I’m a Dad Who Tried BetterHelp For A Month. Is It Worth It?

BetterHelp is one of the biggest and best-known online therapy companies. But is it any good? Read on to hear one father's experience with the telehealth giant.

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Therapist making a video call with patient

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I’ve been considering starting therapy for several years now, but the desire to talk to someone about how I’ve been feeling has definitely become stronger since I became a dad nearly four years ago. Navigating pandemic life with a toddler and no family nearby was challenging, to say the least—especially once that pandemic led to job layoffs. But like many Americans, actually signing up for therapy just kept not happening. It was pricey. So, for a long time, I talked myself out of signing up to save our family’s money for things that I told myself our family “needed more.”

I also felt silly using up mental health resources during a national pandemic when I felt like there must be other people out there that needed these services more than I did. But, truth be told, it just became easy to find excuses to not prioritize my own mental health. 

Still, as our son got older, my wife and I encountered differences in our parenting philosophies and techniques, and this has caused some strife between us. I’ve also found myself wondering how I can become a better dad to my son. Modeling good mental health habits seems like a good step toward that. So when the opportunity arose to sign up for BetterHelp for this review, I jumped at it. Here’s how my month went.

What I Knew About BetterHelp Before Signing Up

Because it's one of the first online mental health companies in the U.S., I’d heard of BetterHelp and I’d seen the Michael Phelps ads pop up on my web searches and Hulu from time to time. Admittedly, those ads didn’t do much to convince me to sign up—sure, Michael Phelps was a celebrity and he signed up for therapy, but that didn’t really tell me that BetterHelp could help me

As an avid news reader, I’d also heard BetterHelp come up in political speeches regarding concerns about its privacy policies. In fact, just recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the company to stop sharing private user data with third-party advertisers like Facebook. That said, while I didn’t approve of its privacy practices, the news didn’t really surprise me. After all, it was through those targeted ads that I’d noticed the company at all. 

When you arrive on the BetterHelp website, though, it’s hard not to be reminded about its privacy controversies because one of the very first things you’ll notice is a white popup about cookies, asking you to agree to them. Then you’ll get asked to agree to the company’s privacy policies (in a super confusing, unclear way) right during sign-up. 

Signing Up at BetterHelp

BetterHelp definitely makes it easy to sign up for therapy on its website. It cuts right to the chase: below the words “you deserve to be happy,” it dives right into asking you what kind of therapy you’re looking for. I clicked on “individual” therapy (but I could have clicked on “couples,” which would have led me to BetterHelp’s sister site, ReGain, or “teen,” which would have led me to its other sister site, Teen Counseling). 

Clicking the button leads you right into an intake questionnaire, where you’ll be asked a series of questions about yourself.

The first question is about your gender identity, which included the options “woman,” “man,” or a non-buttoned “more options.” (To be honest, this felt a little othering—I’m not sure why the other gender identity options had to be hidden in a separate menu when they all could have been listed.)

A view of the sign-up questionnaire at BetterHelp.

Then I was asked about my age, my sexual orientation, whether I wanted to be matched with a therapist who specialized in LGBTQIA+ issues (which might not have popped up if I hadn't said I was bi/pan), my relationship status, whether I was religious (and then as a follow-up, what my religion was and whether I wanted to work with a therapist that specialized in religious-based therapy), whether I am spiritual, and whether I’ve been in therapy before. 

Then I was asked why I was considering therapy today and I was able to pick multiple options. None of them were parenting-specific, though, which seemed unfortunate because it was my primary reason. But a green box reassured me that I’d have more opportunities to elaborate on what I was going through later on. Next, I was asked about my expectations of my therapist (did I want someone who listens, challenges my beliefs, etc.), how I’d characterize my physical health and eating habits, and whether I was experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression. 

From that point on, it seemed like the handful of questions that followed were assessing the state of my mental health with a little bit more depth.

