If you were to compare all of the leading online counseling services on the market right now, you would automatically assume that Talkspace is a prime destination for people looking to live better, happier lives. This is no surprise being that Talkspace has been mentioned in the media more than any other online therapy service, including their largest rival, BetterHelp. CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Mashable, Yahoo!, The Verge, Business Insider, The Huffington Post – this is just a shortlist of media coverage Talkspace has received. Is it because they have raised close to $30 million in funding? Is it because they are excellent at branding their service? Or is it really because they have an all-around terrific service? Let’s take an in-depth look at the Talkspace service.
While Talkspace doesn’t reveal figures, back in June 2016, TechCrunch noted that over 300,000 people use Talkspace as their online therapy solution. That certainly puts them in the big leagues, and likely in the top 2 spots. So, what makes them so special? Oren Frank, the CEO of Talkspace, along with his wife Roni, founded Talkspace back in 2012 when Mr. Frank was in need of therapy. He noticed a huge issue: the entire mental healthcare system is broken. And while the people who work in this field may have good intentions, Mr. Frank realized they don’t have the tools to fix it. So he and his wife started Talkspace and, along with an incredible team, steadily built up the company to where it stands now. It also helped that Mr. Frank had a ton of experience in the marketing and publicity fields, as he was a blogger in the past for The Huffington Post.
The very process itself of getting started with therapy can be stressful for many people; adding the technology component to the mix, even for people who are otherwise tech-savvy, will just add to this stress. Talkspace understood this from the start and thus set out to create the most straightforward method for joining their service. When you get to their website, you are greeted by a ‘chatbox’ of sorts where you type in your question or comments to a therapist, enter an email address, a password, and a nickname. Once you have completed this, you are led to a secured chat room. It is here that you can ask the therapist more questions about online therapy or what you are experiencing. It is important to note that this is just an introductory welcoming to Talkspace. While you will be chatting with a certified professional, this won’t be your specific counselor. Rather, you will need to answer a few questions from the therapist and pay to use the service, and only then will you be paired with a counselor. However, you can speak with the counselor or ask as many questions as you’d like in this introductory chat room – there is no limit. Additionally, the beauty of Talkspace is that they use IBM Watson for pairing purposes. IBM Watson is a computer system that uses predictive modeling. Using this system has enabled Talkspace to see wild success, as the overwhelming majority of the time customers are happy with the therapist they are paired with. If for some reason you are not happy, you can always write to Talkspace and request a change.
Talkspace offers 3 standard therapy plans from which to choose. The most popular plan is called Unlimited Message Therapy Premium and includes unlimited messaging and 1 live session each month via one of their included communication features. The cost of this plan is $79 per week, billed monthly at $316, but if you commit to 3 months, you can save 10% off that price. In addition, committing to 6 months takes 20% off the standard rate. The LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate Plan, which they appropriately describe as being the best value, costs $99/week, billed as $396, and includes unlimited messaging plus 4 live therapy sessions per month. They also offer couples therapy starting at $99 per week. Overall, they may not be the least expensive brand on the market, but they are pretty close.
Usability (Desktop & Mobile):
While Talkspace delivers a solid online therapy solution, the standout ‘feature’ is certainly its usability. For starters, desktop messaging takes place in the aforementioned chat room. Though the chat room is simplistic and provides good functionality, the Talkspace mobile app is really what users enjoy. This is because, from the beginning, Oren Frank (CEO of Talkspace) understood the “on the go” nature in today’s world. Thus, his crafty team of developers turned a new technology into a world-class platform. The Talkspace app is available on iOS or Android. When you enter the mobile chat room, it mimics the SMS layout of your smartphone, so there is a familiar feeling with no learning curve whatsoever. You are, of course, able to see prior chat history between you and your counselor. This is helpful because not all of your chats will be in real-time. In sum, TalkSpace delivers a chat platform geared toward providing an excellent user experience.
Communication with the therapists takes place via text, video and audio messages. That means it’s not in real-time. As a user of this service, your therapist will hear your message and respond with a message when he/she is available. However, it’s important to note that Talkspace’s packages all include daily responses from the therapists, 5 days a week.
If you opt for a plan that includes live sessions, then note that those sessions will take place via their mobile app only, which includes video conferencing. This may be a bit limiting for those that prefer to conduct their video sessions on the larger screens of their desktop devices.
Counselor Support & Effectiveness:
Talkspace paired me with R.J. McNicholl, an LCSW from Illinois. I was disappointed to be matched up with a therapist not located in my area, though I realize that practically it really doesn’t matter where he’s from. R.J. turned out to be great for me as he was insightful and listened to my issues. He provided me with some profound analogies on how to deal with my emotions which, to my honest surprise, shocked me. We’ve all heard the stories about lame, cliche analogies used in therapy sessions, but after speaking with R.J., I must say don’t mock it till you try it!
Additionally, though success can vary, the overall consensus is that online therapy’s effectiveness is top-shelf. The main reason is that the sooner you get help, the more effective it is. Scheduling an in-office therapy appointment can take days or weeks. Talkspace eliminates that wait time since your therapist is always “with you.” Moreover, Talkspace provides unlimited texting, which means that not every interaction is a transaction. This also helps increase effectiveness because many people view their therapists as professionals doing their job with a focus on money rather than viewing them like people looking to genuinely help the person in need. Since Talkspace has unlimited text for a fraction of the cost, it’s obviously not about the money; this provides a sense of comfort for people wary of the therapist’s true intentions.
And, for good measure, Talkspace employs a board of advisors whose job it is to maintain the effectiveness of the service by performing rigorous, periodic testing.
Confidentiality & Privacy:
Like any major company that deals with health records, Talkspace takes a tight security approach to how they conduct the safekeeping of data. Talkspace is HIPAA compliant (both their website and mobile app), and they use SSL encryption for protection. Furthermore, Talkspace enables you to create a unique password for your mobile chat room for an additional layer of security. The only critique some users have is that Talkspace does not delete your chat history. However, this is because they don’t have access to it (only you and your therapist do), as it’s against federal law.
Talkspace’s Counselor Qualifications:
All Talkspace counselors are certified professionals in their respective states and they all hold at least 3,000 hours of hands-on experience. It’s important to mention that not all Talkspace therapists must be licensed within the United States. Remember, you can always request a change if you don’t like your therapist. Don’t just give up on the service if you aren’t happy with who you were paired with. Talkspace therapists have all sorts of backgrounds. From PhDs and LMFTs to LPCs and PsyDs (and many more), Talkspace covers virtually every field in the mental health categories.
Specialties & Areas of Expertise:
As mentioned above, Talkspace therapists cover every area of mental health. These include, but are not limited to:
- All Addictions
- Chronic Impulsivity
- Educational Assessments
- Life Transitions
- Social Behavior
- Substance Abuse
- Trauma & Abuse
While Talkspace provides a robust package of features, its main selling points are accessibility and affordability. In addition to this, Talkspace has done a fantastic job helping people understand the other various benefits to its service: anonymity, stigma-free, simplicity and comfort. With unlimited access to top licensed professionals for a mere $79 per week, it’s no wonder over 300,000 people currently use their online therapy service.