BetterHelp is an online counseling service that pairs its clients with therapists based on the client’s specific needs. At a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy sessions, you get a professional who is accessible from anywhere, and has expert advice on topics tailored to you. If you’re a self-helper like me, you’ve probably seen ads for it everywhere you look online.
At the age of fifteen, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety–a diagnosis that is actually quite common. I go through “flare-ups” from time to time, and began seeking out a counselor in late summer of 2017. I had just gotten laid off a few months prior, and was looking for a sounding board and direction in my life. I did not have healthcare, so traditional therapy was out of the question. It was likely that I would have to try out a few therapists before I found a good fit, and paying upfront for multiple failed appointments wasn’t financially feasible. BetterHelp seemed to be the perfect solution.
Before I delve into my experience, I want to note that this is my individual experience. You may use their services and very much benefit from them. In no way is this review meant to bash what BetterHelp is providing; they are an invaluable resource to those who are underinsured or too anxious to see a therapist in person. I encourage anyone looking to delve into therapy to at least try them out! I’ve had some great experiences with traditional therapy as well.
Here are some of the positives and negatives of my experience over one month of online therapy with BetterHelp.
Finding your “fit” may take some time…
…but you can switch therapists at any time. The first counselor I spoke with seemed to get the impression that I was “new” at having depression. She began explaining to me the symptoms I might feel, what could be causing my depression, etc. This was more than frustrating, so I went to my profile and switched counselors.
When you switch your counselor, you can actually search using categories that you’re looking to cover in your sessions. This gives you a better chance of matching with someone that has experience with those concerns.
You have unlimited access to your counselor…
…but they might not always be available. After I switched counselors, I found Amanda (I’ve changed her name for this blog post). I gave her a run-down of what I was feeling and dealing with in my life over the live chat feature, and she suggested we have a one-hour phone session.
While the call went very well and made me feel very confident in her, any chat message that I sent her would be answered about two days later. I understand that she had other clients to attend to, but the whole “unlimited access” guarantee seemed to be false advertising on BetterHelp’s part.
In my case, I had to be my own advocate…
…which, much of the time, is very difficult for people dealing with something like depression. I have been very proactive in looking after my mental health, but only after years of feeling stuck and afraid to reach out.
After our first phone session, Amanda and I planned to have another exactly one week after. When I set myself up in my office, phone in hand, she never called. I sent her a message asking if we were still meeting, and three hours later, she said she was unavailable that day. I was confused–hadn’t we set this date a week ago? Apparently, you need to schedule your appointments through the BetterHelp website for them to be set in stone, and I wasn’t aware of this function.
Amanda wasn’t available for any of the sessions I tried to book through the online scheduling system. I had assumed that any times that were available for selection were those times that she could talk, but we were unable to schedule something until two weeks later. By then, my subscription expired, and I’d have to pay another $55 a week on the off-chance that she might be available.
Unfortunately, all I got out of my sessions with Amanda was a book recommendation–sorely disappointing, though the book really did help me. (If you’re seeking insight on your relationships with others, definitely check this book out) I should have been more proactive in switching counselors, but this situation was tough–if she had been more available, I would have been able to assess whether or not we were a good match after a few sessions. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t allow for the time to take a chance on another counselor, so I let my subscription expire.
Though this experience was negative on the whole, I definitely encourage you to try it out for yourself. My experience with this counselor seems to be rare, as the reviews of other therapists on their site are absolutely glowing. Plus, the cost is much less than what you would pay out-of-pocket without health insurance coverage. If you are willing to invest a bit of money into finding the right counselor who will give you the care you need, definitely try BetterHelp. I’d love to hear your experiences if you do!
One tip I have: try to find someone who is willing to do chats over video or even the phone; the chat function is great for quick advice, but I found that it doesn’t replace the emotional connection of seeing someone in person, or at least hearing their voice.
Remember: if you are struggling with depression, or any kind of mental illness, there is always help. Take advantage of those services that are available to you. It can get better.
Have you tried online therapy before? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear from you!