Is BetterHelp Legit?
BetterHelp is a legitimate company that gives licensed therapists a platform to provide the same kind of online therapy sessions they’d provide anywhere else.
The technology and ubiquitous ad campaigns can blur the lines around this simple fact. But while BetterHelp is a Silicon Valley start-up that uses a subscription model and a proprietary app, it’s all just a shiny shell around the simple elements that make therapy work: you and a therapist who click with one another talking in private about what makes you tick.
At the end of the day, the quality and effectiveness of the therapy you get on BetterHelp depends on the therapist you find there and how well you work with them. This is why we recommend researching and vetting your therapist on BetterHelp—and anywhere else you might get therapy.
Is BetterHelp Therapy?
Yes, therapists on BetterHelp offer actual therapy just like you’d receive from any other licensed therapist. They just happen to offer therapy through BetterHelp.
Early skepticism about BetterHelp had a lot to do with its being an online therapy platform. When BetterHelp began, people were unsure about online therapy, and many therapists refused to offer online sessions, insisting they weren’t worthwhile.
Then the pandemic happened. In the space of two years, the vast majority of therapists changed their opinions about online therapy. After necessity pressed them to start offering it, they started seeing the same thing researchers were seeing: online therapy is effective, and the differences between it and in-person therapy are small.
Does Online Counseling Work?
The more research people do on online counseling, the clearer it is that it works—especially if you get live video sessions.
A growing number of peer-reviewed research studies support the effectiveness of therapy via videoconferencing technology, or “teletherapy.” Here are just a few:
- Day, Susan X., and Schneider, Paul L. (2002). “Psychotherapy Using Distance Technology: A Comparison of Face-to-Face, Video, and Audio Treatment.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49(4): 499-503.
- Germain, Vanessa, et al. (2009). “Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Administered by Videoconference for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 38(1): 42-53.
- Backhaus, Autumn, et al. (2012). “Videoconferencing Psychotherapy: A Systematic Review.” Psychological Services, 9(2): 111-131.
- Stubbings, Daniel R., et al (2013). “Comparing In-Person to Videoconference-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(11): e258.
- University of Zurich (2013). “Psychotherapy Via Internet As Good As If Not Better Than Face-to-Face Consultations.” ScienceDaily.
- Wagner, Birgit, et al. (2014). “Internet-Based Versus Face-to-Face Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Depression: A Randomized Controlled Non-Inferiority Trial.” Journal of Affective Disorders, 152-154: 113-121.
- Norwood, Carl, et al. (2018). “Working Alliance and Outcome Effectiveness in Videoconferencing Psychotherapy: A Systematic Review and Noninferiority Meta-Analysis.” Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 25(6): 797-808.
- Berryhill, Micha Blake, et al. (2018). “Videoconferencing Psychological Therapy and Anxiety: A Systematic Review.” Family Practice, 36(1): 53-63.
- Berryhill, Micha Blake, et al. (2019). “Videoconferencing Psychotherapy and Depression: A Systematic Review.” Telemedicine and e-Health, 25(6): 435-446.
- Thomas, Neil, et al. (2021). “Review of the Current Empirical Literature on Using Videoconferencing to Deliver Individual Psychotherapies to Adults with Mental Health Problems.” Psychology & Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 94(3): 854-883.
- Matsumoto, Kazuki, et al. (2021). “Effectiveness of Videoconference-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults with Psychiatric Disorders: Systematic and Meta-Analytic Review.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(12): e31293.
If you’re not in the mood to read academic papers, you can read this 2020 overview of the research on telepsychology published by the American Psychological Association.
Overall, the research supports the argument that video sessions with a qualified therapist are not significantly less effective than in-person sessions with a similarly qualified therapist.
There is some evidence (including in the studies above) that phone or audio sessions can be effective, and little to no evidence that text-based or messaging-only therapy is effective.
The novelty of online therapy that seemed to set BetterHelp apart as questionable is gone. Now, it’s considered mainstream and normal.
