What Is BetterHelp Therapy?
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that connects clients with licensed therapists for live audio, video, or chat sessions as well as asynchronous messaging.
Your monthly BetterHelp subscription includes one live session every week as well as the ability to message your therapist anytime. (Note that while you can send your therapist as many messages as you wish, most BetterHelp therapists only respond about once a day.)
BetterHelp is a therapy platform, not a type or kind of therapy. It’s a way to connect with a therapist who can see you online. Think of it as a therapy matchmaking service.
BetterHelp hires trained and licensed therapists just like the ones you’d find in your local community. The only difference is that BetterHelp therapists have chosen to connect to clients through BetterHelp instead of (or in addition to) a local agency or private practice.
The kind (and quality) of therapy you get on BetterHelp depends on the therapist you work with—this is as true on BetterHelp as it is anywhere else. This is why we strongly recommend taking some time browsing and comparing therapist profiles before choosing one.
That said, BetterHelp makes it easy to change therapists if the first one you pick (or the first one you’re paired with) isn’t a good match. All you have to is click the “Change Therapists” button.
How Does BetterHelp Work?
BetterHelp uses an online platform to connect people with licensed therapists. You can let the site’s algorithm match you with a therapist based on your answers to the sign-up questionnaire, or you can compare therapists’ profiles and choose for yourself based on your own research.
When you’re picking a therapist, you can see whether they offer video, voice, or messaging sessions. We recommend going with a therapist who offers video sessions.
We recommend reading therapist bios to see how well each therapist’s personality and approach matches your needs and preferences, then choosing one based on your research. That said, letting the site match you can be a great way to get started if the research process feels overwhelming or you’re not sure what to look for.
You connect with your BetterHelp therapist in your online “therapy room,” which you access either through a web browser or a smartphone app. That “room” is where you send and read messages and also where you log in to launch your live sessions.
When you log in to your therapy room, you see your scheduled sessions listed in the leftmost pane. You can ask your therapist to schedule sessions for you or book them yourself from the scheduling pane. (Your therapist either confirms the booked session or sends a message back suggesting a different time that you can then confirm.)
Scheduling a session on BetterHelp
Your therapist initiates live sessions by making voice or video calls that you “answer” from your therapy room.
BetterHelp is a monthly subscription service that charges a set amount to your payment source (credit card or PayPal) every four weeks. (See below for more details on pricing.) We recommend getting weekly live sessions to get the most value from your BetterHelp subscription.
You can cancel your BetterHelp subscription at any time and for any reason. (Note, however, that your cancellation is not effective immediately; your subscription will remain active until the end of the current pay period.)
What Discounts Are Available for BetterHelp?
You can get 20 percent off your first month by clicking the link below:
How Much Is BetterHelp?
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 where 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).
How Does Online Counseling Differ from In-Person Counseling?
When you use video, online therapy works the same way as in-person therapy. You and your therapist communicate using words, silence, body language, and eye contact. Your therapist listens not only to what you say, but also to what you don’t say—and to how you say it.
One of the reasons we strongly recommend live video sessions over audio or chat sessions is that they allow you and your therapist to connect and see each other the same way you would in person. You lose all visual and so much nonverbal communication when you have an audio session.
You lose even more when you have a chat session. It’s notoriously difficult to read emotion and intent accurately over text, even for a therapist, and therapy thrives on a therapist’s ability to read those things accurately.
That said, video sessions aren’t perfect. Certainly, something is lost when you connect over video instead of in person. Think of how different it feels to see your loved one’s face digitally rendered on a screen and to sit right next to them. You feel more connected when you’re in the same room. The same is true when it comes to you and your therapist.
At its core, therapy is about intimacy, and intimacy takes a hit when people are separated by screens. This is as true for you and your therapist as it is for you and your loved ones.
However, video therapy sessions are an increasingly popular way to get therapy for the same reasons video calls are a standard smartphone feature. Video is a great way to connect when you can’t see someone in person because of your schedule or other reasons.
And there are a lot of reasons seeing a therapist in person can be difficult, if not impossible. Busy schedules and geography can rule out therapy that comes with a commute to a distant office.
Benefits of online therapy include accessibility, comfort, and cost.
In the end, we and most therapists have come to the conclusion that the differences between video and in-person therapy sessions are subtle, not definitive. The research backs this up, too. You get most of the same benefits without the same barriers to care.
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 therapy sessions can be effective, and little to no evidence that text-based or messaging-only therapy is effective.
Is Online Counseling with BetterHelp Effective?
Probably. Whether counseling 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 find a good match on BetterHelp than locally.
Many satisfied BetterHelp customers say they found a great therapist on the platform. We think you get better results by comparing BetterHelp therapist bios and choosing one for 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.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Is BetterHelp weekly?
Your BetterHelp subscription includes weekly live therapy sessions and the ability to message your therapist anytime. (Note that you can send as many messages as you want, but your therapist may only respond once a day or so.)
However, individual therapist schedules and availability vary. You will also need to make sure what kind of live sessions your therapist offers. We strongly recommend seeing a therapist who offers live weekly video sessions.
How long does it take BetterHelp therapists to respond?
