2022 Brightside Online Therapy Review
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Brightside hit the scene in January 2019 as an online mental health service allowing medical professionals to prescribe medication to treat anxiety and depression. Founded by a psychiatrist, it sought to use a mix of technology, science, and human interaction to help clients cope with their negative symptoms.
Since it first launched, Brightside has added psychotherapeutic services, creating a comprehensive virtual platform to improve clients’ mental health. Although teletherapy has been gaining in popularity for the last several years, online services that allow for both therapy and the prescription of psychotropic medication are relatively novel. Its treatment, convenience, and safety make Brightside an attractive option for addressing depression and anxiety in the age of COVID-19.
Who Should Use Brightside?
Brightside is primarily intended for individuals with non-threatening depression and anxiety issues. Severe depression involving self-harm is not appropriate for this platform. In general, if your problems are causing serious impairment, online mental health services are not recommended. Brightside does not provide services for couples or children.
Brightside Plans and Pricing
Brightside is among the only providers of online therapy to accept insurance. For those paying privately, Brightside does not over-complicate their selection of packages. They offer three very simple plans from which you can choose:
- Therapy Only – $299 Per Month
- Medication Only – $95 Per Month
- Medication + Therapy – $349 Per Month
Brightside provides talk therapy services for $299 per month with no long-term commitments.
This package includes one weekly 30-minute video session and unlimited texting. The website notes that providers will respond within 24-48 hours. If a therapist does not get back to you for two days, however, you will only be able to text them a few times a week and expect a response. How quickly your therapist responds depends on the individual therapist.
Additional 30 minute video sessions will cost $59/session and are subject to the availability of your therapist.
Brightside also uses Your Path™, a symptom tracker that gives you and your therapist feedback as to how you are doing. This tool can be helpful in making your live therapy sessions more efficient, as your therapist knows in advance of each meeting how you are doing that week.
Brightside began as a psychiatric prescription service and continues to acknowledge that not everyone wants therapy. They offer psychiatric prescription services for $95 per month. In addition, clients will have to pay an insurance copay or a flat $15 fee for the medication.
Upon signing up, you will be assigned to meet with a psychiatric provider. This professional might be a medical doctor but they also may be a nurse-practitioner. You will then meet with the provider live online for a short (e.g., 15 minute) initial consultation. After that meeting, you will be prescribed medication if it is determined that you need it, which is not guaranteed. In addition to the intuition of the provider, Brightside promotes its use of Brightfinder, which is a science-based algorithm used to match people with the appropriate medication. If it is determined you need medication, it will be delivered to your door through the mail.
Brightside promises only the initial consultation as part of its medication subscription costs. Reaching your psychiatric provider after that appears to be a bit unpredictable. You can text at any time but they are given up to 72 hours to respond. Another live video consultation will only be provided at the determination of the provider. As with the therapy-only option, Your Path™ is used to help the psychiatric provider track your progress.
Brightside focuses on treating depression, anxiety and the majority of the medications they prescribe are used to treat those disorders (e.g, SSRIs, SNRIs). They explicitly state that they will not prescribe controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax and Valium) and stimulant medications (e.g., Adderall and Concerta).
Medication + Therapy
This package combines the therapy and medication packages, offering unlimited messaging with your therapist, weekly live video sessions, and medication prescription services for $349 per month, plus your pharmacy copay or $15 per medication.
Getting Started With Brightside
The signup process is simple and straightforward. You begin with a 25 question assessment focused on anxiety and depression symptoms. This screening measure asks you to rate criteria related to depression and anxiety diagnoses.
Once you complete the screening, you are given scores that reflect where you fall on the spectrum for severity of symptoms for both depression and anxiety.
After you complete it, you are assigned an appropriate therapist, who is licensed in your state, along with some details about their professional experience and background.
Finally, you’re directed to a page where you can schedule your first live video session. The availability of sessions with your therapist is subject to their individual schedules. But in the case of the therapist with whom I was matched, there were numerous session times to choose from within 1 week of my signing up.
Once you schedule a session, you’ll receive an email confirmation with a link to your Zoom meeting. It is a little strange that Brightside uses Zoom to conduct sessions rather than building their platform like many of the other online therapy services. That being said, Zoom is a platform that is user-friendly and familiar to millions of people around the world. It’s also a pleasure to use on both desktop and mobile devices.
How It Works
Once you’ve signed up, they begin sending a series of welcome emails with helpful instructions. Naturally, they try and encourage you to schedule a live session. But, you can also chat with your therapist, which can be great for those times when you don’t want or need a session, but have a quick question or just need some encouragement. The chat feature is easy to use and works like any other communication app you might use on your desktop or mobile device. I used it to reschedule an appointment and found the therapist to be very responsive.
