Brightside Health Online Therapy Review

Brightside is a telehealth platform focusing on anxiety and depression support.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Brightside

Brightside

Brightside Health is a mental health platform offering virtual therapy and structured treatment plans. This service might be great for those seeking short-term solution-focused psychotherapy for mild anxiety and depression. However, due to the brevity of its sessions and the focus on its virtual lesson plans, we wouldn’t recommend it for those experiencing severe anxiety and depression or navigating other psychiatric diagnoses.  

Key Facts

  • Price: $299 to $349
  • Is Insurance Accepted? Yes
  • Types of Therapy Offered: Individual therapy, psychiatry
  • Communication Options: Live video, messaging
  • HIPAA Compliant? Yes
  • Is There an App? No
  • Accepts HSA or FSA? Yes
  • Prescriptions Available? Yes
  • Billing Cadence: Monthly

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Offers psychiatry services
  • Accepts multiple forms of insurance
  • You can try out an online lesson before signing up
  • Reasonably priced
  • Wide range of services available
  • Highly skilled and qualified therapists available

Cons

  • Sessions are only 30 minutes long
  • Virtual lesson plans may not be for everyone
  • Emphasis on quick results, which isn’t always realistic
  • Switching therapists isn’t very easy
  • Lapses in care can occur

Brightside Health is a virtual therapy platform that focuses on delivering evidence-based care to those experiencing anxiety and depression. Featuring a team of therapists trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and virtual lesson plans focusing on mental health, it prides itself on exceeding our culture’s current practice of impersonal treatments that don’t use evidence-based approaches and don’t measure clinical outcomes. Brightside’s website makes it clear that it is bucking against our current healthcare system’s norms by setting a higher standard of care. 

It isn’t lost on us that there are stark disparities when it comes to mental healthcare. A 2021 study found that 95.6% of adults reported experiencing barriers of affordability and accessibility when attempting to receive care. Verywell Mind's 2022 Cost of Therapy study found that 40% of Americans surveyed require financial support to access their care. We reviewed Brightside’s services to see if it lives up to its mission of creating a new standard in the mental healthcare industry. We surveyed Brightside clients on their user experience, tried out its services, and consulted with a subject matter expert to assess the platform’s quality of services.

What Is Brightside?

Brightside Health was founded in 2017 by former 23andMe executive Brad Kittredge, previous in-house Facebook psychiatrist Mimi Winsberg, MD, and WellnessFX alum Jeremy Barth. Each of the founders has a personal tie to the mission of providing quality care for depression and anxiety. Kittredge watched a family member endure depression for the duration of his life. Dr. Winsberg was inspired by the alchemy of seeing depressed patients begin to heal. Barth, unfortunately, lost a family member to depression. With each founder sharing these personal anecdotes on the Brightside website, it is clear this is an organization founded with deep care and compassion. 

Brightside hasn’t received much news coverage, though a few publications have written generally positive reviews of the platform. Its Instagram account receives hardly any engagement. No news can be good news—it hasn’t been embroiled in any scandals, public scrutiny, or reports of unethical behavior. 

What Services Does Brightside Offer?

Brightside offers virtual individual therapy and psychiatry appointments. There is an option to have a membership that combines both services. Therapy sessions last 30 minutes, psychiatry appointments last 15 minutes, and unlimited messaging with your provider is available. Therapy services are accompanied by a series of interactive lesson plans that teach clients key cognitive behavioral therapy skills. Psychiatry services are accompanied by a virtual symptom tracker, making it easy to track the efficacy of your medication. 

Who Is Brightside For?

Brightside is designed specifically for those who are suffering from anxiety and depression. It is great for those who are seeking structured solution-focused support and are comfortable completing therapy-related homework outside of the session. Medication-seekers frustrated by minimal contact with their psychiatrist will likely love this service, thanks to the unlimited messaging and symptom tracker. 

I can see someone who has already spent a lot of time in therapy and is now in a maintenance phase of their healing benefitting from this platform. Additionally, folks who are high-functioning and self-directed may appreciate the ability to cut down on their session time and complete the lessons independently.