Most BetterHelp therapists respond to messages and requests within 24 hours. However, they can sometimes respond faster than that, and sometimes, it can take a little longer. Therapists may have a particular day or days that they take off each week.
You’ll want to account for holidays and what your therapist has told you about their schedule and any days they take off. For example, if your therapist told you she takes Tuesdays off, don’t be surprised if you send a message Monday night and don’t hear back until Wednesday.
The best way to anticipate when your therapist will respond is to talk to them about it. Many BetterHelp therapists block out certain times of day (and certain days) to respond to messages and can tell you exactly when to expect to hear back from them.
Most therapists will make every effort to set up a schedule for live sessions and messaging that works for both of you. Setting expectations around communication can greatly enhance your experience on BetterHelp (and with therapy in general).
Is BetterHelp only online?
Yes, BetterHelp is only online. BetterHelp’s online platform was designed to make therapy more accessible to people who have a hard time getting to in-person therapy sessions.
BetterHelp was a pioneer in online therapy and has become a popular option for people looking for online therapy. Many therapists from a wide range of backgrounds offer online sessions through BetterHelp.
Is BetterHelp in person?
No, BetterHelp is not in person. BetterHelp offers remote video, audio, or messaging sessions only. If you would prefer to work with a therapist in person, we recommend looking up local therapist listings to see if there are any therapists near you who are a good match and who have the availability you need.
Is BetterHelp 24/7?
Sort of. Not really. You can message your therapist 24/7, but they will not respond 24/7. BetterHelp therapists tend to only respond to messages once a day.
BetterHelp messaging services are meant to help you touch base with your therapist about things that come up in everyday life, not to make it possible to maintain constant or emergency connection with a therapist.
In fact, BetterHelp isn’t the best option if you have severe mental health symptoms that might require emergency attention. We recommend looking for a local therapist who can help you connect with local resources if you anticipate there might be times you need mental health services more than once per week.
Maintaining healthy, clear boundaries is an important part of good therapy. Most therapists will set up a way and time you can contact them between sessions, but they will also work with you to make sure you have appropriate alternatives when you need immediate help or support.
There are national, international, state, and local crisis lines that do offer 24/7 crisis response services. These hotlines can connect you with someone to talk to whenever you need. Click on any of the following links for more information:
- 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.
Is BetterHelp international?
Yes, BetterHelp is available internationally. Which countries and languages are available depends on the therapists working on the platform at any given time. You can see which therapists are available where you live when you sign up. Click here to sign up and find out. You’ll be able to explore what your options are before you commit to a subscription.
Is BetterHelp only in the US?
BetterHelp is available in multiple countries, not just the US. In our testing, we found that the BetterHelp “Find a Therapist” location search page only works for US locations and that the only way to find non-US therapists was to start the sign-up process and indicate you are in another country. Click here to find out whether BetterHelp is currently available where you live. You can see what’s available before you decide whether to use BetterHelp.
Does BetterHelp work in Canada?
BetterHelp is available in Canada, though they do not have a Canada-specific sign-up page. They also do not list any Canada-specific information on their website. Some unofficial websites give Canada-specific information for BetterHelp, but it seems the only way to find out which therapists are available and what the costs currently are in CAD is to start the sign-up process from Canada. Click here to sign up and find out more. You’ll be able to see whether there are any therapists available in your area that are a good match before you commit to a subscription.
Does BetterHelp have psychologists?
BetterHelp hires many different kinds of licensed therapists including psychologists. Whether you can find a psychologist to work with on BetterHelp depends on whether there are any offering BetterHelp sessions in your area (and who currently have availability).
The best way to look for a psychologist on BetterHelp is to click on the “Find a Therapist” link at the bottom of the BetterHelp homepage, enter your zip code, and scroll through the listings to see if you can find one.
Does BetterHelp have psychiatrists?
BetterHelp does not currently have psychiatrists. They do not offer medication management, psychiatric medication prescriptions, or any other psychiatric services. If you want to work with a psychiatrist, you will need to look for one through another online service or find one locally in your community.
However, once you do find a psychiatrist, you can see a BetterHelp therapist at the same time. Many people like to work with a psychiatrist and a therapist together, as medication and therapy can offer complementary benefits.
Does BetterHelp prescribe medication?
No. You can’t get medication prescribed to you on BetterHelp. They don’t hire psychiatrists and they don’t authorize using their platform for prescribing medication.
So, if you want to try psychiatric medication, you can look for a psychiatrist or other prescribing mental health professional locally or through another online platform. You can also see if your primary care doctor can prescribe the medication you need.
You can read our article “Therapy Vs. Medication” for help if you’re not sure which one is right for you.
Does BetterHelp diagnose?
You can’t get a formal diagnosis from a therapist on BetterHelp. Though all BetterHelp therapists are qualified by their therapy licenses to diagnose mental health conditions, BetterHelp’s Terms of Service disclaim using their platform for the purposes of diagnosis.
There are practical as well as legal reasons for this. It means that BetterHelp isn’t a viable platform for people needing or seeking a diagnosis. However, there are upsides, too. Many therapists prefer not to diagnose clients and like working on a platform where they can provide the care clients are looking for without having to diagnose them.