BetterHelp – the online therapy app has taken the lead when it comes to accessible counseling. Let me make one thing clear: Therapy, counseling and mental health services need to be reformed with more accessible and affordable options. However, BetterHelp has proven itself as a step in the right direction.
This is an official rating and overview of the app Betterhelp, and the services it provides.
(If you’re interested in a week of free therapy – use the link – https://www.betterhelp.com/rpc/c59ba1e97984be80-1-12 )
My Story: I actually started BetterHelp in 2015, about a year after being admitted to inpatient treatment at the Mayo Clinic in La Crosse, WI. Fearful I would relapse into coping skills like self harm – and too intimidated to continue my in-person counseling, BetterHelp seemed like an alternative option. I started counseling with a licensed therapist through the app – but was, however, disappointed. At the time, I was looking for a “quick fix” for my PTSD symptoms, depression and anxiety; and when instant gratification didn’t occur, I stopped. I blamed my counselor at the time, not understanding why she was asking me to make collages, art work and doodles during times of distress. We only communicated through messages on BetterHelp, so I never felt as though there was a “real person” behind the screen. I quit my subscription and didn’t seek out therapy again until 2020.
In September of 2020, I was feeling a bit out of control. I wasn’t drinking abnormally, partying, or doing drugs – but, I felt outside of myself. My anxiety would elevate to a point where I almost felt suspended out of my body sometimes. My temper in the workplace was becoming ridiculous, as I would get defensive and reactionary to almost every situation, whether it included me or not. I didn’t feel right, and I knew I needed to make a change, or there would be a long-term “snowball effect” from my behavior. I signed up for BetterHelp yet again. I filled out the brief questionnaire, and waited to be assigned to a therapist.
Starting With BetterHelp: As I mentioned briefly above, therapy is not designed to be a “quick fix”. I’ve often seen the quote of, “if therapy was easy, everyone would do it”, and I agree completely. If you’re looking for an immediate cure for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, you will be disappointed in the counseling experience. I caught myself with this “get fixed quick” idea even the second time I started again with BetterHelp. I was extremely irritable when I wasn’t assigned a therapist within 48 hours of filling out the “Welcome Questionnaire”. I immediately wondered if therapy was “for me”. However, this time I was more patient than the last – and “stuck it out” when I was feeling doubtful.
After you fill out the Welcome Questionnaire through the Betterhelp app, your profile will begin, and BetterHelp will match you with a therapist/counselor who has availability for new clients, and may have specific training and specialty that will match with your needs. The matching process can take anywhere between 48-72 hours. After you’ve been matched with a therapist, you will have access to journal entries, worksheets they may assign you, group webinars, and your “conversation” between you and your counselor.
The welcome process is user friendly and welcoming. Once you have completed the initial paperwork (even before you are matched with a counselor), you will have access to all the features of the app.
Chatting with your Therapist: After being matched with a therapist, the real work begins. As a suggestion, I would start with a simple message to your counselor – giving an introduction, and establishing your comfortability when it comes to the format of sessions: live messaging, chatting voice to voice, and video-chat. Understand that you are in the driver’s seat. If you aren’t ready to see your counselor over video chat, that’s okay. Understand though, it may be more beneficial to have that face-to-face interaction – to feel as though there is another person on the line. However, if you’re more comfortable with phone calls or live messages, let them know. You can schedule appointments for all three options through the “Schedule” tab on the app, where you can see what your counselors available appointments are through the next week. I find this especially handy, being able to schedule, anticipate, and prepare for my next appointment.
