Finding the right therapist in Houston TX requires research and consideration of what qualities you want in a counselor. While in-person therapists are the traditional option, online therapy platforms have gained a lot of popularity and provide an alternative that may be attractive to some.
One of the most popular online therapy options, BetterHelp, markets itself as being both convenient and accessible. Houstonians in search of mental health support may wonder what BetterHelp is like and whether it may fit the needs of people living in the greater Houston area.
In this BetterHelp review, we’ll explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of BetterHelp, focusing on its relevance and suitability for Houston residents seeking a therapist. We’ll include information about the quality of BetterHelp’s therapists, online therapy services, costs, and more to provide a comprehensive overview to help Houstonians make an informed choice about whether to use BetterHelp.
What Is BetterHelp?
BetterHelp is a mental health platform and online therapy provider founded by Alon Matas and Danny Bragonier in 2013. Matas got the idea for BetterHelp when he had difficulty finding a therapist who could accommodate his busy schedule. The idea behind BetterHelp was to provide accessible mental health services to anybody who needed them.
The issue of accessibility is one that looms large when it comes to therapy, with some areas of the United States experiencing shortages that necessitate long waiting times to find a therapist who is taking on new patients.
In 2015, BetterHelp was acquired by Teladoc, a large multinational virtual health and telemedicine company. Since its acquisition, BetterHelp has experienced significant growth and success. As of 2023, BetterHelp has built a network of more than 23,000 therapists.
BetterHelp’s primary purpose is to provide individual therapy to people who need it. By making therapy as accessible as possible, it aims to help people address issues such as depression and anxiety and improve their overall mental health.
How Does BetterHelp Work?
BetterHelp differs from traditional therapy in some important ways. When you first sign up, you’ll be asked some questions to help BetterHelp connect you with the right therapist for your needs. Some of the questions are as follows:
- Why are you seeking therapy?
- What do you hope to accomplish through therapy?
- Have you been in therapy before?
- Do you have any ongoing health issues?
- Are you taking any medication?
- How do you prefer to communicate with your therapist?
You’ll also be asked to provide basic information about yourself, including your age, gender, preferred pronouns, relationship status, and religious affiliation. They’ll ask if you have any preferences about the therapist assigned to you, including their gender, race, age, and religion. For example, some people may prefer a woman or want someone who can provide Christianity-based counseling.
When you sign up, you should know that you’re enrolling in a subscription service. What that means is that you’ll be billed once each month, and in return, you’ll get one therapy session per week plus unlimited messaging with your therapist. You’ll have a choice of what format to use for your sessions, with video sessions being the most popular choice.
BetterHelp will match you with a therapist based on your responses to the questionnaire. You do have the option of finding your own therapist within the system, but it’s not obvious and not listed as an option when you complete the questionnaire. You’ll need to navigate to the bottom of the home page to search based on your zip code.
Your account will continue to be billed automatically unless you cancel your subscription plan. BetterHelp does make cancellation easy. All you need to do is log into your account, go to Payments, and select Quit Therapy. There’s a follow-up step where you can request the erasure of your chat sessions and other personal information.
BetterHelp Communication Methods
One of the unique things about BetterHelp is that it offers residents of Houston and surrounding areas access to therapy using a variety of communication methods. You can use any of these methods to communicate with your therapist after you sign up.
Messaging with BetterHelp is unlimited and allows users to communicate with their licensed therapists at any time. The important thing to know is that messaging is more akin to email in that your therapist may not respond immediately. It may take a day or longer for your therapist to respond to you. You’ll get an email whenever you receive a message from your therapist.
Live chat is one of three available formats for your weekly therapy sessions. This format is similar to texting and may be ideal for people who prefer to write down their thoughts instead of saying them out loud. One of the advantages of live chat is that you can scroll back and look at earlier sessions to review what you said and how your therapist responded. The old chats log will remain available until you cancel your BetterHelp subscription.
Phone sessions are your second option for your virtual therapy sessions and may be preferable to some, particularly if they want the feeling of anonymity or worry that a slow internet connection will impact the quality of their session. BetterHelp does not share your phone number with the therapist. Instead, you enter your number after logging into your therapy room, and the system dials your number to connect you with your therapist.
