In a world that has increasingly shifted online, it is no surprise that there has been a boost in the availability of online therapy. More and more people can access therapy thanks to the surge in online therapy platforms.
But can meeting with a therapist over your phone or computer be a viable substitute for actual face-to-face sessions? To answer this question, we decided to check out one of the leading names in online therapy – Talkspace. The main goal was to determine the ease of use and effectiveness of the platform and to compare its experience and value to in-person sessions. Keep reading to see the full review.
What Exactly Is Talkspace?
Talkspace was founded in New York back in 2012 by Roni and Oren Frank. The couple was inspired to launch the service after their own positive experience with couples therapy. Their initiative began as a group therapy platform offering online sessions with licensed therapists. Eventually, they introduced an unlimited messaging option along with audio and the ability to schedule live video sessions. By 2018, the company extended its therapy options to individual psychotherapy, couples therapy, Talkspace for Teens, and even consultations with psychiatrists to prescribe medications.
Talkspace has continued to grow over the years, accumulating over a million users. They have also partnered with health insurance companies, businesses, and schools to make the product available to more users. Their overall goal, as stated by their website, is not to replace in-office therapy, but to help people overcome their day-to-day challenges in a stigma-free environment.
Talkspace has experienced a considerable boost in growth during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people seek remote solutions to deal with their personal difficulties. With over 5,000 licensed therapists currently available on the platform, Talkspace has been able to keep up with the increasing demands of a growing client base.
Overview: How Does Talkspace Work?
Talkspace operates as a monthly service providing users with continual access to therapy from licensed therapists. The platform uses an app and an interactive web platform that can be accessed via smartphone, tablet, or desktop. It allows an individual to have 24/7 access to their assigned therapist through text, audio, and video messaging. However, therapists generally only reply once or twice a day and work five days a week. Depending on the subscription plan, users can also book up to four live 30-minute video sessions with their therapist each month.
Talkspace Plans and Pricing
Talkspace offers three different subscription plans for individual therapy. Users select their desired plan when signing up but can change their plan at any time. If you plan on using Talkspace for a longer period of time, there are discounts available for paying in advance. Subscribers receive a 10% discount on a three-month advanced purchase and a 20% discount when you pay six months in advance.
Here are the three subscription plans available for individual therapy on Talkspace:
- Messaging Therapy: Unlimited text, video, and audio messaging with guaranteed responses 5 days a week. Price: $65/week ($260/month)
- Messaging Plus Live Video: Unlimited text, video, and audio messaging with guaranteed responses 5 days a week plus one live 30-minute session per month. Price: $79/week ($316/month)
- Messaging Plus Four Live Videos: Unlimited text, video, and audio messaging with guaranteed responses 5 days a week plus four live 30-minute sessions per month. Price: $99/ week ($396/month)
Talkspace recommends the $79/week plan for most users since it will give you the opportunity to see whether you find live video chats beneficial.
The subscription prices for couples and teens therapy are similar, with packages for teens starting at $65 a week and couples starting at $99 a week.
Talkspace also offers a separate service for an online psychiatric consultation that provides prescription management. For this service, they charge $199 for the initial consultation and $125 for follow-up visits. These meetings are separate from therapy and are conducted by a psychiatrist.
The minimum commitment is one month so even if you cancel after a few days you’ll still be charged for the whole month. Regularly check their website for discounts as they frequently have promotions, such as $100 off the first month for students.
Talkspace Ease of Use: Desktop and Mobile App
One of the best features of Talkspace is its user-friendly interface. It is easy to navigate and you can switch between desktop and the mobile app at any time. It is available for both iOS and Android users.
You can sign up for Talkspace on your computer or by downloading the Talkspace app. You’ll be asked to provide a nickname, password, and email address. Signup begins with an interview by either an AI bot or a licensed therapist acting as a matching agent. You can choose which one you’d like to use.
You’ll be asked basic questions like age, name, and location and then be given the option to learn about how Talkspace works. The agent gathers general information about your previous experience with therapy and major presenting problems. They will then help you select a subscription option that works for you. You can change your subscription anytime afterward.
If you conduct the signup process with the AI chat system, you will be asked similar questions except they will be automated.
Once the consultation therapist or AI chat system has gathered the information they need, they will present you with three matched therapists. You’ll be given the option to choose a gender preference for your therapist. You can review the images, bios, specializations, and qualifications of each one before selecting who you want or requesting a new match.
