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Thanks to campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of your mental health, more and more people are choosing to seek help from a therapist when they need it. However, finding the right mental health support is often easier said than done. Finding a therapist who is the right fit is hard, as is squeezing in the time to go to someone’s office during your busy day, and that’s without getting into the high cost of therapy or the stigma still present in some communities around psychology.
Enter online therapy platforms. Telehealth services such as BetterHelp and Thriveworks aim to connect people to therapy using the power of the Internet. BetterHelp is the more famous of the two, providing virtual therapy to millions of patients, but Thriveworks is carving out an important niche of its own.
With so many options for online therapy, how do you decide which one is better? This comparison can help.
What Is BetterHelp?
First, let’s establish what each of these therapy platforms does and how they work. BetterHelp is one of the most famous telehealth platforms out there, but in case you aren’t familiar with its mode of operation, here is an overview.
BetterHelp offers mental health support from trained psychologists and therapists completely online. The site offers therapy for issues ranging from couples counseling to anxiety to PTSD. You can also sign up for its LGBT or teen-specific platforms if those are the demographics that you fit.
When patients make a BetterHelp account, they fill out a detailed questionnaire about their demographics, intake needs, and what they want out of therapy. Then, the algorithm matches them to a therapist, although patients can switch at any time. Once you match with a therapist, you start your sessions. They can be once-a-week live texting, phone calls, or video sessions.
Besides therapy, BetterHelp offers other support in between, such as the option to text your therapist through the app 24/7 (although the therapist is not obligated to respond right away and will usually respond in about a day). You can also join group therapy sessions or use some of the worksheets and self-guided tools on the website.
BetterHelp does not take insurance or partner with employers, but you can fill out applications for financial aid. Monthly fees range from $240-$360.
What is Thriveworks?
Thriveworks operates on a model that is much closer to traditional therapy than BetterHelp. It was actually founded by a therapist, Dr. AJ Centore, with the goal of making the tools people need to live happy lives more accessible.
Thriveworks is a company that has its own network of brick-and-mortar therapy clinics around the country (in 45 out of 50 states, actually). It differs from BetterHelp because you can either go to see a Thriveworks therapist in person or connect with one from anywhere in the country online. Thriveworks even has a network of clinics specializing in children’s behavioral health therapy called Therapyland.
Thriveworks only works with licensed therapists, and its hiring process is highly selective. They offer treatment for a range of mental health problems, including addiction, OCD, couples therapy, and eating disorders. Thriveworks also offers psychiatric care both online and in person. There are limits, and you cannot access psychiatric treatment through Thriveworks if you are in imminent danger, under the age of 14, or need treatment for psychosis.
When you sign up for Thriveworks, you book an appointment through the portal. You see a directory of therapists, which you can filter by location, type of therapy, and your issues. The portal has brief information about your therapist and their qualifications. Then, you can start with your in-person or online sessions.
Thriveworks’ pricing session is a little confusing. Each session costs $10–$40 with insurance or over $99 without insurance. You also have to pay a membership fee to access Thriveworks counseling. The membership gives you extra perks, such as an app with guided help, an e-book on managing depression, free video content from therapists, and extra advice via phone, email, and text.
Benefits of BetterHelp
There are a lot of benefits to using BetterHelp; otherwise, millions of people wouldn’t be using it. Here are some of the advantages you gain when signing up for therapy with the platform.
A Full Therapy Experience, Online
One of the great benefits of BetterHelp compared to other completely virtual platforms is that it offers work with therapists, not coaching. That puts BetterHelp in a unique position to provide more support for mental health than its competitors. It can help with more common, simple mental health conditions such as anxiety as well as complex issues such as addiction or OCD.
Working online also makes it easier to fit therapy into your busy schedule. When you need a mental health boost but don’t have time for therapy or don’t have an appointment coming up, you can text your therapist or look at some of the other free resources on the website.
Therapy Matching Is a Success
A great asset of BetterHelp is that it skips one of the most stressful parts of starting therapy—finding the right therapist for you. The questionnaire is very detailed and gives the algorithm enough information to know what processes you might prefer. You can request therapists who have a specific demographic background so they will be more knowledgeable of your experiences or able to help you with a specific approach.
Then, the algorithm matches you instead of you having to comb through listings yourself or sitting through several awkward first sessions with different therapists.
You Can Access the Service Anonymously
For many people, going to therapy is a frightening prospect because a stigma around therapy is common in many families and communities. BetterHelp makes it easier to access support without revealing your identity. Not only can you access therapy from the privacy of your home so nobody sees you on the way to the office, but you can also make completely anonymous profiles so not even your therapist can find your identifying information.
Drawbacks of BetterHelp
If BetterHelp was perfect, it probably wouldn’t have any competitors. Here are some of the reasons why BetterHelp might not work for you.