Group Webinars: As soon as you’ve completed your entry paperwork, you have immediate access to the features of the app, such as, the Groupinars (as they call it). I have participated in about 10+ unique webinars, and I recommend everyone tries one once. Unlike a Zoom or Skype call, as the participant, you are immediately muted (through the entire session), and don’t have the pressure of wondering if you should turn your camera on, as you can only see the presenter through the session. You will have access to a chat screen on a side bar, allowing you to ask questions and talk with other webinar participants. Each webinar lasts about an hour, and the app offers at least one webinar a day. Most webinars will have additional future sessions, if you aren’t able to attend during an original scheduled time. Webinar topics include: “Trauma Recovery”, “Decisions, decisions…which way to go?”, “Living Life with a Balanced Perspective: Developing Healthy Attitudes”, “Self Care 101”, and so much more! Attending a webinar gives you a feeling of, “wow…. it’s not just me and my therapist – other people are seeking help, and I’m not alone.” For a future blog post, I’d like to rate and recommend specific webinars.
Journaling: Though you may have your own physical journal, the “Journal” tab on the app can be a great place to reflect on your session, or even allow your therapist into your writing. You can choose an “Automatic Sharing” option that will post your in-app journal entries directly to your counselor, and encouraging them to engage with them back with you. This option was extremely helpful for me as my counselor was first getting to know me. Although I don’t use it as much as I’d like, the Journal tab works well for me, especially when I need extra support between sessions.
Worksheets: As you continue sessions, your counselor has the option of assigning worksheets specific for your needs. Some examples of worksheets I’ve completed have been, “Distress Tolerance Skills“, “Anger Iceberg” (which I will be sharing and referencing in a future blog post), and “Forgiveness“. Again, if you thought therapy was all fun and games… wait until your counselor asks you to finish homework. My rule of thumb for myself, is I always have completed a worksheet before my next weekly session – almost waiting for my therapist to give me a letter grade. I’ve learned quickly that there are no A’s, B’s, and C’s in therapy – there is only progress. Worksheets are designed for you to sit, reflect, and put your feelings into words. Worksheets have been an incredible asset of the app and my partnership with my therapist – and I reference back to previous ones during our session a lot.
Rating: In short, Betterhelp is an incredible app to start therapy, especially during a global pandemic, making in-person appointments difficult. The ease of having your therapist at your finger tips, engaging webinars, and a virtual journal make this app a worthy investment. If you find yourself (like me), concerned about the finances about paying for therapy, there are options for reduced pricing. If I had to rate the service:
– Pricing: 3/5 (would LOVE if it would be more affordable for everyone)
–Functionality of the app: 4/5 (only a few glitches – during webinars)
–Therapy : 5/5 (I completely adore my counselor)
–Payoff: 5/5 (Therapy is worth the investment)
Advice for a first-time therapy client: I started in-person therapy in 2013, as a senior in high school. Again in college. Twice. Again with BetterHelp. Twice. I’m not a novice to therapy, but I can understand how intimating starting can be. Here are a few tips and words of strength I have for anyone starting (or thinking about starting) counseling:
- You are in control. You don’t have to talk about anything you’re not comfortable with.
- Therapy is not a “get well quick” scheme.
- Self-care is an investment within yourself.
- You have to allow your therapist time to get you know you. You’ve read every chapter of your story – they’re starting from the middle, and working their way all around. Don’t get discouraged if your counselor didn’t remember who your elementary school best friend was on session #3.
- There will be hard work involved.
- As told from me by a close friend getting their Master’s degree in Psychology – “The first few sessions should be…. Client talks 85-90% of the time. Therapist talks 10%. Then as time goes on, there should be more of a 70 to 30 ratio”.
- Your counselor is not there to judge you – only understand. You don’t have to try and impress them.
- Lying to your therapist means you are lying to yourself. Avoid that.
- Therapy is not a complete deep-dive into every dark moment in your past. No (good) counselor wants to put you in a position that will trigger you. You will not be asked to go through every hard detail.
- Your therapist will write notes about you. They are just doing their job, and don’t spend too much time wondering.
- I recommend making a list of, maybe 3 topics you’d like to bring up each week in therapy – but, always leave room for improvisation. I find my biggest “breakthrough” moments are words I didn’t expect to say.
- There are more good therapists than bad – although social media wants you to believe otherwise.
- If your counselor is making you uncomfortable in any way – BetterHelp allows you to change very quickly.
- Therapy is for everyone and anyone – not just someone “mentally ill”.