I Tried Online Therapy at BetterHelp. Here’s What I Thought

I wanted to see if the online therapy giant is worth the hype.

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Woman is video chatting with her online therapist

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I’m a psychotherapist who is both excited and concerned about the popularization of online therapy services. Excited because it can be a convenient option for those who may otherwise feel overwhelmed by the therapy-seeking journey. Concerned because client privacy is a real concern with companies that merge mental health with big tech. Beyond being a psychotherapist, I am a human being who has navigated depression, trauma, and grief. There have been months where my weekly therapy sessions were my life raft and the professionalism and quality of care I received were instrumental to my healing. So I have strong feelings about therapy services that fall short of providing excellent care, because I personally know how devastating that can be to someone’s healing. And I wondered where BetterHelp fell in terms of quality care.

In order to further my knowledge about this company, I tried out two sessions with two different BetterHelp therapists to see what the user experience is like in hopes of being able to provide insight into whether or not the platform is worth it.

While testing the company, I was interested in the quality of care received, professionalism of providers, and how it compares to in-person therapy. While I’m not confident recommending this company for those with more severe mental health stressors—I’ll get to that in a bit—I do believe it could be a good fit for those who need general emotional support. 

What I Knew About BetterHelp Before Signing Up

BetterHelp is the largest therapy platform in the world, and many are finding healing, support, and care there. It was founded in 2013 and acquired by Teladoc in 2015. Its app-based format and option for chat sessions draw in those who are looking for ultra-convenient therapy sessions. While it can run about $360 a month and doesn’t accept insurance, it offers unlimited messaging with your therapist between sessions and has financial assistance available. Based among tech giants in Silicon Valley, its mission is to make therapy “accessible, affordable, and convenient,” with the hope of helping those in need get help anytime and anywhere. 

The majority of the podcasts I listen to are inundated with advertisements for BetterHelp. While each endorsement applauds its accessibility, convenient app, and affordable pricing, I have also heard negative feedback. For example, in 2021, it was revealed that BetterHelp shared user data with Facebook in a statement released by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden. This statement pleaded with mental health apps like BetterHelp and its competitor Talkspace to cease data-sharing practices that compromise client privacy.

Additionally, in March 2023, the Federal Trade Commission proposed an order that would ban BetterHelp from sharing personal client data with third parties, particularly social media apps, for advertising purposes. It is worth noting that the company had promised to keep client data private, thus misleading the general public. 

Signing Up at BetterHelp

When arriving on BetterHelp’s homepage, I instantly noticed its simplicity. “You deserve to be happy” is written in large type at the top of the page. Below that, I’m invited to select which type of therapy I am looking for. I could choose between individual therapy for myself, couples therapy, or teen therapy. 

I opted for individual therapy (though it’s worth noting that had I chosen something else, I would have been redirected to one of BetterHelp’s sister sites, ReGain or Teen Counseling). 

The sign-up process was quick and easy. I was asked some basic intake questions about my gender identity, sexuality, age, relationship status, spirituality/religious beliefs, and what was bringing me to therapy. I also was asked what my expectations were for my therapist and was able to mark off multiple boxes. Some of the options included a therapist who listens, explores my past, teaches me new skills, or guides me to set goals. These were all great questions to help match me with the right provider. There was also a space for me to write directly what I wanted my therapist to know about why I’m seeking therapy. I appreciated having the opportunity to share about the support I was looking for in my own words. 


There were some questions asking me to rate my physical health and eating habits—great questions, considering your physical health can decline when your mental health is suffering. I was also asked direct questions, like if I am currently experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression and how often I’ve lost interest or pleasure in doing things. Another question asked if I was experiencing suicidal ideation. I was curious to see if BetterHelp would provide crisis resources if someone were suicidal, so I answered yes. I was directed to a page that shared the mental health crisis hotline. I was also invited to fill in my ZIP code to find a low-cost or pro bono therapist in my area. I entered my information and was taken to a website called Open Counseling, which had a list of reputable, low-fee counseling clinics in my area. Other online therapy platforms I’d tried in the past would simply list a few hotline numbers in response to a client reporting suicidal ideation, so I appreciated this detail.