Concerns About the Quality of Therapy
Reviews about the quality of BetterHelp’s therapy are mixed. Therapists working with the company have to be licensed, but many are inexperienced, and some customers have had bad experiences. Some therapists also feel overworked and pressured into constantly seeing patients by the platform, which means they have less energy to see each patient with the attention they deserve.
No Psychiatric Assistance
While BetterHelp does provide more structured mental health support than platforms that only offer coaching, it still can’t deal with more severe mental health issues. BetterHelp does not have psychiatrists on staff, and if you need medication, even mild anti-anxiety medication, you cannot turn to BetterHelp.
BetterHelp also can’t assist you with court-ordered therapy or if you are in a severe mental health crisis that makes you a danger to yourself or others. In those situations, there is no substitute for in-person care or a visit to the emergency room.
BetterHelp Is Expensive
Finally, BetterHelp is very pricey to use. Monthly plans cost $240-$360, depending on which plan you choose. The company does not offer insurance, so unless you are lucky enough to get financial aid, you have to pay out of pocket.
Benefits of Thriveworks
Thriveworks may be slightly less famous than BetterHelp, but it offers comprehensive services that make it easy to find the mental health support you need.
Thriveworks Offers a Wide Range of Services, Including Psychiatry
The biggest advantage Thriveworks has compared to strictly online mental health platforms is the wide range of services it provides. Besides typical counseling, Thriveworks clinics also offer specialized services such as couples therapy, family counseling, and even therapy for kids.
Thriveworks can also help you access the medication that you need. Even if you are only using their online services, you can still meet with a psychiatrist and get most mental health medication (except for antipsychotics).
You Can Meet in Person
Although online therapy is a great way to fill the gap in mental healthcare access, it isn’t the best choice for everyone. Not everyone has a stable enough Internet connection for video calls or feels comfortable using technology. Some therapists also don’t believe online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy because the patient-therapist bond is harder to form, and it is harder to read body language.
Thriveworks offers the option to attend in-person therapy at one of its clinics in 45 states. They offer coverage for nearly the whole country, and all you have to do is go on their website and find a therapist near you.
The Quality of Care Is Vetted
Thriveworks only works with licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. All clinics and offices are owned and run by the company, maintaining the same standards of care. According to some statistics, Thriveworks only works with 4% of applicants who want to partner with the company, showing that the standard of care is truly sky-high.
Thriveworks Accepts Insurance
Many companies claim to democratize care but then force clients to pay out of pocket, constructing barriers between those in need and critical mental healthcare. Thriveworks accepts almost all major insurance plans, meaning that the cost of care for most patients is only about $10 per appointment, depending on their insurance’s co-pay.
Drawbacks of Thriveworks
However, Thriveworks is still working out some kinks in its business model, leading to some cons of working with them that you should be aware of before signing up.
Selecting a Therapist Is Confusing
Thriveworks allows clients to select therapists themselves from a directory. However, this can be very confusing and overwhelming since you get presented with so many potential therapists. There are filters for issues treated and location, but the filters are imperfect. For example, there is no way to specify that you want a therapist of the same ethnic background as you. The therapy bios on the website are very spare, making it hard to see who you are signing up to work with.
Payment Isn’t Transparent
Thriveworks is more affordable than other services, thanks to insurance, but it is confusing to figure out how much it will cost. Patients get billed by both Thriveworks for the monthly membership fee and their therapists. The membership fee also varies by location and other factors, plus it is confusing to track down information about whether or not it is mandatory. Some users reported trouble with canceling memberships as well.
Which Is Better, BetterHelp or Thriveworks?
Before deciding which is better, let’s look at a side-by-side comparison.
|BetterHelp||Thriveworks||Which is better?|
|Issues treated?||Range of mental health issues including addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD||Range of mental health issues, including depression, relationship problems, and OCD||About the same|
|Offers in-person services?||No||Yes||Thriveworks|
|Family, couples, and group counseling available?||Yes||Yes||About the same|
|Psychiatric services?||No||Yes, online and in-person||Thriveworks|
|Offers kids counseling?||No||In some locations where Therapyland centers are available||Thriveworks|
|Option to make anonymous profile?||Yes||No||BetterHelp|
|Allows you to match with therapists of your demographic?||Yes||Technically yes, but hard to execute in practice||BetterHelp|
|Pricing?||$240-$360 a month||$10–$40 per session with insurance, about $99 without, plus mandatory membership fee per month with concerns about transparency||Thriveworks (with insurance) is about the same without insurance|
If you are looking for a traditional therapy experience, Thriveworks is better. You have the option to meet in person, access psychiatric help, and, in general, receive more support for severe mental health challenges. It also accepts insurance.
However, BetterHelp innovates on some of the challenges that make therapy less accessible to people. It reduces stigma by allowing anonymous profiles, makes it much easier to find a therapist since the algorithm matches you, and is more sensitive to the needs of certain demographics. For someone without insurance, BetterHelp winds up costing around the same as Thriveworks, and pricing is more transparent.