Founded only in 2013, BetterHelp has taken off as one of the leaders on online therapy. BetterHelp offers over 13,000 licensed professionals with experience helping people cope with nearly all areas of mental health. But, it’s not just about the sheer size of their service that has pushed more than 1,000,000 people to use their platform. Their ability to deliver an effective, user-friendly and cost-effective therapy solution is almost unparalleled.
Remember, BetterHelp started in 2013. Less than two years after experiencing rapid growth, they were bought by Teladoc, the largest telehealth provider in the country. With hundreds of employees and the Teladoc resources behind them, BetterHelp has been able to focus on making their platform the best in every area. Moreover, the one thing that truly stands out is that BetterHelp realizes that human to human contact should not be replaced. Rather, they are simply leveraging new technology to meet the expectations of today’s consumers.
If usability is your concern, then look no further. BetterHelp designed one of the most intuitive platforms I have tested. For starters, you will need to sign up for an account. There is no need to use your real name or any other real credentials. If you don’t feel comfortable, using an alias is completely fine. Once you have registered, you will be led to fill out a short questionnaire in a multiple-choice format.
Once you have completed the questionnaire, you will be led to the secured payment page. After entering in payment details, BetterHelp then pairs you with the appropriate therapist based on your answers, while also using their back end algorithms. It is believed that most BetterHelp customers are satisfied with who the algorithm has paired them with. If you are not happy, you can always request a new therapist. Once paired with the therapist, you will be led to a secure and dedicated chat room that only you and your counselor can access. Additionally, this room is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While chats are almost always not in ‘real-time,’ BetterHelp counselors make extraordinary efforts to reply as quickly as possible. Moreover, should you want actual ‘live chat,’ you simply need to schedule it in advance with your counselor. The same goes for live phone and live video sessions. All plans come with unlimited chatting – via desktop/app, phone and video – tops in the industry (generally, other online therapy providers will charge an additional fee for phone/video sessions). Starting a phone session is easy as well. You simply need to schedule a date and time with your counselor prior to receiving phone counseling.
Considering what I’ve known to be the average cost of in-person therapy, I was initially expecting this service to cost hundreds of dollars per month. However, it turns out that BetterHelp is one of the most affordable online counseling services on the market, and significantly less expensive than any in-office alternative I’ve seen. Their plan costs approximately $90 per week, but they do offer financial aid for those that qualify. You can also save 10% on your first month if you reach them through one of the media companies they sponsor. The plan includes unlimited counseling via messaging with a dedicated therapist, as well as weekly live sessions via video or voice conferencing.
Usability (Desktop & Mobile):
From a user experience standpoint, BetterHelp’s platform is very straightforward. Simply log in to your account and you are directed straight to your dedicated chat room. If you have ever used any chat service (like Google Chat or Skype), BetterHelp’s functionality is very similar to these. You send messages with the click of the button while you receive answers as soon as your counselor replies. Moreover, you don’t need to be connected to BetterHelp’s platform at all times. You will receive email notifications informing you of a reply from your therapist. You can access their platform both on your desktop and your mobile devices. Their mobile app is free and available for both iOS and Android.
As far as communication with the therapists, BetterHelp offers a variety of options. In addition to the text-based messaging that comes standard with each plan, live sessions can be conducted via live chat and video on both desktop and mobile devices, as well as over the phone.
Counselor Support & Effectiveness:
There are those who have said that therapists cannot help people online as much as they do “in-office.” There are numerous factors involved in determining how helpful a therapist can be, many of which have to do with the individual session itself (and not the distance between you and your counselor). Knowing this, I kept an open mind when BetterHelp paired me with a therapist named Idiana Morales. Being that I currently reside in Florida, BetterHelp paired me with Mrs. Morales as she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (MS, LMHC) in the state of Florida. As I had started feeling anxious and stressed out for close to a year, I instantly felt some level of comfort when I saw Mrs. Morales credentials. Her specialties are stress, anxiety, relationship, family and anger (with experience in several other fields as well) – essentially the areas I needed help with. It is difficult to accurately describe how helpful Idiana was in a simple review like this. But, for the sake of professionalism and reporting, I will try my best. I am a Type-B personality at heart. Nothing ever bothered me too much. That changed after 8 years of marriage, when I started feeling anxious and animosity toward certain family members. Idiana was able to defuse several situations and enabled me to tackle the underlying issues head on, and in a considerate, timely and professional manner. Overall, the level of support given by my counselor was phenomenal.
Confidentiality & Privacy:
I have seen a decent number of people suggest that e-counseling is not safe. These naysayers claim that in the digital age, nothing is safe. Perhaps that is true, but how safe are “in-office” appointments? Your individual sessions may not be saved but your files and summaries of your sessions are very likely saved on your therapist’s office computer. This is just as susceptible to attack as BetterHelp; however, a hacker would likely have an easier time gaining access to your therapist’s office computer rather than BetterHelp’s sophisticated firewalls. BetterHelp is serious about privacy and takes several steps to ensure anonymity and confidentiality. The BetterHelp browsing encryption system (SSL) is provided by Comodo, a world leader in data security, while messages between you and your counselor are further encrypted with bank-grade 256-bit encryption. Moreover, since all BetterHelp counselors are state-certified, they are subject to strict local and federal privacy laws, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Your medical and other health information is private, and is not shared with insurance companies since BetterHelp doesn’t cooperate with insurance companies. Overall, BetterHelp does an outstanding job of protecting your information.
BetterHelp’s Counselor Qualifications:
All BetterHelp counselors are licensed, trained, and accredited at the state level, and each of them holds either a Masters Degree or a Doctorate Degree in their respective field. Moreover, they all have three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience, at a minimum. The counselors are psychologists, family therapists, clinical social workers or licensed professional counselors with a broad range of expertise.
Specialties & Areas of Expertise:
One major benefit to using BetterHelp is that they cover virtually all areas that people would need help with. Though this may seem like a given, it isn’t. There are several e-counseling services that do not offer a full range of areas of expertise. Some of the main areas that BetterHelp covers are:
- All Addictions
- Chronic Impulsivity
- Educational Assessments
- Life Transitions
- Social Behavior
- Substance Abuse
- Trauma & Abuse
There are numerous reasons why BetterHelp is a among the top-rated online therapy services. US-based licensed therapists? Check. One of the only online therapy services with a low, set cost? Check. Rigorous screening procedures of therapists? Check. Best-in-class anonymity and confidentiality? Easy-to-use platform? Check. If the prospect of trying out online counseling intrigues you, BetterHelp is a great choice.