According to its website, Brightside is not a good fit for anyone experiencing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), active suicidal ideation, self-harm, psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance use problems, borderline personality disorder, or an eating disorder. I’d add that those who are experiencing domestic violence or severe post-traumatic stress disorder should steer away from Brightside’s services. Telehealth services simply are not robust enough to provide the care these types of crises require.

From a medication standpoint, it is important to note that Brightside psychiatric providers cannot prescribe any controlled substances, like Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that a psychiatrist will prescribe you medication. 

How Much Does Brightside Cost?

Brightside’s therapy services cost $299 a month. You have access to four 30-minute sessions per month and unlimited messaging with your therapist. Additionally, you have access to virtual therapy lessons and tools.

Brightside’s psychiatry services cost $95 per month. You’re also responsible for any pharmacy copays if your insurance covers that. If not, you will be charged $15 per medication—which is a major bonus, considering how expensive some medications can be. The psychiatry session lasts about 15 minutes. During that time, you will collaborate with your provider to create a care plan. Brightside asks that you track your symptoms weekly so any changes to the care plan can be implemented efficiently. You also have access to virtual therapy lessons and tools through the platform.

If you’d like to receive both psychiatry and therapy services, it costs $349 a month plus any medication copays or $15 per medication. This plan combines the services of the individual therapy and psychiatry plans. 

The average mental healthcare seeker pays $178 out-of-pocket for mental health care every month. Brightside’s plans are a bit more expensive, but 71% of users found Brightside’s value of services to be good. I’m not surprised by these user results—I was pleased with the range of services I received during my time with Brightside. Additionally, I am impressed by its psychiatry services only costing $95 a month, and medication costing $15. It isn’t uncommon to spend over $200 on a psychiatry visit, plus medication can be extraordinarily expensive, so this is a great value. Users agree: 93% of Brightside users are satisfied with their psychiatry services.

Does Brightside Take Insurance?

Yes, Brightside is in-network with Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem. This means your monthly fee to use this service could be even more inexpensive, depending on your insurance plan. 

We love that Brightside has reasonably priced offerings and also accepts insurance. Insurance is a necessity for many to be able to access mental healthcare. In fact, recent estimates found that 71% of those receiving mental health services use their insurance to fund some of their treatment. Despite this, just 44% of users consider the platform affordable.

Navigating the Brightside Website 

The Brightside website feels approachable and warm while maintaining a sense of clinical professionalism. It features various shades of soft blue, ivory, gray, and gold. All of its promotional images include people of various ages and racial backgrounds. 

Brightside

Brightside

The first thing you see when you land on the homepage is a heading that says, “Life-changing care for anxiety, depression, & ...” with the final part of the sentence rotating the following disorders: bipolar disorder, burnout, insomnia, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety. This is where a big concern came up for me.  

Brightside1

Brightside makes it clear that its services are geared toward those experiencing anxiety and depression, which is evidenced by informational pages on its website about each of these disorders. Its frequently asked questions page even notes that its services aren’t appropriate for anyone experiencing bipolar disorder. This lack of continuity raises concerns—it would be easy for someone with bipolar disorder to sign up based on the information on the homepage alone. Many people may not wander over to the frequently asked questions section of the website. 

Brightside2

As you scroll down the page, it clearly lists the health insurance plans it accepts. It also provides compelling statistics about the efficacy of its services, letting visitors know that 71% of members achieve remission levels within 12 weeks, and 50% of members start with suicidal ideation. Underneath these statistics is a link to check out the rest of its research outcomes. I really appreciate how data-driven Brightside is—it tells me the company is committed to providing effective care. However, I do worry that some may expect quick results when signing up with the platform and that, unfortunately, is unrealistic in many cases.

Brightside

Brightside

The homepage also features positive testimonials from clients and a clear breakdown of its pricing. At the bottom of the page are various crisis hotlines. I felt like I had most of the information I needed from this visit to the landing page, but I was interested in digging a bit further. Turns out, Brightside has educational pages on anxiety and depression, as well as a mini-lesson on self-care. It also has a robust FAQ page that provides insight into pricing, insurance, and services.

It is worth noting that, unlike some of its competitors, Brightside does not offer an app at this time.

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Brightside?

Signing up at Brightside was pretty simple, though the process took longer than I expected. 