For example, the questionnaire asked if I was bothered by having little pleasure in doing things over the past two weeks, if I’d been more fidgety than normal, or if I’d been having changes in my sleeping patterns. I got the sense I was being screened for more severe mental health issues, which admittedly reassured me. It gave me the sense that the company actually was trying to determine if I needed more care than it could provide. 

Towards the end of the intake, I was asked what resources I’d find helpful (like groups, workshops, worksheets, etc.), what my preferences were for a therapist, how I’d heard about BetterHelp, where I lived, and what my financial status was. Then I was prompted to create a login, agree to the terms and conditions and privacy policy, and pay for my monthly subscription.

Once you finish the sign-up process, you’ll get access to a private portal, which includes a messaging room. In this room, I could also see a copy of my intake questionnaire answers, which was kind of nice, as well as some information on what to expect as the next steps.

A Note About Pricing

BetterHelp doesn’t accept health insurance, which is disappointing. Yes, its monthly subscription is more affordable than traditional in-person therapy:my plan cost $80 a week billed monthly, which is lower than national rates that can be as high as $200 per session. But this is still $320 a month, which is still an investment. Given that price was an excuse I used for years as a reason to avoid therapy, I can’t say the out-of-pocket cost isn’t a big deal for me. 

Admittedly, I was able to use a discount code to pay less my first month and I was able to pay with my flexible spending account (FSA) card for the month. But if I had to pay for therapy on my own for a year, BetterHelp would eat up more than my whole annual contribution by itself, leaving no room for other medical expenses, and I’d still have to pay over a thousand dollars post-tax.

(Note: in 2023, the IRS has increased the maximum annual contribution, but even with this increase, I wouldn’t have enough in my FSA account to afford a whole year this way.) 

Matching With a Therapist

BetterHelp told me it could take 24 to 48 hours to get matched with a therapist, but it actually took less than 24 hours to get my match. I got an email letting me know the name of the therapist I had been paired with, then I received a separate email saying that my new therapist had sent me a message. A third email included links to available times when I could sign up for an appointment. 

The message from my therapist was very welcoming and was packed with a lot of information. Now, I don’t know if this message was automated or required by all therapists but it was a strong, genuine first impression from my therapist. 

From the message, I could click a link to the website where I could read his bio (which was pretty lengthy; I had expected only a paragraph or two and was pleasantly surprised). I was also surprised to learn he was not based in my home state of New York but in Mississippi. Not that it was a problem, it just wasn’t what I had been expecting—but he was licensed to practice in both states and overall he seemed to be a pretty good match. 

His note also invited me to message him whenever I wanted. I’m notoriously bad at texting and responding to messages, so I knew I wouldn’t be using that feature as much as others might, but was happy to see it as an option.

How Therapy Sessions Work at BetterHelp

The times offered to me in the scheduling email were three days away—but then I clicked through to my portal and was pleased to see I could actually get a meeting as soon as the next day. The times of day varied too, which was nice; I could have scheduled a meeting early in the morning or even as late as 6 p.m. I chose a time right in the middle of the day (so I could attend the session on my lunch break) and could choose between a text-based chat, phone call, or video therapy communication option. 

I got several email reminders about the appointment once that was scheduled—some might call the email reminders excessive, but as I tend to forget appointments, I actually didn’t mind it. The emails also encouraged me to download the BetterHelp app ahead of the session, which I did after the third reminder. (I’m a bit of a procrastinator.)

The App

I liked the app once I finally downloaded it. It is easy to navigate, with buttons to click on for my conversations with my therapist, to view and schedule appointments, for journaling, and to view any worksheets or assignments I’d been given between sessions. 

I’m always curious to see how an app handles notifications, because I find that some can be really annoying. It was a relief that during my time using the BetterHelp app, I only received an app alert for my appointment times. I could click on it and be taken directly to the video interface.

It is worth noting that I had initially tried to start my video session through the website but was directed to use the app for the video call. It seemed to me like video calls weren’t possible, or at least were discouraged, through the website. This might be an issue for someone that isn’t as comfortable using their phone as they are a computer, but it wasn’t really an issue for me.

