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BetterHelp Review: A Therapist Reviews the New Kid On The Block

BetterHelp Review: A Therapist Reviews the New Kid On The Block

As a therapist, I have seen my fair share of therapy fads over the years. Most fade away, but some stick around. Undoubtedly, the new wave of counseling is online. The advertisements claim that BetterHelp is an affordable, convenient way of doing counseling anywhere, anytime. 

Sounds great, but I wanted to test if the new kids on the block can deliver. I wanted to test it from start to end and get an in-person feel for the experience. Along the way I was pleasantly surprised, and occasionally disappointed. This is what I learnt.


Getting Started

In the pursuit of fully exploring BetterHelp, I dug into my life to see what I needed help with. It was not hard to find. I had been struggling with my partner and at times was carefully considering separation. Depression was slowly creeping in. Our frequent conflicts had me worrying about our future and how it might be affecting our young son. There was a lot at stake. I wondered if BetterHelp could help me out of this jam.


The Sign-Up Process

The sign-up process was very easy and could be done from either their mobile app or website. It took just 5 minutes and consisted of a brief questionnaire asking basic questions. In the end, there was a place to write a short description of the main issue you were seeking help with.

Most of the questions seemed designed to match you with a therapist that would be a good fit, while some of the questions seemed to determine if you were appropriate for online counseling. For example, if you are suicidal, online counseling would not be a good choice.



BetterHelp Pricing (Updated October, 2019)

BetterHelp charges different rates, usually based your location. There pricing also tends to evolve over time. We found that typically it would cost $65/week for the first three month. BetterHelp quotes their rates on a weekly basis, but bill for the full month. To get your actual monthly cost, multiply the rates above by four.  


Tip: You can see the latest rates for your area by following the link below:

See the latest rates from BetterHelp
   

Pricing (A Bit Disappointing)

There comes a time in any therapy relationship where you must pay. Here I felt a bit disappointed in BetterHelp. I had thoroughly read their FAQ and they had stated that “the cost of counseling through BetterHelp ranges from only $35 to $70 USD per week.” When it came to the actual sign-up, the pricing was revealed as “$65/week (charged on a monthly basis) during your first 3 months. After 3 months, the price goes down to only $45USD/week (charged on a monthly basis).” Therefore, the fee that was now required up front was $260 for the first month. This was an unpleasant surprise and I couldn’t help but feeling disappointed.  

I was hesitant to pay so much upfront for a service that I had not yet tried. I had also not even had the opportunity to know what therapist would be treating me. I was concerned shelling out $260 completely blind. Before signing up, I contacted BetterHelp customer service with my concerns. They assured me that if I was unsatisfied after the first week, I would be refunded the unused portion of the month. They also assured me that at any time I could switch therapists to any of the many therapists licensed in my state. I found the speed and professionalism of the customer service to be excellent. So onward it was…



Starting Therapy

To my delight, it took just a few hours before I was assigned my therapist. BetterHelp says this can take up to 24 hours. I was excited to get the part of the therapy experience where I could get help with my issues. I took a moment to reflect on how quickly I had arrived here. In traditional face-to-face therapy, you often contact a therapist by phone to set up an appointment and leave a voicemail. Then, you wait for their reply. Often therapists you contact may not even return your call if they are not taking clients. Once you do manage to reach them, it can then take a week or two until you set up your first appointment.


BetterHelp had brilliantly removed all of this hassle from the process. The emotional benefit of this was huge for me. The sense of control that came from being able to rapidly begin working on an important issue for me gave me a sense of relief that was lacking. Nicely done BetterHelp.



Messaging Therapy with BetterHelp

I started out messaging back and forth with my therapist. With BetterHelp, you can send as many messages as you want to your therapist at any time of the day or night. They advertise this as “unlimited sessions”, but in reality, the therapist will only reply to you once or twice a day. That said, it was wonderful to write my thoughts down as I had them. When I was struggling with my wife, it felt good to quickly shoot a note off to my therapist with all the things I wanted to say to her (but really shouldn’t!) This alone was a huge stabilizing force in my marriage. I was surprised how the instant outlet of the service helped. I know that the therapist was not reading my messages instantly, but it was good to know that they would.


Scheduling a Live Video and Phone Session

As good as messaging is, an important part of the therapy experience is real-time interaction. BetterHelp offers three choices: real-time chat, phone calls, and live video chat. All three are set up with the same scheduling system. At the bottom of your private “room” with your therapist, you can click a button labeled “Schedule live session.” This process was smooth, convenient, and seemed to account for any time-zone differences. The actual in-person sessions were professional and I was far more at ease with my therapist after having face-to-face contact. Online therapy will never feel quite the same as the experience of in person therapy, but overall the experience was still good.

Scheduling BetterHelp Session

Changing Therapists

I wanted test every aspect BetterHelp and that meant trying a different therapist. BetterHelp makes it easy to change therapists. It’s simply a matter of choosing one of the options on the menu to switch counselors. This seemed really important. One of the issues with going with a service like BetterHelp is that you do not get to choose the actual therapist you’ll be seeing. The ability to easily change therapists without any awkward conversations with them was very reassuring for me. In some sense, it may even be easier than traditional face-to-face counseling, because in traditional face-to-face counseling there is the awkwardness of rejecting your therapist. With online counseling, the anonymity and the ability to use the BetterHelp staff as the intermediary meant that I never had to face any of that discomfort.

After answering a very simple questionnaire (as seen above), I then received confirmation that I was being matched to another counselor in their database fitting the description I had indicated on the form.

I found my second therapist to offer a very different experience from my first one. Both were good, but just different. This confirmed my suspicion that a large part of the therapy experience with BetterHelp will be based upon the specific therapist that is helping you. This is similar to face-to-face therapy. BetterHelp provides a certain platform and infrastructure, but in many ways your final experience will depend on the specific therapist you end up seeing. I found both my therapists to be helpful and just the sort of people that I would want to confide in. The wonderful thing is that BetterHelp makes it easy for you to try a few different therapists to find just the right fit.


Ending My Service

Quitting counseling with BetterHelp was very easy. It is just a short form that you need to fill out and they will cancel your subscription. As I was reassured by customer service early on, I was not forced to pay the unused weeks in my subscription. I also noticed that BetterHelp asks why you are quitting. If you indicate it is because of financial reasons, they offer to see if you may be eligible for financial aid. At OpenCounseling, we care deeply about making great counseling available for all. It is nice to see that BetterHelp cares too.


Summary

Overall, I can say I was very satisfied with my experience at BetterHelp. Although there were one or two uncomfortable things about the sign-up process, the actual experience of therapy was very good. Online counseling may not be for everyone, but in some ways BetterHelp was better than in-person counseling. Ready to give it a shot? Click here to visit BetterHelp.



Web Experience
Mobile Experience
Sign-Up Process
Messaging (not real-time) Experience
Real-Time Interaction Experience
Price
$35/week - $65/week, billed monthly
Overall




Visit BetterHelp
   




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Jennifer N.
Posted on 11/20/2017 by Jennifer N.

Jennifer is a writer for OpenCounseling. She has worked at a number of state and non-profit organizations, providing counseling, training, and policy development

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