither company has a perfect record, I found outright vitriol towards Talkspace in therapist and user reviews that was unlike anything I found in reviews of BetterHelp. There are reports of Talkspace therapists having caseloads of 80 to 100 people (a number I find unfathomable). Therapists say Talkspace’s policies force them to go against their training and professional ethics. In one case of seeming revolt, frustrated Talkspace therapists sent an open letter to Talkspace in an effort to be heard. User reviews support the impression that Talkspace therapists are overwhelmed and are not consistently providing them with the quality of care they expect.


An excerpt from an open letter from Talkspace therapists to management.

While there are also complaints from BetterHelp users and therapists, there are fewer of them and they are less severe. Also, BetterHelp therapists are paid more and their reviews indicate they are happier working with BetterHelp. I believe that these happier and more satisfied therapists serve their clients better on BetterHelp. 


“happier and more satisfied therapists serve their clients better”


In conclusion, while users have complained about both BetterHelp and Talkspace, the complaints about Talkspace tend to be far more extreme. Hundreds of user reviews show a consistent pattern: therapists and users are happier with BetterHelp than they are with Talkspace.

        



 To confirm my impressions, I used the AI tool appbot to analyze the sentiment of users towards BetterHelp and Talkspace.



Why I Think Talkspace Users Are Less Satisfied

Talkspace came into the therapy field with a devil-may-care attitude that landed them in hot water very quickly. When they claimed that simply messaging a therapist was an effective form of therapy, psychologists with the American Psychological Association cancelled Talkspace’s advertisements in their magazine. Talkspace’s troubles were further exposed when New York Times reported that they had been asking employees to leave fake positive reviews using burner phones

While BetterHelp is not perfect, complaints against them are nowhere near the scale of complaints against Talkspace. Therapist reviews and newspaper articles suggest that Talkspace’s cavalier attitude characterizes the entire management team. This has forced therapists to choose whether to compromise their professionalism in order to keep working with their Talkspace clients or to stop working with them altogether.


“Without a deep respect for the sanctity of therapy, a therapy platform is bound to fail at its core mission.”


While I applaud innovation, therapy is a slow-moving profession for a reason. Without a deep respect for the sanctity of therapy, a therapy platform is bound to fail at its core mission. By refusing to listen to what therapists know about how therapy works, Talkspace undermines what makes quality therapy possible. The result is overworked and exhausted therapists who struggle to do their jobs. The flow from cavalier management to dissatisfied therapists to unhappy customers seems obvious to me.

        




What Are BetterHelp and Talkspace?

Both companies offer online therapy using a subscription model. This means you pay a recurring monthly fee instead of paying per session. As part of your subscription, you can message with a therapist in addition to (or instead of) getting live sessions. They are undoubtedly the largest platforms offering therapy this way. 


Both platforms offer the smoothest and most user-friendly way of starting therapy imaginable. From your phone or computer, you can sign up and get started quickly—usually in less than 24 hours. You don’t have to call one therapist’s office after another hoping someone actually has an opening. You don’t even have to choose a therapist; the platform will choose one for you if that’s easier. The convenience and accessibility BetterHelp and Talkspace offer is like nothing the therapy world has ever seen before. They are popular for a reason.


Talkspace: Selecting a Therapist 


Who is Online Counseling Right For?

While BetterHelp and Talkspace might have you believe that online therapy is a good fit for practically everyone, the reality is more subtle.

I believe that online therapy can be excellent. Research suggests that it is often just as effective as in-person therapy. However, it is not a perfect substitute. For me, the gold standard of therapy will always be therapy done in person. The subtle ways that we communicate to one another are too often lost in the online format. So, in that case, who is it best for?

I believe that online therapy is best for people with mild to moderate symptoms. Importantly, online therapy requires more discipline on your part. Are you the sort of person who finds it hard to stick to a routine? The less formal structure of online therapy may make it more difficult for you to stay the course when things become hard in therapy (as they often do).


Therapist’s Advice: Depending on who you are, online therapy may be a GOOD choice, but it does not mean it is the BEST choice.Your unique goals, personality, location and finances all factor into that decision. 


        



Game Changers: Where BetterHelp and Talkspace Shine

Many people think about starting therapy but never do. Some of the biggest barriers to starting therapy can be some of the simplest: the fear of making that first call, the struggle to find time in your schedule, the logistical challenges of getting to the office. In this respect, BetterHelp and Talkspace have been a game changer. 

Online platforms make it easier to access therapy in the first place, and this may be their most important contribution to the therapy world. If busy schedules or tight budgets rule out commuting to a therapist’s office, online therapy is a great option. 

        



What is Therapy Like on BetterHelp and Talkspace?

Once you sign up, you will be given a “room” where you can message with your therapist. You can also send voice memos. The messaging feature was great when I wanted to tell my therapist something that was fresh on my mind. 

It is important to note that both companies claim that you can get therapy 24/7 on their platforms. The reality is that you can send messages to your therapist 24/7, but your therapist will only respond about once or twice a day. 

Talkspace Let's You Know When to Expect a Reply


As far as live sessions are concerned, you can use the scheduler in the app to choose a time that suits your schedule. However, it can sometimes be challenging to find an exact time that works. For many therapists, this is their “side hustle” and their availability may not gel with yours. I suggest you explore this when you first connect with your therapist. The good news is that both sites make it ridiculously easy to switch therapists if you just can’t work with your first therapist’s schedule. (Tip: If you wasted several days of your subscription to find the right therapist, ask customer service if they will extend your subscription to make up for the lost time.)

