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BetterHelp vs TalkSpace: A Therapist's In-Depth Review with Ratings

BetterHelp vs TalkSpace: A Therapist's In-Depth Review with Ratings

We had an experienced counselor try both BetterHelp and TalkSpace for a full month. We read the research and sought out the real world experiences of both clients and therapists. We wanted to know who was the better provider and how our readers could get the most benefit from either service. After our exhaustive research we concluded that BetterHelp consistently out-ranked TalkSpace in terms of the overall quality of experience. Additionally BetterHelp cost substantially less if you subscribe for longer periods. There are important things to understand before you make your choice. Discover what we learnt below:


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Web Experience
Mobile Experience
Sign-Up Process
Messaging
Audio Sessions
Video Sessions
Price$65/week for the first month.

All plans include unlimited telephone, video and live chat sessions based on therapist availability.

After the first month, between $35 and $80 per week depending on subscription length.
$65/week for daily response, 5 days a week with no live sessions.

$79/week
 for daily response, 5 days a week
+ One 30 Minute Live Session per Month

$99/week for for daily response, 5 days a week
+ Four 30 Minute Live Session per Month

Overall

Visit BetterHelp




Visit TalkSpace




Pricing Notes (Updated March, 2020)

Both TalkSpace and BetterHelp quote their rates on a weekly basis, but bill for the full month. To get your actual monthly cost, multiply the rates above by four. Neither platform accepts insurance at this time. 


BetterHelp's Pricing March 2020


Talkspace's Pricing March 2020

With Talkspace you get a 10% discount if you agree to be billed every 3 months, and 20% off if you agree to be billed every 6 months.

They also have an unlisted plan where you can pay $79 per 30 minute live session a la carte. There is no text-therapy with this plan. This seems to only be option you can choose after you have subscribed for a period and make a request to customer service.



Introduction

While online counseling isn’t for everyone, it is often less expensive than paying out-of-pocket for traditional therapy. It also offers greater convenience, anonymity and flexibility with scheduling. BetterHelp and TalkSpace are the biggest players in this arena. 

When I set out to explore this kind of therapy, I did not know what I would find. I spent a month exploring both services. On the way I found some pleasant surprises and some things that concerned me. In the end I found that one of the providers seemed slightly ahead of the other.



Signing Up - Two Very Different Procedures

BetterHelp is an online therapy service provider that links consumers with licensed mental health professionals based on the results of an intake assessment. When you start, you’ll be asked to complete a brief quiz that identifies the issue at hand and how you are feeling about it. Once you are completed with this, BetterHelp states that you’ll be linked with a counselor in about 24 hours (although this may take longer in some cases). The assessment takes less than 10 minutes to complete and I was referred to a counselor within the stated time frame. While this process worked well for my issue, the lack of direct communication and wait time might be more of an concern for someone facing an immediate crisis as it was fairly impersonal.



TalkSpace is another online service provider that offers a similar array of services – both of these companies work exclusively with licensed mental health professionals. Unlike BetterHelp, the TalkSpace assessment process is a bit more interactive. You’ll be linked to live chat with a therapist who will ask questions, screen your responses, and guide you through the sign-up process. While this seems great on the surface, my experience with this was a little frustrating. My assessment was filled with long gaps between replies (some as long as 15 minutes), and I found myself repeating answers and asking if the therapist was still there more than once. Granted, this live service is available to anyone who indicates an interest in the service, which means you aren’t paying for the assessment. It leads me to believe that the assessment providers are dealing with multiple customers at once. As a client, I could easily have given up without completing the assessment based on these waits. Like BetterHelp, once the assessment is done it takes about 24 hours to be linked to a therapist (although in my case it was a matter of hours). 


Using BetterHelp or TalkSpace can feel like you always have your therapist with you. Be sure to install their mobile phone apps for the full benefit.



