Is Online Therapy Real Therapy? What BetterHelp Reviews Are Saying

Updated June 17, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team
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Psychotherapy, often called “talk therapy” or simply “therapy,” is a type of mental health service that typically takes place between a client (or group of clients) and a licensed mental health professional. Psychotherapy is frequently tailored to different mental health challenges and individual needs, and sessions can take place in-person, or online via asynchronous messaging, live videos, or audio calls. According to a survey from the American Psychiatric Association, around 38% of Americans have used telehealth nationwide, and most Americans surveyed said they’d use online therapy services for their mental health. 

Many clients find online therapy from BetterHelp helpful in managing their mental health challenges, but the best therapy platform for you may depend on the severity of your symptoms, your specific challenges, and your personal preferences.

Ready To Give Online Therapy A Chance?

A Brief History Of Online Therapy

Historians estimate that online therapy has been offered by some psychologists since the early 1990s, and the widespread availability of the internet in the early 21st century soon led to scientific research into the efficacy of online therapy. In 2006, the United States Veteran’s Affairs began studying the effectiveness of online therapy for nearly 100,000 patients, concluding that it significantly reduced symptoms and hospitalization rates. 

Through the 2010s, online therapy continued becoming more available, and research continued to evaluate its effectiveness for different clinical presentations. By the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were practicing social distancing, the potential benefits of online therapy became more visible.

Is Online Therapy Effective? 

One scientific review of 17 studies found that, for major depressive disorder, online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be more effective than in-person CBT. Stephanie Sarkis, a senior contributor at Forbes, synthesized several peer reviewed articles, reporting that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for anxiety and panic disorder, and it can significantly reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. 

A 2017 review of 373 articles found that internet-based CBT can effectively address many psychiatric disorders, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, specific phobias, substance use disorder, adjustment disorder, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The authors found that mental health conditions that frequently co-occur with physical illnesses can also be effectively managed with online therapy. Finally, the review concluded that online therapy is typically more cost-effective and convenient than in-person therapy. 

However, there are some instances where in-person therapy is recommended over online therapy: 

  • If you have a more severe psychiatric disorder, you may want to be seen by an in-person therapist who can provide more intensive care. 

  • If you’re experiencing paranoia, some therapists believe in-person therapy may be a better way to build a strong therapeutic relationship. 

  • If you are at a high risk of harming yourself or others, you should consider reaching out for immediate in-person assistance. 

  • If you’re otherwise experiencing an immediate crisis. 

  • If you are seeking court ordered therapy. 

  • If you lack access to the internet or otherwise prefer in-person therapy. 

If you’ve reached out to an in-person therapist and you’ve been added to their waitlist, you may want to try online therapy in the meantime. While it may take months to receive an intake appointment with an in-person therapist, most people using online platforms like BetterHelp can be matched with a licensed therapist within 48 hours. 

Common Questions About BetterHelp

  • Are BetterHelp Therapists Licensed? 

Yes, all BetterHelp therapists are trained and experienced professionals who are fully licensed and in good standing with state requirements. They are required to have a masters or doctorate degree in their field and are accredited as one or more of the following:

  • Psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)

  • Marriage and family therapists (MFT)

  • Licensed professional counselors (LPC or LCPC)

  • Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW or LICSW)

At a minimum, therapists providing their services on BetterHelp have at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of clinical experience. With more than 30,000 licensed therapists practicing on the platform, most people are matched with a therapist who has expertise working with people who’ve experienced similar challenges.  

  • Is BetterHelp Legit? 

Yes, BetterHelp is a legitimate online therapy platform offering therapy services from licensed professionals. Healthline vetted the medical credibility, business practices, social impact, and hand-on experience of the platform, and found that the site is both legitimate and a good choice for many people seeking online therapy.  However, because BetterHelp does not offer in-person services, therapists on BetterHelp cannot diagnose mental health conditions and health insurance typically does not cover online therapy services. 

  • How Do You Get Matched With A Therapist?

When you go to sign up for BetterHelp, you will be provided with a questionnaire that is used to match you with the right therapist. The questionnaire asks things like: 

  • Are you looking for individual, couples, or teen therapy?