Brightside3

When beginning, I was shown a graphic explaining that the sign-up process was three simple steps: fill out a questionnaire, see your “results,” and then get a personalized treatment plan. 

The questionnaire took less than four minutes. First, I was asked what my concerns were. There were various options I could check off, including burnout, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Then, I had to rank my symptoms on how often they occurred. 

Brightside4

After this, my results were auto-populated, and I was provided a provisional diagnosis. I was a bit surprised to receive a diagnosis so early in the process, even if it was provisional. I can imagine this might be alarming for some therapy newcomers. Next, I was taken to a portal where my "score" was provided, with an explanation of how it measures my diagnosis. Also in the portal was a space to book a therapy session, a virtual lesson on self-care, an option to refer a friend, and crisis resources at the bottom. There was also a small button that said, "see how scoring works." Upon clicking this button, I was taken to an explanation that for its questionnaire, Brightside uses the PHQ-9, a popular depression screening tool, and the GAD-7, an anxiety screening tool.

When I went to book a therapy session, I was prompted to enter payment information. 

After this, I filled out more questionnaires for another 15 minutes. These questionnaires were very detailed and included questions about my weight and height. 

It is worth noting that questions about weight can be potentially triggering for those experiencing eating disorders. 

Additionally, a question asked if I had received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. While I commend Brightside for asking this, especially since the company is clear that it is a condition it does not treat, I believe this question is better suited in the initial questionnaire. I was a bit put off that this screening question came after payment was submitted. 

At the end of the sign-up process, which took about 20 minutes in total, I was given a range of appointment times. After selecting one, I was matched with a therapist. 

Matching With a Therapist at Brightside

The tricky thing about Brightside is that there isn’t anywhere on the platform where you can view the providers. Therapy is a deeply personal venture. While I love the convenience of therapy platforms matching me with a provider, I would much prefer the opportunity to read a range of bios and explore qualifications before choosing one. 

After selecting an appointment time and subsequently matching with a therapist, I was able to review their brief bio. However, I didn’t necessarily feel a connection from the bio alone, so I selected a different appointment time, which matched me with a different provider. I was satisfied with the second provider I was matched with, so I kept the appointment and eagerly awaited our meeting. 

In our survey, 57% of Brightside clients found the process of finding a therapist through the platform pretty easy. Additionally, the majority were pretty satisfied with their clinician: 79% of users stated they found a provider that met most, if not all, of their therapeutic needs. 

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Brightside?

Once you get through the sign-up process, therapy sessions at Brightside are pretty seamless. You are sent a confirmation email at the time of booking and again one day before the session. You’re able to message your therapist at any time—my therapist was responsive, prompt, and warm whenever I messaged her. The initial session is 45 minutes long with follow-up sessions lasting 30 minutes. Prior to your session, you are sent a link for a private Zoom call. You simply click the link when you’re ready, and your therapist is present, ready to start the session. 

Individual Therapy Sessions

In my first session with my therapist, she spent some time walking me through the platform. She explained that the sessions are 30 minutes long, with the expectation that clients will use the platform's virtual CBT lessons as an additional source of support. I found the lessons to be a bit dry, and would have preferred the additional session time instead. However, I work a lot on my computer and tend to be an overachiever, so talk therapy is better suited for my temperament; therapy lessons can end up feeling like another project I have to master. However, I can see others really enjoying having a decreased session time and activities that can be completed outside of the session.

My therapist was an innately talented provider. She was a licensed psychologist with decades of experience. She had the perfect balance of being warm and approachable without blurring any boundaries. I loved how she broke down issues I was experiencing in my life, contextualizing them with mental health education in a manner that I found refreshing. Though our sessions were short, she was great with time management and was able to provide solution-focused insight without feeling pushy or dismissive. I instantly felt comfortable with her and would happily recommend her to a loved one.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at Brightside?

If you miss a session or cancel with less than 24 hours' notice at Brightside, you are charged a $20 cancellation fee. 