While the website states a monthly subscription that includes weekly 30- to 45-minute sessions and unlimited messaging can cost $60 to $90 a week, I wasn’t shown my exact cost until I had completed my intake questions. I was quoted $80 per week, which would be billed on a monthly basis. There are options for financial aid available.

BetterHelp is not in-network with any insurance companies and it does not provide superbills for insurance reimbursement—so all payment is out-of-pocket.

Once I submitted my payment information, the intake process was complete and it was time to get matched with a therapist.

Matching With a Therapist

After submitting payment, I was taken to the homepage of my account and received a message that I should be matched with a provider within 24 to 48 hours. I was matched in less than 24 hours. In my intake paperwork, I requested a female therapist of color and noted that I wanted support around general life stressors. I also indicated that my sleep quality was fair. My first therapist was a woman of color who focused on stress management. As soon as I was matched with her, she messaged me immediately. It was a simple introduction message that described her experience and approach to therapy. I appreciated that she got in touch so quickly. I was able to schedule an appointment within the same week. 

While the default when signing up with BetterHelp is to be matched with a provider, you can choose your own counselor as well. You’ll just want to scroll down to the bottom of the homepage and click on the link that reads “Find a therapist.” From there, you’ll click on your state and can see a variety of therapists to choose from. BetterHelp's providers have a wide range of qualifications. There are professional counselors, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, and marriage and family therapists. Additionally, there are plenty of specialties various providers focus on, including parenting issues, depression, anxiety, and grief. 

My First Therapy Session

With my first therapist, I chose to hold a video session and it lasted about 45 minutes.

I received a reminder email and text for my session about an hour before the start time. When it was time, I logged into my BetterHelp account on my desktop and there was an option to join the video session. My therapist was a couple of minutes behind and when she logged on, she let me know she needed to grab a sweater because it was cold in her office. It was a minor delay and once she was back, she was completely present for our session. She was skilled at attuning to my energy, asking me questions about what brought me to therapy. As I shared about struggling with stress and sleep, she balanced gathering history about my life with providing actionable tools. All in all, I enjoyed my experience with her and would have considered continuing to work with her. However, I wanted to ensure I got a good feel for the range of care provided on the platform, so I sent her a quick message letting her know that I enjoyed our time together but wanted to explore working with another provider.

Switching Therapists

I was able to switch therapists instantly in my account. I just had to click on my account information and there was a button that read “Change Therapist.” From there, I was prompted again to share the qualities I want my therapist to have, similar to the intake questions. I again indicated I’d like to work with a female therapist of color. However, my search results were primarily white male clinicians. In fact, there was only one female therapist of color listed. While this was frustrating, I made my selection.

My Second Therapy Session

My second therapist reached out pretty quickly with another friendly introductory message. I booked a chat session with her—I was curious to see how chat therapy would size up compared to in-person therapy. I was able to book a session for the next day at 8 am. At 7:52 a.m., I sent my therapist a question, asking if I should just log into the general messaging part of my account for the chat session or if there would be a different link for me to click on. She sent me a live chat invite instantly. While I appreciated how quick she was, it wasn’t 8 a.m. yet and I still needed to pour a cup of coffee. I let her know I wouldn’t be ready to join until our scheduled session time and she said to just let her know when I was ready.

At 8 a.m. on the dot, I sent her a message saying I was ready. Four minutes later she sent me the chat invite, so our session ended up starting five minutes late. She didn’t acknowledge her tardiness and it overall felt a bit odd to go from starting the session nearly 10 minutes early to being five minutes late. 

Immediately, I realized chat therapy is nowhere near comparable to in-person therapy.

Most of my therapist’s messages were short and dry, with internet shorthand sprinkled throughout. She got the session started by saying, “What is going on?” Already, it felt entirely too informal, especially for our first session together. After a few minutes of small talk, I let her know I was looking for support around general life stress and poor sleep quality. She did explore what was at the root of my stress and sent me a few cognitive-behavioral therapy worksheets. Overall, I was underwhelmed and it felt like I spent 30 minutes making small talk with a stranger who offered some worksheets. I didn’t feel connected to the therapist at all, though I’m not sure that is an issue with her therapeutic style as much as it is an issue with chat-based therapy. Without hearing someone’s voice, let alone seeing their facial expressions, the whole experience felt hollow. I couldn’t imagine how it would have felt if I had been severely depressed or in the depths of grief. 

