I’ve been using BetterHelp to chat with an online therapist for almost a year now, and I’m honestly really happy with the service. Surprisingly so – I was a little skeptical as I wasn’t sure how online therapy would compare to in person. But more on that below in my BetterHelp review.
Trigger warning: My personal mental health story is below, and while I don’t go into much detail I talk a little about my experience with anxiety.
MY PERSONAL MENTAL HEALTH STORYWhen I was 8, my parents split up. My mom set my brother and I up with counselors immediately afterward, which I’m honestly so thankful for. Although we only saw that therapist for a few sessions, it totally normalized therapy for me and ingrained in me that mental health was a priority.
I was a pretty anxious kid and worried constantly. I don’t think I was ever depressed, but I had a LOT of anxiety. I went through a period of extreme separation anxiety when my parents first got divorced, then became scared of everything (rollercoasters, scary movies, bees, movie theaters, you name it). I was mostly able to deal with it, but in 7th grade, my anxiety suddenly got so much worse.
I was constantly on edge and convinced something terrible was going to happen, and had trouble sleeping because I told myself that the second I closed my eyes a fire would start, someone would break in, or something bad would happen to someone I loved. I became obsessive about checking the locks on doors and windows, the stove, and developed an irrational fear of getting food poisoning. After watching a movie on the Black Plague in school, I became super paranoid about germs and worried about them constantly. It got to the point where I just wanted to sleep all the time because it meant I didn’t have to deal with my anxiety.
My home life wasn’t necessarily easy, which I think was a huge factor – my parents’ relationship was rocky and most of their interactions ended in an argument. Although they were pretty civil when they first separated, things quickly went sour and resulted in a custody battle that lasted several years. My dad ended up getting 50/50 custody of us when I was 12, so each week my brother and I would pack up our stuff and head to the other parent’s house.
I was also really shy when I was younger and had trouble making friends. I only had one friend during this time who was going through some intense stuff herself. I felt like I had no one to talk to, and was totally lost and lonely.
Because so much was going on in my life that I wasn’t dealing with, it manifested as anxiety.
Luckily, I started seeing a counselor at school regularly soon after, and that helped tremendously. I always felt so much better after leaving her office. She made me feel supported and less alone, taught me how to deal with my anxiety, and helped remind me that the things I was stressing about most likely wouldn’t happen.
After that, I went in and out of therapy during the rest of my school years, either with counselors on campus (they’re typically free, even in college – please use their services if you need them!), or with an outside therapist that was covered by insurance. After that intensely stressful period in 7th grade, I was able to tell when I needed to go back to therapy. Anytime I started feeling a buildup of anxiety, I knew there were things I wasn’t dealing with properly and had to talk to someone about.
I decided to go back to therapy in 2018 after a pretty long hiatus. Not because I was feeling super anxious, or because I was having any major issues, but mainly because there were some emotions coming up that I wanted to deal with instead of run from.
In my opinion, it’s really awesome to have someone you can talk to that doesn’t have any presence in your life (other than 1 hour a week) and won’t judge you for anything you say. Plus they have to listen to you for that whole hour, so you’ll never have to worry if you’re talking about yourself too much or boring them to death.
So, I found a local therapist and started going to her office once a week. My health insurance paid for it (!!!), save for a $15 copay at each session. SCORE! (Pro tip: Call your health insurance and find out if therapy is covered!)
But then, about six months later, I packed up all my stuff and left for Europe and had to stop seeing my therapist. We’d certainly made lots of progress and I was feeling pretty good, but knew there were still some things I wanted to work on.
Then I heard about BetterHelp, and decided it was something I wanted to try. At first I was worried it wasn’t legit since it was online, but I found a code for a free week (aka 1 session – I have a code I can give you, too, so just skip to the end of this article if you want it). So, I figured – why not? If I didn’t like it, I could just cancel before the week was up, totally free of charge.
MY BETTERHELP REVIEWI started out by completing an assessment, which asked about my background and what issues I wanted to work on.
I liked that they asked what I preferred in a therapist, like if I would feel more comfortable with one of a certain race/ethnicity/gender/religion. (Although, I try to never judge a book by its cover – although I typically prefer female therapists, I had one male therapist my freshman year of college. He ended up being one of my favorites!). I can totally get that you may feel more comfortable talking with someone of a similar background as they may better understand what you’re going through.
After filling out the assessment, I was immediately assigned a therapist. I admittedly didn’t respond right away. I think it took me a few weeks to get back to her and actually schedule an appointment – oops.
Once I finally made an appointment, we had our first session and she asked me more about my goals, and wrote them each alongside a progress bar that I would slide when I felt like I was hitting them. She asked helpful questions and gave me ideas and tools to navigate any stressful situations. I really liked her, and felt like I was making tremendous progress.
However, after working with her for 4 months, her schedule changed and she was no longer able to accommodate my time slots. I was bummed as the thought of having to explain everything and start over AGAIN with a new therapist sounded annoying, but after emailing BetterHelp (they were super quick to respond), they let me know that they give you 2 weeks free if you want to switch therapists to alleviate that pressure.