Switching Therapists at Brightside

The process of switching therapists at Brightside wasn’t the best and could use some improvement. To switch therapists, I refrained from scheduling another session with my current therapist and then emailed the Brightside support team. I explained that I really enjoyed my time with my therapist but wanted to try out another provider before my first month with the platform was complete. They responded the following business day and asked if there was anything specific I was looking for in my next therapist, including preference of the provider’s gender, and any scheduling constraints. I let them know I was hoping to work with a BIPOC woman and outlined my availability. Within one day, they sent me an email informing me that I was reassigned to another therapist who met my criteria. However, when I logged into my portal, I was unable to book with her. I emailed the support team again, and they told me it was a tech error. They resolved it within another business day. 

When I was able to schedule an appointment with the second therapist, it was about a week from when I first requested the switch. However, two days before my appointment was scheduled, I received an email from the Brightside support team letting me know that my new therapist had left the platform. They explained I would be reassigned to a new provider in one week. 

This was concerning for a few reasons. First, I was clear that I was hoping to meet with a new provider before the end of my first month, and I provided them with two weeks' notice for that transition. Waiting another week to be matched with a provider put me outside my month-long subscription. Second, it felt pretty impersonal to receive a generic customer service email. Since I hadn’t met with the new therapist yet, I didn’t expect a message from her, but it would have been a nice touch to receive a more personalized email or even a phone call letting me know there would be a lapse in my care due to staff turnover. 

This issue may not come up for many users, though. According to our user data, 62% of Brightside clients have never switched therapists, 12% have switched once, 22% have switched two or three times, and 4% have switched over four times. That means the majority of users are satisfied with the therapist they are matched with. While I was too, I was simply interested in exploring the other styles of therapists on the platform. It is important to have that available as an option for therapy seekers because it empowers clients to take charge of their treatment and find the perfect guide for their healing journey. 

Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Brightside

Brightside currently doesn’t offer an option to pause your account, but canceling is pretty simple. First, you head over to your account information and scroll down to where it has information about your therapy plan. You just have to cancel before your next billing date. When you go to cancel, it will encourage you to stay and ask if you want to message your provider. When you move forward with the cancellation process, it will ask for an explanation and give various options. There is also an option to write in feedback. In my case, I did provide some feedback on my experience with attempting to switch therapists. 

I waited a week to see if someone from their team would reach out to address my concerns. When they didn’t, I sent another email to customer care sharing how my experience with switching therapists felt. They responded quickly with an email I could contact if I wanted to pursue receiving a full refund for my month’s subscription. I appreciate the acknowledgement and gesture.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

Brightside shines when it comes to providing solution-focused care. For someone who has the ability to be self-motivated, 30-minute sessions and virtual coping tools could suffice for a highly effective therapeutic experience. However, folks experiencing depression and anxiety can find their symptoms crippling. While Brightside states that 75% of its users begin with severe symptoms and 86% feel much better within 12 weeks, I do wonder what qualifies as "severe symptoms." The website does not offer insight into the details of its research, and I would like to have a bit more transparency. 

In my clinical experience, folks with debilitating anxiety need more than a 30-minute session offers. Typically, at least 10 minutes of our time together will be spent on mindfulness and nervous system-regulating coping tools. While Brightside offers these on its platform, they are self-directed. I’ve noticed that those in severe distress struggle with executive functioning and often cannot complete any homework I assign to them. 

When I have worked with those experiencing severe depression, executive functioning is also an issue. Showering or brushing their teeth can be off the table due to the extreme fatigue and feelings of hopelessness this diagnosis can bring. If meeting their basic needs isn’t possible, I wouldn’t expect them to complete outside homework. In some cases, two 50-minute sessions plus medication have been required to help them get back on their feet. 

In its clinical outcomes information, Brightside also states that 69% of members suffering from suicidal ideation notice the ideations cease altogether within 12 weeks of treatment. I do have concerns regarding telehealth for suicidal ideation—again, just 30 minutes of time with a mental health professional may not be sufficient for the level of care required in these situations.

I also worry about how someone with active suicidal ideation may respond to their therapist leaving the platform. I was essentially left without care for two weeks, which could be extremely upsetting for someone who is considering ending their life and is relying on these services to help them feel better. Even just giving a phone call when a situation like this happens could help a client feel supported. I felt like just another number when I received a brief email letting me know I’d have to wait longer for a new therapist assignment. Additionally, every email the care team sends is followed by an automated message asking you to rate your customer service experience. It felt like I was emailing a clothing company for sizing advice rather than asking important questions about my mental healthcare. 