The final option for weekly therapy sessions is video conferencing, which allows you and your therapist to see one another and communicate in real-time. This option offers the closest thing to in-person therapy. According to BetterHelp, 66% of users choose video conferencing for their weekly therapy.
In addition to individual therapy sessions, you also have the option of attending group therapy with BetterHelp. Your subscription entitles you to one group session per week. Sessions are 90 minutes long and are typically focused on a single topic, such as building resilience, improving communication skills, or overcoming an addiction.
You always have the option of switching from one form of communication to another depending on your availability and needs, so you can use video conferencing when you’re home and switch to live chat if you don’t have the privacy you need for a video session.
Pros and Cons of BetterHelp
If you’re seeking therapy, here are some pros and cons of BetterHelp to consider.
Pros of BetterHelp: What Makes It Stand Out?
Here are the pros of BetterHelp as an online therapy platform.
Convenience and Accessibility
The biggest pro of BetterHelp is its accessibility. People who use the platform (app) can find a therapist to meet with them at a time that’s convenient without needing to travel to get to an appointment.
There’s no denying that getting therapy online is more convenient for some people, particularly those who live in a remote area or have busy work schedules. With BetterHelp, all you need is a mobile device, and you can connect with your therapist at a time that works with your schedule and allows you to get the help you need. That said, many mental health professionals offer both in person and online therapy as well.
Variety of Therapists Available
BetterHelp has a huge variety of therapists available, including people who specialize in treating certain mental health issues and disorders. Here’s a list.
- Eating disorders
- LGBTQ+ issues
- Family therapy
- Marriage and relationship therapy
- Sleep disorders
- Teen counseling
There’s a strong likelihood that people who use BetterHelp can find a specialized therapist to help them with their mental health struggles. You should keep in mind that choosing a specialized therapist will likely increase your monthly costs, as these therapists charge more and are more difficult to find.
One of the biggest barriers to therapy is the cost, which can be quite expensive. Costs for traditional talk therapy may start at $100 per session and increase from there. For people who have limited insurance or no insurance, it can be exceptionally difficult to afford therapy for more than a few sessions.
BetterHelp can cost less than traditional therapy. On a monthly basis, it can be between 20% and 70% less expensive than in-person therapy, and the savings can be very appealing to people who might not be able to afford weekly in-person therapy sessions.
Anonymity and Confidentiality
Another significant pro of using BetterHelp is that you can get the therapy you need with anonymity and confidentiality. While all professional therapists are not supposed to share details about their patients, it can be challenging for people who may have partners or families who don’t want them to seek therapy to do so discreetly.
Cons of BetterHelp: Potential Drawbacks to Consider
Here are some of the potential drawbacks associated with choosing BetterHelp over traditional therapy in the Houston area. It’s important to keep these in mind as you evaluate your options and decide whether BetterHelp is right for you.
Lack of In-Person Support
When you see a traditional therapist, you have access to in-person support when you feel hurt or vulnerable. That’s not the case with BetterHelp, which offers only remote therapy.
For some people, virtual sessions may not feel as personal or useful as seeing a therapist in person. Many therapists and their patients feel that there is a qualitative difference between meeting face-to-face and meeting remotely, so you should keep that in mind.
Not Suitable for Severe Mental Health Issues
People with severe mental health issues requiring intensive therapy and medication should not rely on BetterHelp for treatment. BetterHelp is not suitable for people with serious ongoing issues, and the therapists at BetterHelp are not empowered to diagnose mental health issues.
In particular, Houstonians who require prescription medication to manage anxiety, depression, and other issues should see a qualified medical provider, such as a psychiatrist, to manage their medication and provide support and counseling.
Privacy and Data Security
One of the biggest issues with BetterHelp is that the company says it is not bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which dictates how and when healthcare providers can store and share information about their patients. With any online service, there’s a risk that data will be compromised, and that’s a chance that many patients would prefer not to take.
There has been some controversy around BetterHelp and patient privacy, something we’ll go into in more detail later in this review.
Potential Technical Difficulties
Technical difficulties are a potential issue with any online service, and that includes BetterHelp. Any website may experience downtime or technical glitches, and with BetterHelp, that may mean being unable to meet with your therapist and get the help you need.