In between therapy sessions, you are encouraged to engage with Brightside’s interactive lessons. These videos are an integral part of the process. We found them to be insightful and thought-provoking. They take only a few minutes each and offer enough value that they do not feel burdensome.
The therapists can monitor how you progress through the various lessons, and often reference the ideas they cover. This makes the Brightside therapy platform feel like much more of a wholistic and immersive experience.
As you make your way through the lessons, you can track your progression through the program in your online dashboard. This lets you see how many lessons you have completed, how many are left, and what’s next.
Brightside, like many of the other leading providers, has many helpful and convenient features, but the most important aspect of their service is the ability to engage in live therapy sessions via video. We found the therapist assigned to us to be professional, courteous and easy to speak with. She was clearly able to pull from a wealth of knowledge and experience, as our conversation jumped across topics including depression, grief and relationships. She was able to provide guidance and perspective from the very first sessions, which was truly helpful and impressive.
Unlike some other online providers, Brightside does not give you a choice of therapists. They use licensed professionals and perform extensive background checks on their providers. Brightside therapists are said to specialize in dealing with anxiety and depression. They use evidence-based approaches, most notably cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Brightside’s professionals include psychiatrists, physicians, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists. They all have several years of work experience, and have current licenses to practice in 1 or more US states. Brightside clients are only matched with therapists that are licensed to practice in their state.
Brightside’s biggest strength is its convenience and ease-of-use. It makes it simple to access both therapy and psychiatric services. There are now many online therapy platforms, but not too many that offer both therapy and prescription medication services. All you have to do is pay the fee, fill out the assessment, and you are on the way toward receiving help.
It even chooses your provider for you. For comparison, you could wait months for an initial in-person psychiatric appointment. With Brightside, you can receive therapy and have medication at your door in a few weeks.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Confidentiality is a critical issue for any online platform. Indeed, nothing on the internet is immune to hackers. Brightside appears to try its best to ensure its clients’ privacy. They are HIPAA compliant and use 256 bit SSL encryption to keep their client’s information private.
Video sessions take place over Zoom, which has its own set of security protocols and provides end-to-end encryption. No third party, including Zoom itself, has access to the meeting content.
Brightside’s biggest advantage is providing both medication and psychotherapy services in one easy-to-use platform. The lack of a mobile app is not ideal, though using their online platform via mobile device is perfectly fine and does not detract from the quality of the session. Overall, Brightside provides an impressively comprehensive therapy experience with mental health professionals and digital counseling tools that is convenient, affordable and very pleasant to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you are in crisis?
Brightside does not have its own crisis services. You can try to contact your therapist or psychiatric provider but they may not be able to respond immediately. Brightside directs you to call 911, text the national crisis text line, or call the national suicide prevention helpline.
Does Brightside take insurance?
Brightside, unlike most online platforms, accepts insurance.
What if I you miss an appointment?
Brightside has a considerate missed appointment policy. If you missed your scheduled appointment, your provider will send you a new request to book with them over the next 24 hours. That is a vast improvement over a missed appointment fee as you’d find with many in-person therapists.
Can you change providers?
You may change providers at any time for any reason.
Can I receive therapy from my psychiatry provider?
Although certain psychiatrists may be technically able to provide psychotherapy, Brightside splits the medication and therapy components into separate providers. Neither provider will perform the tasks of the other even if they have the ability to do so.
What is the cancellation policy?
You can cancel subscriptions conveniently any time online. You don’t need to go through the hassle of talking to someone who is going to try to convince you that you want to keep their service.
Can you get a refund on Brightside?
Although you can cancel subscriptions online at any time, subscription payments are non-refundable once the monthly bill is paid. If you purchase and cancel an extra live session and would like a refund, you need to contact customer support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once your initial consultation is scheduled with your psychiatric provider you cannot get a refund even if you never actually have the video consultation. Medication refund requests are taken on a case-by-case basis by e-mailing Brightside’s customer support.
Is there a free trial or consultation?
Brightside does not currently offer any contact with their team prior to subscribing to their services.
Pros & Cons
- Unlimited communication with your therapist
- Personalized treatment plans
- Accepts insurance
- Outstanding ease-of-use
- Access to Psychiatrists
- Offers prescription medication services
- No mobile app
- Brightside FAQs. (2022b, March 7). Brightside. https://www.brightside.com/faq/
- Security at Zoom. (n.d.). Zoom. https://explore.zoom.us/en/trust/security/