Despite my concerns, our survey data from Brightside users reflected a generally positive view of the company: 75% of users said they would recommend the platform to others, and 78% of users found the services to be better than others they’ve used in the past.

Its prescription services seem especially well-received: 60% of Brightside users state their prescriber is available when they need them. When trying a new medication, it is critical to be able to contact your prescriber to address any time-sensitive questions. Another 69% stated they feel their prescriber takes the time to really listen to them, again another critical component of effective medication management. 

While the user data speaks highly of Brightside, I would prefer to see more transparency in the company's data regarding its efficacy and a more person-centered approach to transitions in care. 

Privacy Policies at Brightside

In the notice of privacy practices, there is a statement that users' data will be anonymized and shared with researchers at times. This is explained by stating that certain research collaborators can access protected health information for confidential data analysis. Brightside does attempt to comfort users by saying: "Rest assured that these researchers are bound to the same confidentiality and privacy rules that govern Brightside as a whole."

There isn’t an option to opt out of having data shared with researchers. While this could be as innocent as analyzing users’ data to measure the platform’s efficacy, the inability to opt out of having your data shared is highly concerning. Most people wouldn’t assume their data would be used for research purposes—I didn’t, and I am a mental health professional. Therefore, this practice should be written out very clearly in the intake process. Additionally, users should have the option to opt out of having their data shared.

Brightside vs. Its Competitors

A key competitor of Brightside is Online-Therapy.com, since it also targets mental health concerns through a combination of therapy sessions and a virtual CBT program. Online-therapy.com costs $340 a month for its standard individual therapy plan. This includes unlimited messaging, one live session a week, the virtual CBT program, yoga videos, and therapy worksheets. Sessions last about 45 minutes. Though it is about $40 more expensive than Brightside’s individual therapy plan, it offers full-length sessions plus more out-of-session content. Online-therapy.com aims to treat a much broader scope of mental health concerns in addition to anxiety and depression, including ADHD and bipolar disorders. However, Online-therapy.com was not founded by mental health professionals, while Brightside was. A major drawback of Online-therapy.com is that it doesn’t accept insurance and it doesn’t offer psychiatry services. However, it does offer couples therapy. 

Overall, 85% of Online-therapy.com users rate the platform positively, which is a bit less than the 90% of Brightside users who give the platform a positive rating. Brightside also beats out Online-therapy.com when it comes to the percentage of users who report finding a provider that met some, if not all, of their needs: 79% of Brightside users, compared with 72% of Online-therapy.com users. We asked users of each platform how likely they would be to use it again when searching for a therapist in the future. We found that 67% of Online-therapy.com users said they would, which is more than the 62% of Brightside users who said they would.

For those who don’t need insurance to fund their care and are struggling with issues beyond anxiety and depression, Online-therapy.com would be a great fit. I love that it offers 45-minute sessions in addition to plenty of resources and tools. It could also be excellent for couples who need some support in enhancing their communication.

If you need some insurance support and have mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, Brightside will likely be a better fit for you.

Final Verdict

Brightside is doing a lot of things well—its leadership consists of healthcare veterans, users report general satisfaction, its services are somewhat financially accessible, it accepts health insurance, and it uses strong evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy to help people get well. This platform could be great for many who are starting to feel a bit more high-strung and stressed out or, conversely, fatigued and sad. For those actively battling suicidal ideation or struggling to accomplish daily tasks, I would not recommend this platform. I would instead suggest seeking out a service that offers full 50-minute sessions specializing in severe depression treatment.

I hope to see Brightside step up its customer service practices and handle transitions in staff with more care. It has a clear mission of helping others heal; impersonal emails and lapses in care aren’t conducive to that process. 

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we interviewed a subject matter expert to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Ally is a senior editor for Verywell, who covers topics in the health, wellness, and lifestyle spaces. She has written for The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.
Was this page helpful?
Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Coombs NC, Meriwether WE, Caringi J, Newcomer SR. Barriers to healthcare access among U.S. adults with mental health challenges: A population-based study. SSM Popul Health. 2021;15:100847. doi:10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100847

Related Articles