That said, online therapy isn’t appropriate for all people or all situations. If you have a severe mental health condition or are seriously considering suicide, online therapy probably isn’t right for you. One important reason is that it’s easier for local therapists to link you with local resources and set up crisis plans to make sure you have all the support you need.
If you’re thinking about suicide or going through any kind of mental health crisis, there’s someone you can call.
If you’re at immediate risk of harm, or have already harmed yourself, you should call 911 immediately.
If you’re thinking of suicide, but are not at immediate risk of harm if you don’t get medical intervention right away, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or a local mental health crisis hotline.
For lists of different mental health crisis hotlines you can call, you can go to any of the following pages on our site:
- National and International Suicide Hotlines
- Free Mental Health Hotlines in the United States
- The United States Mental Health Services Guide
On that last page, you can find information specific to your state, including the mental health crisis hotline for your city or county. Just select your state to get the local information you need.
Your therapist is responsible for screening you to make sure online therapy is right for you, but for most people, it’s a viable option.
Many therapists and clients—including us—have tried online therapy by now and embrace its effectiveness. In other words, online therapy is therapy, and most of us accept that now.
Now, most therapists offer online as well as in-person sessions. Some have even moved their practices completely online because they see how the benefits of online therapy outweigh its downsides—for them as well as for their clients.
Online therapy is legit. Online therapy is here to stay. We’re over that controversy now.
Researchers and therapists have gone from hardened skeptics to acknowledging the evidence that’s piled up since the pandemic—online therapy is therapy.
And BetterHelp’s flavor of online therapy? As with any other online (or offline) platform, the quality of therapy you get depends on the therapist.
This certainly can vary on BetterHelp—as it does anywhere else therapists practice. Why? Because therapists are people, and some are better people than others. Some are better therapists than others. Some of them—well—just suck.
This is why our advice is always the same: do your research first, choose a therapist who’s the right match, and change therapists if the first one isn’t the right one. Do this on BetterHelp. Do this anywhere you get therapy.
It’s just like dating: keep going until you find the right one. They’re out there.
Is BetterHelp a Scam?
BetterHelp isn’t perfect, but it isn’t a scam. Most of the problems that plague the platform are problems that plague therapy in general.
BetterHelp’s goal is to connect people with licensed, qualified therapists who can help them make progress on their therapy goals from the comfort of home. When that doesn’t happen, that’s because someone made a mistake—not by design.
Some people have worked with therapists on BetterHelp who were bad or unethical—that happens in person, too.
The reality is that while the vast majority of therapists are good, responsible clinicians, some of them aren’t. This is no less true offline than it is online.
And this is why we encourage everyone to look out for red flags and to background check their therapists no matter where or how they’re getting therapy.
BetterHelp isn’t a scam—but it isn’t for everyone. There are limits to the platform. You can’t get a diagnosis on BetterHelp or bill insurance for your BetterHelp sessions. It’s not designed for people with severe mental health conditions who may need to set up a crisis plan with their therapist.
If BetterHelp doesn’t offer what you need, you don’t like the way it works, it gives you the “ick,” or you have a passionate opinion about why it sucks, that’s okay! You don’t have to use it! There are so many other great ways to get therapy. Your intuition that BetterHelp isn’t right for you might be spot-on.
But if you feel like it might be a good option for you? Don’t let the naysayers get you twisted. If you’re worried about being scammed, ask your BetterHelp therapist for their license number and check to make sure they’re licensed and in good standing with their local licensing board. If they are? You’re working with a legitimate therapist. You’re not being scammed.
Is BetterHelp Effective?
Probably. Whether therapy on BetterHelp will be effective for you depends on a few things:
- Your BetterHelp therapist’s general level of clinical skill and expertise
- Whether your BetterHelp therapist is a good match for you as a client
- Which kind of live sessions (video, voice, or live messaging) you get
BetterHelp is only as good as the therapists on its platform. It’s essentially a matchmaking site that pairs therapists with clients. Just like anywhere else, you can find good and bad therapists on BetterHelp.