BetterHelp did a good job asking questions to assess if I was appropriate for online counseling. It asked about my current state of mind and the severity of my symptoms. TalkSpace did not seem to do such an in-depth assessment, and I found that concerning. It is worth noting that neither TalkSpace or BetterHelp can fully assess your appropriateness for online therapy, because they can not see you in person. As always, if you have severe symptoms or are unsure, we would suggest consulting with someone in-person.



Response Times and Keeping Engaged

 Both platforms state that the lowest rate allows for 1 – 2 responses per day from the therapist – however, in my experience, both of my therapists responded more frequently a few times during this period if I messaged them often. The wait time for responses is advertised as 24 hours or less, but I received messages throughout the day on both platforms, usually within a few hours of sending a message.


So far, the process of therapy has been a similar for both platforms. Online counseling has its challenges, but the quality of service I’ve received has been exceptional for both TalkSpace and BetterHelp (both platforms also advertise the ability to switch to a new counselor, although I haven’t requested this). Asynchronous therapy is offered via a saved chat between you and your therapist, where messages are exchanged back and forth. 

BetterHelp offers video, voice, text and real-time chat options. With BetterHelp you can schedule as many live sessions as you like with your therapist. Therapists and clients find a reasonable level by mutual agreement. This is based on many factors including that particular therapists' availability. We found this an incredible advantage over TalkSpace which sets far stricter time and cost limits on live sessions.

TalkSpace offers both a free, 10-minute live video meeting with the therapist upon starting and the option to record and listen to audio messages. This helped me create a strong bond with the therapist, even if we’ve only met once, as I’ve felt more able to connect to that person and hear their voice from time to time.


Just because the default is message based therapy, don’t forget to schedule video or phone sessions. These boost the effectiveness of your counseling.



In general, the experience on both platforms has been better than I expected. One of the issues I’ve run into is of my own doing – remembering to reply and engage with my therapist frequently. While sending 1 – 2 daily messages may not seem like much, it does take time to think about and send replies, and I’ve caught myself moving this to the bottom of my to-do list more than once. If you’re considering online therapy, know that it is a commitment that will require daily interactions and responses.



Enter the Ghost: Online Therapy’s Greatest Strength and Biggest Weakness

I spent some talking to therapists who worked online about my difficulty remaining engaged. They had a lot to say. It turns out that one of online therapy’s greatest assets is that people can start therapy easily. It also means that it is very easy to leave. This is a big problem because therapy is never easy for the client. Just like going to the gym, real progress in therapy requires work and very often pain.

As a therapist, I know that I would have to help people with this pain in practically every session. When face-to-face with a client, it is easy to see when people were hesitant to talk about something due to a negative emotion being brought up. Face-too-face it was easy for me to help them through the difficult feelings. When your therapist is sending messages back-and-forth, they can not see your face and they usually will have no idea that you are struggling with something said.

What happens instead, is that the therapist will send a message; the message brings up a negative emotion in the client, and then the client stops responding. The client “ghosts” the therapist. This is one of the most common ways that online therapy falls apart. 

To reduce the chance of this happening, I recommend using the video chat option for the more important conversation with your therapist. Text messaging has its place, but the emotional and vulnerable conversations are best done by video. I also recommend watching for signs you may be losing engagement. Are you responding to your therapist less often? It may be time to do an inventory and see if there is an uncomfortable emotion you are trying to avoid.



Vulnerability and Online Therapy

There’s no doubt about it – just like traditional, face-to-face therapy, online counseling requires a bit of vulnerability on the part of the client. In the past few weeks of communicating with my therapists on both of the online platforms reviewed, there were moments where I felt a lack of motivation to respond to a message or postponed my response out of fear of what the answer my show about myself or my situation. Therein lies one of the biggest hurdles to effective online counseling – much of the onus of engagement stems from your motivation to participate, and it’s much easier to avoid doing so when therapy is being delivered via asynchronous messages.


Being vulnerable online can be easier because you are not face-to-face. Use it as safe practice ground for opening-up to others in your real-world relationships.