Once you have selected your match and completed your payment information, you’ll gain access to a secure virtual therapy room. You can access this room from your preferred web browser or using the Talkspace app on your phone.
The Talkspace room offers an excellent chat platform that has a layout similar to other popular chat screens. You can send text, video, or audio messages to your therapist at any time. Each time you send a message, you’ll receive one back letting you know when you can expect a reply.
Therapists often reply within the same day. You will be notified if your therapist is not working the day you send them a message. You can set up notifications on your phone when using the app that will notify you when your therapist has replied, or you will receive an email notification.
Talkspace Counselor Qualifications
Unlike many other therapy sites, Talkspace requires each of its therapists to be fully licensed with 3,000 hours of clinical experience. The therapists are verified and background-checked before joining the platform. Talkspace also offers its hires additional training in specific approaches to therapy.
Professional counselors range in their experience from being newly licensed professional counselors to Ph.D. level clinical psychologists. Unsurprisingly, there is also a great deal of variability regarding expertise and approaches to therapy. This is a positive aspect as you can sift through matches until you find a profile that appeals to your specific needs.
What Is Talkspace Therapy Like?
After my signup interview, I was matched with a licensed professional counselor working out of New York. Her specific approach to therapy was listed as family systems and cognitive-behavioral therapy. She has been working for Talkspace for over a year.
Upon matching, I was asked to provide consent to working with my therapist, and then we were able to begin our conversation. Her first message was a greeting to which I replied immediately. I then hit the button to notify my therapist that I was awaiting a response and was told that she would reply by 9 pm.
I immediately noticed that she tended to respond at the end of the day, even when I messaged early. This meant our introduction messages were stretched out over three days. By day four, she had asked me what was causing me “distress” in my life. I poured my heart and soul into a detailed message, giving her an outline of my current source of distress. I hit send and then waited six hours for my response.
The response was a single line offering me advice I could have easily grabbed from an inspirational quotes Instagram page. She said, “Friends are like seasons, they come and go.” There is of course an element of truth to this statement, but the brief reply seemed to gloss over many of the concerns I had expressed. I was also surprised that she hadn’t asked me any questions about how I was feeling.
My next message was letting her know that I understand this concept but it was not overly helpful for my current situation. I was told I would get a response by 9 pm the next day. At exactly 8:30 pm the next day, she responded with, “Do you think the pandemic has played a part?”
At this point, it felt like I was chatting with a disinterested self-care chatbot so I opted to switch therapists. Talkspace gave me the option automatically as part of their “check-in.”
Switching was rather easy. They allowed me to rate my experience with my first therapist and then gave me new options. My new therapist was a licensed clinical social worker specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy. She had been working for Talkspace for only five months but had already helped 303 Talkspace clients. That seemed like a lot.
My chat history was shared with my new therapist. She responded that she had read a “bit” of my history and immediately followed up with “Have you ever considered the idea that friends are like seasons?”
By now, I was beginning to wonder if Talkspace had trained its therapists with a list of clichés and motivational quotes. I continued talking with my new therapist and despite that first impression, I did find her to be more connected and warm than my previous therapist. Her responses were usually four to six lines and she responded at various times in the day.
As the days went on, she asked me questions and began to offer helpful and thoughtful responses. She peppered her responses with useful truths like “focus on your own growth.” Although the responses were helpful, I had to wait at least five hours for each reply and never received more than one response in a day. This made the process of seeking answers rather slow but did force me to articulate my needs in a concise way.
I did notice that I began to feel a sense of relief after venting my frustrations each day. She did make me feel like she was trying her best to give thoughtful feedback. Once I got better at clearly communicating specific needs and clarifying what I was looking for, I began to enjoy my virtual therapy. There weren’t any major breakthroughs for me, but it did feel like Talkspace was a helpful element in my life.
Best Way to Use Talkspace
There is an adjustment period that comes with baring your heart and soul in a text and waiting hours or even days for a response. It can also be tricky to get to the root of the problem if your situation is complicated or involves interpersonal difficulties. However, it is possible to gain meaningful insights and thoughtful feedback about many problems once you adjust to the Talkspace format.