Scheduling an appointment with BetterHelp


On both platforms, the technical quality of video sessions was good and facilitated effective therapy. As I mentioned, video therapy will never match the full experience of in-person therapy, but it was not as limiting as I thought it would be. A therapy conversation is not like a normal conversation. People are more thoughtful and there is usually more discrete turn-taking while talking. This kind of interaction works pretty well over video.


Therapist’s Advice: Just because you can have a session from anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. Find a secure private place for your sessions where you’re sure you won’t be interrupted.


         



Which Is More Affordable, BetterHelp or Talkspace?

It is difficult to compare BetterHelp and Talkspace directly when it comes to pricing. Each company offers different plans that don’t perfectly line up with one another. That said, when you compare the closest plans, BetterHelp is significantly cheaper at $85 per week than Talkspace at $129 per week (note that BetterHelp’s sessions range between 30 and 45 minutes long, while Talkspace’s are exactly 45 minutes long).


The table below shows the monthly rates for BetterHelp and Talkspace. While both companies quote their rates based on what you pay every week, the reality is that they charge you for a full month at a time. Many users get serious sticker shock when they learn this, and I'd rather you hear it here first.

Pricing Last Updated 11/3/2021

$340 per month to message your therapist with four 30-45 minute live sessions per month.

$516 per month to message your therapist with four 45 minute live sessions per month

Talkspace also offers these options:

$396 per month for four 45-minute sessions a month with no messaging.

$276 per month to message your therapist with no live sessions.

 


 


These additional factors may impact the math for you:


My Recommended Way of Signing Up for BetterHelp

BetterHelp's standard sign-up procedure matches you with a therapist based on your responses to a questionnaire. You indicate your preferences for your therapist's gender, religious orientation, and language. You also answer questions about the issues you're seeking help with and any mental health symptoms you are experiencing.

 

I want to give you the best odds of success and I believe that manually choosing your therapist makes it more likely that you’ll be happy with your therapist and get effective  therapy from them. Following these steps lets you choose your own therapist:

  1. Follow this link to BetterHelp. (This opens a new window.)
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the faint link in the footer that says, "Find a Therapist."(If you are on a smartphone, you may not see the link. You need to request the desktop view on your mobile web browser to see it.)
  3. From there, choose your state. You'll be shown a selection of therapists who are licensed to practice where you live. 
  4. Start with your preferred therapist. Tip: Be sure to listen to your intuition when choosing a therapist—it is often an excellent guide.



Bonus tip: BetterHelp only shows you 20 therapists on the "Find a Therapist" page, but if you refresh your browser, you can see an updated list.


The method you use is up to you. If you are more hands-on or have specific preferences about the type of therapy you would like to receive, you probably want to choose your own therapist. Some people like the ease and simplicity of letting the site's algorithm match them using the questionnaire. In either case, rest assured that it is easy to switch therapists on BetterHelp if you are not satisfied with your first choice or the first therapist the site matches you with.


 



My Recommended Way of Signing Up for Talkspace

On their homepage, Talkspace offers a standard coupon that gives you $70 to $100 off your first month, but you can use the coupon code below for $130 off your first month. Follow these steps to get the discount:

  1. Visit the Talkspace Home Page (This opens in a new window).
  2. Go through their sign-up process. (You’ll be talking to a live agent.)
  3. Eventually, they will ask you which plan you want to choose. Once you choose, you’ll go to the payment page.
  4. On the payment page, enter the coupon code "CARE130" to get $130 off your first month’s subscription. (This coupon was last checked in November 2021.)

 

 


Conclusion

When I caught an Uber for the first time, I could not believe the convenience and how much money it saved me. I swore I would never go back to taxis again. And I never did! BetterHelp and Talkspace offer the bright hope of the new replacing the old as we step into a better future. For many people, they have undoubtedly succeeded. But not for all...


The reality is that getting therapy is different from hailing a ride. Therapy requires ethics, care, safety and the best interest of the client at the beating heart of it all. After four years, I feel confident saying that BetterHelp is the only company that has forged new territory while staying true to what makes therapy work.


Comparison Table


Quality of Therapy
Value
Pricing$340 per month to message your therapist with four 30-45 minute live sessions per month.

$516 per month to message your therapist with four 45 minute live sessions per month

Talkspace also offers these options:

$396 per month for four 45-minute sessions a month with no messaging.

$276 per month to message your therapist with no live sessions.
Overall

 



 





About the writing of this article.

This article was first published in April 2017 and has been updated since we've learned more about these services and online therapy in general. It is the result of extensive research and first hand experience with these platforms by our team and the author Mark Pines, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).


Other research included completing 40 hours of coursework exploring online counseling and attending an in-person workshop held by a leading expert in the field. Research we did in 2020-2021 for two new reviews of BetterHelp and Talkspace also contributed to this updated article.


We have drawn from our extensive research in an attempt to give you all the information you need to make a safe and informed decision. Of course, please consult with a mental health professional to get guidance that is specific to your unique situation.


References for Therapist Reviews:

https://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Talkspace-EI_IE1284778.11,20.htm
https://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Talkspace-EI_IE1284778.11,20.htm
https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Talkspace/reviews
https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Betterhelp.com


References for User-Reviews

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/betterhelp-online-counseling/id995252384#see-all/reviews
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/talkspace-therapy-counseling/id661829386#see-all/reviews
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.talkspace.talkspaceapp
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.betterhelp

The tool appbot was used to analyze user sentiment based on Apple app store reviews from January 1 2021 to October 23, 2021. Similar results were found for Google Play Store reviews.