Depending on your specific preferences and the BetterHelp therapists available in your area, you may find it harder or easier to get a good match on BetterHelp than locally. Many satisfied BetterHelp customers say they found a great therapist on the platform.
The quiet truth is that many of us have had good experiences on BetterHelp that reflect the first principle of good therapy: to get good therapy, you have to get a good therapist who’s a good match for you.
We think you get better results when you compare BetterHelp therapists and choose your therapist yourself, but many people say they like the first therapist they were matched with or that they only had to change therapists once to get a good match. Either way, that match is what will determine whether your therapy is effective.
What Discounts Are Available for BetterHelp?
You can get 20 percent off your first month by clicking the link below:
How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?
BetterHelp is a subscription service that bills every 4 weeks and costs between $240 and $360 (updated 2/20/2023). How much you pay depends on your location, preferences, and therapist availability.
BetterHelp offers income-based financial aid. If you qualify for financial aid, it can reduce your cost significantly.
To apply for financial aid, follow this link. When you enter your payment details, look for the “Apply for Financial Aid” link and click it. Next, answer a few questions about your income and ability to pay.
Any discount you receive is instant and based on a good-faith representation of your finances.
Note that you get the most value out of your BetterHelp subscription if you get weekly video sessions (which is our recommended way of using BetterHelp).
Does BetterHelp Use Real Therapists?
Yes! BetterHelp uses real therapists. According to BetterHelp:
“Therapists are licensed, experienced, and vetted before being contracted with the platform.”
What Does a Therapist Have to Do to Get Licensed?
Therapy is a heavily regulated industry and the requirements to get and maintain a therapy license are pretty heavy. Therapists have to get at least two years of postgraduate education in therapy and thousands of supervised practice hours—then take a pretty hard test—before they get a license.
To maintain a license, they have to take continuing education courses every year and provide competent, ethical services to their clients. If they get formal complaints from clients about serious offenses, they will be disciplined by the licensing board or even lose their license.
That means the simple fact your therapist is licensed isn’t so simple at all.
A license doesn’t guarantee that a therapist is ethical or good at what they do, but it does reflect that they had to work really hard to prove that they know what ethical, good therapy is.
If you feel uncertain about a specific therapist, we encourage you to look up their license. You can also look up licenses as you’re comparing different therapists. What you find won’t tell you everything you want to know, but it will at least confirm they have an active license and are in good standing with their licensing board. If they’re not? Pick another therapist!
Is BetterHelp Good?
BetterHelp is only as good as the therapists on their platform. And we and others have found some great ones on there. So, yes, we think BetterHelp is pretty good.
What We Believe
At OpenCounseling, we believe:
- Therapy is good.
- Online therapy is good.
- Different kinds of therapy are good for different people.
- Therapy is as good as the match between client and therapist.
To the extent BetterHelp connects more people with good therapy, we think it’s doing good in the world. If it gets more therapy to more people and gives more good people and good therapists a chance to find and work with one another, we give it a thumbs up.
But we do acknowledge that BetterHelp isn’t good for everyone. Some people have absolutely rotten experiences on the platform. Some people have absolutely fantastic ones. (That’s true in the “real world” of brick-and-mortar therapy too, by the way.)
Ultimately, we trust you, our readers, to figure out for yourselves what’s good for you. We give you tools, information, and advice you can use to compare, background check, and choose therapists; know what to look for when you go to therapy; and confirm whether you’re making progress. We hope you use those tools to get good therapy, whether on BetterHelp or elsewhere.
That’s our greatest hope and dream: to connect more people with the good that good therapy can do.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Is BetterHelp a legitimate company?
BetterHelp is a legitimate company that was a forerunner in the field of online therapy. They created a platform licensed therapists can use to offer online therapy to clients who want it.