To get the most out of your Talkspace sessions, it would be ideal to have a very specific or recurring issue that you want advice for. You would also likely find texting more effective if it is supplemented with video sessions, which generally need to be booked at least a week in advance so keep that in mind.
Talkspace is very different from traditional therapy and there is bound to be a learning curve for therapists and clients as they adjust to the platform.
The fact that you can easily switch therapists is a huge benefit. Once I felt a connection with my therapist, it was also a nice feeling knowing that I had a 24/7 connection to a professional to help me work through and reflect on my issues.
As is true for in-person therapy, the more effort you put into Talkspace therapy, the more you will get out of it.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Talkspace assures users that all communication taking place on the website or app is encrypted. For further protection, the app also requires you to enter using a password you created. You can add extra identity protection by communicating with your therapist using a nickname rather than your legal name. Additional information may also be collected by Talkspace for users who access the site through their employer or insurance payor.
One aspect of Talkspace that is important to be aware of is that your conversations cannot be deleted. Given that the conversations between client and therapist are considered medical records, it is federally mandated that the records remain intact for a minimum of five years. They also keep any information on file that you provide about an emergency contact in case of a mental health crisis.
Specialties and Areas of Expertise
There are thousands of therapists on Talkspace with training in various modalities of therapy. Talkspace reports that therapists are trained in approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, rational emotive behavior therapy, and psychodynamic methods. Each therapist on Talkspace has to adapt their modality of therapy to an online format which may result in significant differences in quality of delivery.
The nature of the communication between client and therapist on the Talkspace platform lends itself to a more casual approach to therapy than would be given in a traditional face-to-face setting for many modalities. Perhaps this is why many of their therapists seem to lean into offering inspirational quotes.
There is no definitive list of conditions treated by therapists at Talkspace, but the platform is stated to be useful for problems such as:
- Anxiety and Stress
- Trauma and Grief
- Eating disorders
- Family conflict
- Mood disorders
- Sexual abuse
- Relationship problems
- Sleep problems
- LGBTQ+ issues
- Anger management
Couples Therapy on Talkspace
Many therapists on Talkspace specialize in couples counseling which may be very convenient for some couples. Couples will share the same therapist and can either log on together for joint sessions or opt for individual ones.
Talkspace offers couples counseling for problems such as:
- Sexual health
- Sexual orientation
- Fertility issues
- Work and finances
Talkspace for Teens
A part of Talkspace’s growth plan has been to include an online therapy option for teens. Talkspace for Teen is geared to adolescents from 13-17 years of age. Parental consent is required for teens to begin therapy which must be given by video and text message using the app. Children can simply upload a video of their parents consenting directly to the app.
Talkspace counselors conducting therapy with teens abide by standard ethical guidelines which means that parents have no access to any chats or information exchanged during therapy sessions. The only time a therapist will reach out to parents is if the child is in danger of harming themselves or others.
Parents are not involved in the therapy process unless agreed upon by the child and therapist. Parents who want updates on their child’s progress can reach out directly to the therapist. However, the therapist will only share information with parents if they have the child’s consent.
Talkspace has many counselors available who are qualified to work with teens. They specialize in many problems that are common to teens such as:
- School issues
- Relationships and family problems
- Anxiety or depression
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation and sexual health
- LGBTQ+ issues
- Body image
- Social anxiety
- Career planning
Psychiatric Consultation on Talkspace
Talkspace was the first online mental health platform to offer prescription services to users in need of medications. For an additional fee, users can schedule virtual appointments with a psychiatrist who can prescribe and manage most medications. However, providers on Talkspace are unable to prescribe controlled substances.
Psychiatry clients will discuss the recommended treatment plan with the doctor during their consultation but are not guaranteed a prescription. The medication services on Talkspace are certainly valuable to individuals in need of medications and offer the advantage of prescriptions from specialists in the field.
Other Notable Features
In addition to texting and online sessions, Talkspace offers access to an online symptoms tracker. This helps users keep tabs on their progress over time which can help with how they approach treatment. The app also features a section where you can complete exercises targeted at daily problems like stress or conflict. If you choose to, these exercises can be logged and shared with your therapist.
Does Talkspace Work?
Talkspace is a newer platform and there is limited research available to assess how effective it is as a provider of therapy. However, research has been done to examine the effectiveness of messaging and Internet-based therapy.