  • What is your gender identity and sexual orientation? Do you prefer a therapist who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community?

  • Do you identify with a religion, and would you like to request a therapist who has the same religious identity? 

  • What are your goals and expectations with therapy? 

  • Have you tried therapy before?

If you match with one therapist but you’d like to try someone else, you can let your therapist know or contact BetterHelp support to be rematched. 

BetterHelp Reviews From Real Clients 

The following are 7 verified reviews written about licensed mental health professionals at BetterHelp: 

  1. “I can actually see progress in my mental health which is something I haven’t been able to say in 15 years and it’s thanks to her.”—Member review for Virginia Truglio (LCSW, MSW)
  2. “Kingsley is extremely good at creating a non-judgmental space where I feel safe enough to discuss uncomfortable subjects. No matter how hard our sessions can be due to subjects discussed or how emotional I become, by the end of the session he always leaves me in a capable head space. This is something I have not experienced with a therapist before. My many historical experiences with therapists have usually left me emotionally vulnerable, but Kingsley's gentle time management to prevent this is wonderful & greatly appreciated.”—Member review for Kingsley Boateng (BACP, NCS)
  3. “Vinika gave me a safe, relaxed space to talk when I was experiencing a very stressful time in my life. She is empathetic and understanding, and sessions with her helped to express and tackle my anxious thoughts.”—Member review for Vinika Lakhiani (BACP)
  4. “Manuela is amazing. She's attentive and caring and very positive. I felt like I had known her for years and am very comfortable in our conversations.”—Member review for Manuela Marin (LMHC)
  5. “I found Senia's expertise and experience well balanced with my therapy needs. In addition to listening to my issues, she offered many insights/perspectives during our sessions as well as research articles that I found extremely relevant and helpful throughout the week in between our sessions. I absolutely recommend her. Thank you!”—Member review for Senia Wood (BACP)
  6. “Brandy is always checking in on me and making sure I'm okay. I feel heard and seen with her. I'm glad she is around to help me deal with my traumas.”—Member review for Brandy Walker (LCSW)
  7. “Mikael has helped me improve my life tremendously. He listens, he's empathetic, and helps me work through my situations. He is very knowledgeable and a true professional.”—Member review for Mikael Ferm (LCSW)

You can read more BetterHelp reviews if you’re interested in learning more about online therapy from people using the platform. 

How To Tell If A Potential Therapist Might Be A Good Fit

Whether you reach out to an in-person therapist in your area, or you match with a licensed therapist on an online platform like BetterHelp, there are a few ways you can evaluate whether they may be the right therapist for you: 

  • Read about their background, credentials, area(s) of focus, and specialties: Therapist’s should mention how many years of professional experience they have, the challenges they focus on, their educational background, their credentials, and any specialty training they have received. Therapists also provide their licensing number(s) for their up-to-date accreditation.
  • Their style: Therapist’s might mention their general approach to therapy in an “about me” section. For example, a therapist may focus on personal empowerment, goal setting, providing you with coping strategies, or addressing maladaptive behaviors. 
  • Look over their clinical approach: If you’ve attended therapy in the past, you may be familiar with different therapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, solution-focused therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy. The type of therapy that may work best for you will vary based on challenges you’d like to address.
  • Ask yourself if they might be someone you’d be comfortable talking to: Some people may prefer to work with someone who has a similar cultural background, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious background. 

If start seeing a therapist but later decide they are not a good fit or you don’t like their approach to your sessions, you can always switch therapists. According to Marissa Miller, a writer for the New York Times, trying a new therapist is a bit like dating, and many people try several therapists before finding someone they have a strong therapeutic alliance with. 

Ready To Give Online Therapy A Chance?

Takeaway

Online therapy from a licensed professional is a legitimate form of talk therapy. For people experiencing a variety of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder, online therapy can effectively reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Additionally, research has found that online therapy is often more affordable than in-person therapy. 

There are over 30,000 licensed professionals who provide mental health services on BetterHelp, and many verified clients have written positive reviews about their experiences with their therapists and the platform. 

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