Continuity of Care
From a therapist’s viewpoint, a big drawback of using BetterHelp is that there can be a lack of continuity of care. In a therapeutic relationship, continuity is important because it means you and your therapist have time to establish trust. Your therapist gets to know you well and gains insights into your experiences and how they have impacted you. Many BetterHelp users sign up with a discount code and may be unable to afford ongoing therapy, which can be frustrating for therapists and have a negative impact on patients, as well.
Not Covered by Insurance Providers
Insurance providers provide some coverage for therapy, but as of 2023, none are providing coverage for online therapy with BetterHelp. That means that all your payments will be out of your own pocket, and that’s something that may offset BetterHelp’s low prices, making traditional therapy a more appealing and affordable option.
Connectivity Issues Affecting Session Quality
People living in remote areas or those with less-than-reliable Wi-Fi connections may experience connectivity issues that can negatively impact the quality of their therapy sessions with BetterHelp. When screens freeze, and there isn’t a smooth connection, you and your therapist may miss each other’s words and have difficulty communicating with one another.
Not Ideal for Crisis Intervention
A mental health crisis can happen at any time. With a traditional therapist, there’s usually an emergency number you can call to get help if you experience a crisis and need immediate assistance. BetterHelp is not ideal for these situations, which can potentially put patients at risk during a crisis. If you are using BetterHelp and experience a mental health crisis, you should call 911 or a mental health crisis hotline to get the support and assistance you need.
How Much Does BetterHelp Cost?
BetterHelp costs less than traditional therapy. The average cost of traditional therapy in the United States is between $100 and $200 per session.
By contrast, BetterHelp costs between $60 and $90 per week, depending on your chosen therapist. You should expect to pay a cost toward the high end of the spectrum if you request a specialized therapist. On a monthly basis, that works out to between $240 and $360, compared to between $400 and $800 for traditional therapy.
We should note that the price also includes unlimited messaging, something you won’t get with most traditional therapists. However, many therapists do encourage their patients to reach out between sessions if they are experiencing a crisis or need additional support.
As we mentioned above, one thing that may make BetterHelp’s cost too much for some is that insurance companies do not cover BetterHelp. If you have insurance that covers therapy, you may pay less if you choose in-person, traditional therapy.
Earlier, we mentioned that there were some controversies surrounding BetterHelp. We want to address them to help you make an informed decision about whether to use BetterHelp or opt for in-person sessions with a therapist.
On March 2, 2023, the FTC issued an order that prohibits BetterHelp from sharing users’ personal information with third parties. It also proposed a settlement of $7.8 million to be distributed to users whose private information was shared with Facebook.
While the selling of users’ information is the biggest controversy associated with BetterHelp, it’s not the only one. Another issue was the outcry when it was revealed that BetterHelp was asking YouTubers and podcasters to promote their services and paying them when a new customer signed up for the service through their link. This practice is known as affiliate marketing, and it’s common, but it’s not usual for content creators to benefit from their followers’ mental health struggles.
There’s also the issue of the qualifications and performance of some of BetterHelp’s therapists. While the company claims to vet their counselors before hiring them, many stories of issues users have had illustrate a lack of concern for users’ health and a related lack of professionalism.
For example, users have complained that therapists sometimes don’t understand their diagnosed conditions. There have been multiple public complaints of therapists showing up late for scheduled sessions or not showing up at all—and given that BetterHelp is a subscription service, that’s an issue since users are paying a monthly fee.
The issue of session privacy is also one that has been mentioned by multiple users. One user said that she could hear another person in the room during her therapy session and that her therapist walked into a public area while she was talking about her personal struggles.
While these controversies do not mean that some people won’t find BetterHelp to be helpful, they do point in the direction of some ongoing concerns that require attention. When you meet with a therapist, your needs and privacy should be prioritized.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about BetterHelp.
Is BetterHelp the Right Choice for You?
BetterHelp is an app that can make therapy both accessible and affordable. Those are good things, but the system is far from perfect. The company has some work to do to address the controversies and concerns expressed by users, and many people who need a therapist may be more comfortable meeting with someone in person.
Do you need a therapist in the Houston area? Contact us to learn about our services and schedule an appointment today.