A 2014 study found that when therapists engaged in cognitive behavioral therapy with their clients, online therapy was effective for treating depression. A 2020 study found that two-way messaging with a qualified therapist was just as effective as in-person therapy for anxiety and depression. Additionally, participants in this study tended to do better when their assigned therapists used a cognitive behavioral therapy approach. The study also found that participants who had more written engagement with their therapists did better than those who wrote less.
More work needs to be done to examine specific modalities of online therapy, but overall most research indicates that providing therapy through Internet-based platforms is a legitimate form of intervention that can help people improve their mental health. It is still unclear exactly how specific modalities of therapy can be used effectively online and which conditions are suitable for this form of treatment.
The most common complaint among Talkspace users is that they often wait a long time for responses from therapists and sometimes those responses feel copied and pasted. This can be a difficult feeling when you are leaving vulnerable messages. Others have reported excellent and high-quality interactions with their therapists from the beginning.
Talkspace may not be suitable for everyone. For severe and complicated mental health conditions it is better to get an in-person consultation. Also, for people who aren’t comfortable communicating in writing or online, it may not be as effective as meeting a therapist in person.
Whether or not Talkspace works depends on your presenting issues, the quality of the therapist you are matched with, the time they dedicate to you, and whether the format of delivery works well for your lifestyle and needs.
Who Should Use Talkspace?
Talkspace may be best for people who are comfortable communicating through text. It is also better suited for people who are experiencing mental health problems that aren’t severe. There is limited information on which conditions best benefit from using Talkspace, but it’s most commonly recommended for those suffering from anxiety and depression.
You should try Talkspace if you feel comfortable building a working relationship with someone virtually. Just as with in-person therapy, a lot of the benefits of Talkspace will depend on the therapist you are matched with. Finding a therapist that you can build a good rapport with and who offers expertise in your specific area of need will ensure that you get the most out of online therapy. One key benefit to Talkspace is that they employ thousands of therapists and make it fairly easy for you to switch your assigned therapist if you are unhappy with the match.
Talkspace is also well suited for individuals who struggle with social anxiety or who feel uncomfortable, or are unable, to visit a therapy office. The option to meet a therapist conveniently over the phone is a great benefit for many people who may not otherwise seek help.
You could also benefit from an app like Talkspace if you find journaling to be a helpful activity. Given that Talkspace is similar to a journal, except it writes back with good advice, it can be a very helpful tool for many individuals. Additionally, your chats with your therapist remain in the chat room even when your subscription ends. This can act as an excellent resource for reviewing previous suggestions and advice from your therapist about how to deal with certain types of issues.
In general, Talkspace may be a good option for people who are uncertain about therapy and curious to try it, people uncomfortable or unable to go to an office, those on a tighter budget, and people who prefer the convenience of therapeutic intervention on their own schedule.
Who Should Not Use Talkspace?
You should never use Talkspace during a mental health crisis. It is also not suited for people in need of a complicated treatment plan such as with multiple diagnoses, mania, or psychosis. People with a history of trauma should have an emergency plan in place if they use the app in case they find themselves in need of crisis services. Additionally, long wait times in between responses from your Talkspace therapist may exacerbate certain types of symptoms for some people.
Talkspace is not a good option for people who have been mandated to attend therapy by their employer, school, or other authority as the platform does not offer legal documentation for court-ordered therapy or disability programs.
Finding affordable and accessible help from a mental health professional can be a difficult process. Talkspace offers to fill this void with their platform. Some aspects of online therapy may not appeal to certain individuals, in particular replies may sometimes seem automated, therapists may not be available when you need them, and messages can get lost in translation without the context of in-person interactions.
However, there are several benefits to Talkspace such as being able to vent about your problems as they arise and tracking your progress over time. Additionally, Talkspace offers an affordable way to get therapy with a qualified mental health professional from the comfort of your own home.
Overall, the platform is easy to use, offers counseling with qualified professionals, and gives the user the option to hand-pick their own therapist and switch things up if it isn’t working for them. Most experts would also agree that some therapy is better than no therapy.
Talkspace is a great option for many individuals and may come down to a personal preference. At the end of the day, it can offer an effective, convenient, and affordable way to work on your mental wellness. The best way to know for sure is to give it a try yourself.
The views and opinions contained in the testimonials do not reflect our views and opinions. Users that provide these testimonials are not affiliated with or in any way compensated by this website.