Ongoing Data Concerns

Here’s an aside that I found particularly odd. 

During my chat session with the second therapist, it came up that she was based in St. Louis, Missouri. In an attempt to feel some form of connection, I let her know my father’s family lived there. I hadn’t talked about Missouri or searched for anything related to it in the week prior. Yet, when I opened up my TikTok a few hours after my session, I noticed content very specific to St Louis began coming up in my suggested videos feed. 

While it could have been an odd coincidence, my mind immediately thought about BetterHelp’s allegations of data sharing and I felt uncomfortable. Even if this is unrelated, it speaks to how BetterHelp’s negative reputation led me to question the safety of my therapy sessions on the platform.

Pros & Cons

If you’re considering signing up for BetterHelp, weigh out the pros and cons of using this service. There are definitely some advantages, like its convenience and great availability. However, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the drawbacks.


  • Can choose your own therapist
  • Can opt for therapist-matching service
  • Very convenient
  • Great availability—can start therapy within a day or two


  • Doesn’t take insurance
  • Issues surrounding client privacy
  • Chat sessions are not comparable to in-person therapy
  • Therapists can be tardy and unprofessional

Final Thoughts

While my first therapy session was pleasant, the issues with client data and my unremarkable chat session left me unenthused about the platform. I don’t believe BetterHelp actually does what it says it sets out to. On its homepage it states, “With our therapists, you get the same professionalism and quality you would expect from an in-office therapist, but with the ability to communicate when and how you want.” Yet, my chat session paled in comparison to an in-person session. It started late, was not engaging, there was no mental health assessment, and I struggled to connect with my therapist. Without seeing her face or even hearing the sound of her voice, the experience felt cold and disconnected. 

Keep in mind that my standard of care is likely to be more rigorous than the average therapy user since I have experience as a psychotherapist. I tend to be more critical of my colleagues because I am aware of various codes of ethics we abide by and have an insider look into therapy best practices. For example, I know it isn’t hard to start and end therapy sessions on time. Therefore, starting a session five minutes late is tacky at best. Additionally, I’m versed in assessing a client’s current mental health state in the first session, so I’m aware when a clinician isn’t doing so. 

To balance out my experience, we also surveyed 105 BetterHelp users to get the most well-rounded insight possible.

While there are areas of growth the company can address:

  • 86% of the BetterHelp users we surveyed gave the company a positive rating
  • 76% stated their provider met most if not all of their needs
  • 77% were satisfied with the therapist options presented
  • 87% were impressed by the qualifications of BetterHelp therapists
  • 85% found the diversity of therapists on the platform to be good, very good, or excellent
  • 77% of users surveyed would recommend the platform.

As for me? I’d recommend BetterHelp to some, but not all. If you’re well-resourced, not in crisis, and want to get connected to some general support quickly, this might be a good option for you. Its best features are its availability and convenience. But, the platform doesn’t provide an experience that is equal to in-person therapy, so adjust your expectations accordingly. Furthermore, the issues with client data safety are concerning. 

Want to keep your search for online therapy going? We gathered the 13 Best Online Therapy Services of 2023 to help you find your match.

Edited by
Hannah Owens
Hannah Owens

Hannah Owens is the Mental Health/General Health Editor for performance marketing at Verywell. She is a licensed social worker with clinical experience in community mental health.

Simone Scully
Simone Scully Headshot
Simone is the health editorial director for performance marketing. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering mental health, chronic conditions, medicine, and science.
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3 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. Crunchbase. BetterHelp.

  2. Office of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren, Booker, Wyden call on mental health apps to provide answers on data privacy and sharing practices that may put patients' data at risk of exploitation.

  3. Federal Trade Commission. FTC to ban BetterHelp from revealing consumers' data, including sensitive mental health information, to Facebook and others for targeted advertising.

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