And, although this wasn’t the case for me, if you don’t like your therapist you can just switch to a new one through their website – no communication with your current therapist needed so you don’t need to feel awkward if things aren’t working out.
I looked over some profiles and chose a new counselor. I’ve been seeing her for a few months now, and I’m really happy with her style of therapy. I love that she lets me talk (and let’s be real, by talk I mean “ramble” more of than not…) but then offers insight into why I feel the way I do or think a certain way based on my background. It’s like bridging that little gap between my brain and rationality lol.
Like when I told her I was frustrated that I’d been in and out of therapy my whole life and STILL had issues I needed to work on. She told me that back when my parents were having issues, I’d been in survival mode, and that trying to tackle your feelings all at once during a time like that can actually be detrimental. That made me feel a whole lot better about it!
I personally prefer the video call format, but I’ve also done the phone call and the live chat. Once my therapist asked if I could do a live chat as she wasn’t feeling well, and I was kinda bummed but it honestly turned out to be just as good as a regular session! This may be a good way to start out, though – if seeing a therapist in person makes you nervous, live chat may be the best way to start out.
Most sessions run from 40-50 minutes, depending on the therapist. However, I’ve never felt rushed if I was talking about something important and we ran into the 55 min mark, lol. Most therapists will do sessions either every week or every other week depending on your preference. I personally see mine every week and like that method best – how often you see them doesn’t matter. You pay the same rate regardless, so personally I prefer to get the most bang for my buck and see mine once a week.
You can also send messages to your therapist anytime throughout the week. And you’re not committed to the same time each week! I like this a lot, as it gives me flexibility if I have something else planned during the time I might normally see my therapist. It was also quite helpful when I went from Europe back to the US – this way of scheduling makes switching timezones a breeze!
All the therapists are in the US, but you can see them from anywhere! I was in Hamburg, Germany when I first started using BetterHelp. For me the time change was no big deal, but it’s certainly something to consider if you’ll be traveling. I was even somehow on the euros plan for a little while, and had to email them to ask to switch it to USD lol.
The big selling point for me was being able to still see a therapist WHILE being on the move. I don’t have to worry about switching therapists as I travel, which is awesome, and why I think that BetterHelp is a great idea for digital nomads.
Plus I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it’s been for me. I was in a pretty decent place when I first started (thanks to all my previous therapists I’ve got a pretty good handle on my anxiety), but I’m in a MUCH better place now. Talking about my issues every week keeps them at the forefront of my mind so that I’m more likely to actually try and work on them or notice them and correct the behavior when it comes up. My therapist has been awesome helping me come up with better ways to think about things or suggestions for the best ways to deal with difficult relationships, boundary setting (a big one for me), self confidence, and more.
HERE’S WHAT BETTER HELP COSTSYou can choose a different payment plan depending on the length of time you want to commit. Of course, the longer the length of time of your plan, the cheaper it is. Here’s what the plans cost without Financial Aid:
- $80/week for 1 week
- $65 /week for 1 month ($260 in total)
- $45/week for 3 months ($540 in total)
- $35/week for 1 year ($1820 in total)
You can then get a certain % off of these prices with financial aid. To apply for financial aid, you fill out a form with a little more information about your situation and then they’ll let you know if you’ve received it or not. I believe you can get anywhere from 15-40% off.
You can also change or cancel your plan anytime. I started out with the monthly plan since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to it, but I switched to 3 month plan a while back.
Your insurance will most likely NOT cover BetterHelp therapy sessions. If you have insurance, you may be better off calling your insurance company and asking if they cover therapy costs, and for a list of therapists that are covered.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THERAPY
- Write down a list of issues you want to work on. This helps you focus before and during each session, and you may even realize common themes or patterns. Therapy feels a lot like connecting the dots, sometimes!
- Consult your list before each therapy session, and try to choose 1-3 issues you’d like to talk about during your call. If I don’t do this, I can get distracted and just end up venting about random things, which feels like a bit of a waste since I can also just do that with my friends.
- Ask your therapist questions if you don’t understand something. A good therapist won’t tell you what to do, but will guide you and give you tools to deal with your problems.
- Speak up if your therapist is doing something you don’t like. You’re paying for your time with them, so don’t be afraid to tell them if something is bothering you (for example, I had one therapist who would walk me through visualizations which were nice but I also felt like I could just do them at home on my own time). Remember: your therapist is never there to judge you or make you feel ashamed, just there to listen and help you get through your problems.
- But also, especially if it’s your first time trying therapy, be open minded. It usually takes a few sessions with your therapist for them to understand you, your background, and what exactly you want to work on. Don’t expect things to immediately resolve right away – therapy is more of a process. However, if after a few sessions you still feel like you’re not getting anything out of your therapy sessions, you may want to try a different counselor. Each therapist has their own style, so you may need to try a few different ones to find what works for you.
- Bring a notebook, or plan to use your phone to jot things down! My therapist has said some really eye opening things that have literally changed how I think.
I hope this helps! Therapy has helped me immensely, and although it’s not cheap I have benefitted so much from it. I genuinely think everyone could use a little therapy – there’s just something about being able to be open with someone who won’t judge you.
If you do decide you want to try BetterHelp out, click here for a free week.