The therapy world is very well regulated, and for a therapist to offer therapy, they need to undergo extensive licensing and qualification processes. This is true online as well as offline.
Licensed therapists have to abide by the same regulations no matter where or how they practice. So, when you work with a therapist who offers services through BetterHelp, you are protected by all the professional and ethical regulations that always cover therapy by licensed therapists.
BetterHelp checks to make sure that the therapists who use its platform are licensed, but if you feel uneasy or uncertain about your therapist, you can check their license yourself to confirm that they’re a legitimate licensed therapist.
Does BetterHelp work?
BetterHelp works for a lot of people. It’s worked for us and for others who share their stories online. You can also find stories from people for whom BetterHelp didn’t work.
We think this reflects the greater truth about therapy: it’s only as good as your therapist and as good as your degree of compatibility with them. You can find good and bad therapists on BetterHelp (like you can anywhere else), and we encourage you to background check your therapist first.
The research shows that online therapy (at least live video sessions) is effective (scroll up for a list of studies), and BetterHelp is a way to get video sessions, so in theory, it should work as long as you’re seeing a good therapist on there.
Why is BetterHelp so expensive?
Therapy is expensive for many people because of the average rates therapists charge. Whether BetterHelp is more expensive than other options you might have depends on where you live.
BetterHelp’s rates are often competitive with local therapy rates, and in many cases, getting weekly live sessions on BetterHelp is cheaper than paying out of pocket for weekly in-person sessions with a therapist where you live.
However, if therapy is covered by your insurance and you can find an in-network therapist, you will probably pay less to see that therapist than you’d pay to see a therapist on BetterHelp.
Pro tip: BetterHelp offers income-based discounts that make their rates more affordable for a wider range of people. We strongly recommend applying for financial aid when you sign up for BetterHelp.
Is BetterHelp useful?
BetterHelp has some useful features that can make starting and sticking with therapy easier.
You can browse through the profiles of dozens of therapists who are available in your zip code before choosing one. Since you can work with any therapist who’s licensed to practice in your state, this can often give you more therapists to choose from—and a better chance of finding a match—than if you were looking offline.
And while some therapists may be able to schedule your first session sooner than others, you won’t run into the problem many run into offline: they call therapist after therapist before finding one with any availability, only to find one who’s “available” but who can’t schedule their first session for months. BetterHelp therapists can usually start seeing you within a few days, if not right away.
One of BetterHelp’s most user-friendly features is how easy they make it to change therapists if the one you’re seeing doesn’t feel like the right match. Sometimes, you need to try a few therapists before you find the right one, and BetterHelp makes that a piece of cake. If your first therapist isn’t great, all you have to do is click “Change Therapists” to try a new one.
Finally, and most importantly, BetterHelp’s online format has made it possible for people who can’t commute to a therapist’s office to still get therapy at home. That’s pretty darn useful!
Is BetterHelp therapy good?
BetterHelp therapy is good if the therapist you’re seeing on BetterHelp is good and they’re a good match for you.
There’s no way to guarantee that in advance, but there are some things you can do to increase your chances of finding a good therapist. These include checking their license and reading their bio to see if they specialize in the issues you’re wanting to address. You can read our article on how to background check your therapist for more information.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that you’re not stuck if you don’t like or click with the first therapist you choose (or the first one you’re matched with). No matter where or how you get therapy, you can switch therapists until you find one that’s right for you. BetterHelp makes that pretty easy—all you have to do is click “Change Therapists” to try someone new.
Is BetterHelp reliable?
We’ve personally found BetterHelp’s website and apps to be pretty reliable, and other users have, too, though some occasionally report technical glitches or issues.
There is some turnover of therapists on BetterHelp, so some people have had the experience of their therapist leaving BetterHelp and needing to find a new one (note that people also have the experience of therapists moving or closing their practice offline, too). Others, however, have ended up working with their BetterHelp therapist for years.