If you’re looking to invest in your mental health in 2022, apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp might be a good place to start.
“There is all this preparation work that takes place to go and see a [traditional] therapist, ”says Dr. Stephen Schueller, associate professor at the University of California at Irvine and executive director of One Mind PsyberGuide, which analyzes and reviews digital health applications.
This process can include cold calls, phone checks, and emailing with multiple providers until you find a therapist you can afford who is currently accepting new patients.
“These apps reduce this prep work,” explains Schueller.
If you are experiencing a crisis, call HOME at 741-741 to be connected with a qualified counselor from anywhere in the United States.
What to expect from therapy apps
Talkspace, BetterHelp, Cerebral, and others can put you in touch with a licensed therapist soon after creating your account, sometimes within hours. Unlike a traditional client-therapist relationship, you can usually text your provider at any time of the day. The weekly and monthly plans on these are also much cheaper than traditional therapy sessions.
The type of care you receive will depend on the service and plan you choose. Therapists are trained to deal with a wide range of mental health issues – depression, anxiety, relationships, trauma, bereavement, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. – and the apps ask you for your preferences on the type of therapist you would like to see. You can talk to a provider using an in-app messaging system, which works like an SMS, writing at your own pace. They’ll usually respond within a set interval (like 24 hours) and your conversations will be recorded so you can go back and replay them at any time. You can also speak to your therapist via live audio or video chat.
These apps are not without drawbacks: all have been criticized for privacy concerns, and because they are so new, there isn’t much data on the actual effectiveness of their therapy models. But the idea that therapy apps don’t work at all is a misconception, says Schueller.
He recommends trying a therapy app for a month or two to see if it suits your budget and goals, and to see how it compares to more traditional therapy, before deciding if it’s for you or no. Much of your experience will depend on the specific provider your app connects you with, and you can try more than one therapist – and more than one app – in your search for a therapist you click with.
And don’t forget: to get the most out of apps like these, “you need to have a little willpower [to engage] in something that is still being tested and yet to be understood, ”says Schueller.
How much do therapy apps cost?
These are the starting prices for the three unlimited messaging plans offered by Talkspace. The cheapest plan is for app-based messaging only, while the other two plans allow you to schedule sessions live with your therapist (either video, voice chat, or ‘live text messaging’). Where your therapist responds immediately).
Message therapy: $ 52 weekly
Messaging therapy plus one live session per month: $ 63 weekly
Message therapy plus one four sessions per month: $ 79 weekly
Prices on Talkspace vary depending on your location, therapist availability, and frequency of your billing plan, with discounts available for quarterly or semi-annual subscriptions. Talkspace also offers therapy for couples and adolescents and a psychiatry program for medication management. Providers in the psychiatry program can prescribe drugs, but they cannot prescribe controlled substances like Adderall and Xanax. The app also partners with employers and universities across the country and accepts some insurance.
Therapy at BetterHelp costs between $ 60 and $ 90 per week, billed monthly. As with other platforms, the price varies depending on the location and availability of the therapist, as not all providers are licensed to practice in all states. The fee covers unlimited messaging with your therapist as well as one live chat, voice call, or video conference per week.
BetterHelp is generally not covered by insurance, and platform providers cannot prescribe medication. The app can put you in touch with counseling services for couples and teenagers through two partner sites.
Cerebral offers a discount on your first month of treatment and also claims to be eligible for HSA and FSA. Here are the prices for each package:
Medication and care advice: $ 30 for the first month, then $ 85 per month. This plan will put you in touch with a prescriber to help you manage and prescribe medications. It also covers monthly sessions with a care advisor to walk you through the process. Your care advisor will be trained in therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises, but will not necessarily be a licensed therapist.
Therapy: $ 99 for the first month then $ 259 per month. This covers weekly sessions with a licensed therapist, but does not include medication management.
Drugs and Therapy: $ 139 for the first month then $ 325 per month. This plan connects you with a prescriber for medication management as well as a licensed therapist for weekly sessions.
Cerebral also accepts certain insurance plans.
How to find affordable in-person therapy
If you are looking for affordable therapy outside of apps like these, there are other options. If you have health insurance, you may be covered for visits with a therapist. Check with your health insurance provider to see if mental health care is covered under your plan. Many therapists also offer sliding scale payment options, regardless of insurance. It is also worth exploring community mental health centers in your area.
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