Both of these platforms, and the therapists who helped me, wouldn’t let me get off that easily. A day of missed messages would result in a slew of emails from my therapists, who communicated clearly the desire to connect and the encouragement for me to engage. In the moments where exploring the truth of my problem felt too overwhelming to dive into, I forced myself to rebuild that communication, and was met with empathy, understanding, and grace. That’s the beauty of online counseling – by working only with licensed practitioners, I knew I was in the hands of professionals who had the experience and caring to help me through those tougher days.






Further Thoughts About Online Counseling

For my particular issue, asynchronous counseling worked extremely well. Instead of intensive assessment and guided behavioral counseling, I was met with daily check ins, practical suggestions and activities to implement between communications, and the opportunity to give feedback. When something didn’t work, I felt safe to share that with my counselors, and they quickly adjusted their approach as needed. When I felt things were going well, they gave me both text and audio based encouragement that provided the motivation to keep going.


To this end, online counseling seems like it would be extremely effective for situationally-based intervention. My issue, one of a relationship struggle that had been festering for some time, led to concrete discussions around the decision I would make and ways I could cope with that choice. The benefits of this could easily apply to similar issues – the loss of a loved one, an unexpected life transition, a struggle to choose between two paths.


If online therapy is not working out, be sure to seek out in-person care.



Where I see online counseling as perhaps less helpful would be for cases in which serious or chronic mental health concerns – untreated bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc. – due to the barrier that the non-face-to-face format creates. For these conditions and others, clients typically require a much higher degree of trust and a more formalized structure of treatment. When dealing with this kind of diagnosis, the tendency to avoid change is so much more internalized, and unless a client is highly motivated, online counseling may not be the most appropriate venue to seek help.


I spent some time talking to colleagues about who is best suited for online therapy. There were heated discussions, but a consensus seemed to arise. In short, the more severe the symptoms, the more likely in-person therapy should be chosen. The less severe the symptoms and the more important flexibility, the more online therapy became a good alternative.



Summing Up: BetterHelp Just in the Lead

So which service would I recommend? I’m happy to say that my experience, from assessment, treatment, and termination, was an extremely positive one. Although I didn’t need to, both services offer a change in therapists upon request, and as long as the online format works for you, feel assured that you can be linked to someone you connect with on a deep level. Best yet, when you feel ready to end therapy, both services offer an easy contract termination. While I only engaged in services for about a month before I felt like I’d received what I needed, you can work with your counselor for as long as you need. And when you are ready to walk away, neither site will make this painful for you.


Online therapy makes it easy to both start and end therapy. It is also easy to switch therapists. This means you can try online therapy with very little risk.



Ultimately, BetterHelp and TalkSpace are simply the technological platform that is facilitating the therapy. Most of your experience will be determined by the actual counselor you end up seeing. You can think of BetterHelp and TalkSpace as telephone service providers. As long as your telephone service provider is good enough, then you will not spend too much time thinking about it. The important thing will become the conversation you are having, and not the telephone service itself.

That said, I found myself more consistently reaching for BetterHelp over TalkSpace. The quality of the experience just seemed to be higher. I found the customer service more responsive, and I found the scheduling system easier to use. 

Without a doubt, the main reason I preferred BetterHelp, was because I could schedule unlimited live sessions with my counselor. This brought the whole experience much closer to the benefits of in-person counseling. I could see my counselor via video regularly, while also messaging her as needed.  

When we consider the variety of options out there for therapy, know that online counseling can be a fantastic choice, especially if you are capable of engaging regularly with your therapist. That is on you, so be prepared to dedicate time each day to communicating and applying the lessons you’ve learned to your own issue. BetterHelp and TalkSpace have both provided all of us an opportunity to get better on our own terms – if you think the time is right, reach out and start diving into what will make your life more fulfilled.



Visit BetterHelp (Our Pick)
         
Visit TalkSpace







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Please note that for confidentiality reasons, we do not publish the names of therapists or clients when we review counseling services.

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