The biggest thing that bothered me was that the sessions feel short when they last just 30 minutes. My therapist was there on time (as was I), but I got the impression he needed to wrap up exactly on time because he had another session to get to right after. 

Live Video Sessions

The first session did feel a little formulaic and formal in the beginning: I could tell that my therapist was asking me a series of questions to assess my well-being and to make sure I wasn’t in crisis or suicidal. He asked me about my relationships, work life, and any troubles I had with family or co-workers. It seemed a little like reading questions off of a “first introduction session” checklist, but I understood that it was important to get a baseline for new clients—after all, I knew why I was here, but he didn’t know me outside of what I had put in the questionnaire.

However, as we went along, my therapist seemed to relax a bit and the conversation started to feel more natural and less directed. This was a big turning point for me because I was initially concerned that this might be a paint-by-number therapy company—kind of like a pre-made meal delivery service—but this wasn’t the case.

After I was able to reassure him that I wasn’t in a crisis, experiencing severe depression, or in a dark place emotionally, we started just talking. 

Since he had prompted it, we discussed my parents, my family back in another state, some recent changes at work and at home, and the resistance I felt to starting therapy. We eventually ventured into parenting, since I’d mentioned that was what I really wanted to discuss.

I was reassured that reaching out for help was a good thing and not “taking away help” from someone who needed it more. Overall, I appreciated that my therapist was personable, let me share what I wanted to share, and didn’t swerve back to a pre-generated script. There wasn’t any strange distance either—I can be shy around new people and I’d worried it would be tough for me to open up. 

I even appreciated that he was doing the session from his couch—not some formal, stereotypical therapist's office I’d concocted in my head (which I had visualized as a dark, wood office with a wall of leatherbound books in some kind of fancy, antique bookshelf). It made it easy to relax into our conversation because it didn’t feel formal or like I was being evaluated.

As things were wrapping up at the 30-minute mark, my therapist assigned me a few parenting worksheets to look through. This was also a nice surprise for me. Given how limited the options were in the onboarding questionnaire around parenting, I didn’t expect such strong parent-focused content in the worksheets.

In the end, I left that session feeling good about our rapport, how the session went, and looking forward to our next one—which I was able to quickly schedule with my therapist at the end of our session. I even received a confirmation email with the new time as soon as I signed off. 


The worksheets my therapist assigned me were way more helpful than I expected. While the idea of a “worksheet” might sound like homework (groan), I actually really liked them. They were parenting-based, as I noted, and included a bunch of helpful information for me to consider, think about, and practice implementing with my son. 

Admittedly, the information in the worksheets wasn’t info I couldn’t have found elsewhere with a highly targeted Google search, but let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have googled "parenting tips" in my spare time. And getting worksheets to read through after sessions did encourage me to take the time to actually read what I was sent. 

The two worksheets I was given were extensive, covering how children relate to their parents, how they view rewards and punishments, examples of what rewards kids really appreciate, and thoughts on how to deepen your bond with your kids.

      Pros & Cons

      To summarize, I had a pretty good experience at BetterHelp. Here were my main pros and cons:


      • Easy-to-use app
      • Fast matching process with therapist
      • Therapists are qualified and approachable
      • Surprising level of parenting content and support
      • Helpful worksheets available after session
      • Flexible session times available


      • Unclear privacy settings
      • Doesn’t accept health insurance
      • Monthly cost may still be unaffordable for many
      • Sessions are only 30 minutes long
      • No psychiatry offered

      Final Thoughts

      BetterHelp isn’t necessarily targeted at parents like myself—it’s more of a generalist platform aimed at everyone. As a result, I don’t think it necessarily would be a parent’s first choice of platform to consider. (It wouldn’t have been mine, admittedly, had I not been writing this article.)

      Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the company served my needs. My therapist seemed knowledgeable about parenting issues, though I’m not actually sure if he’s a parent himself (he didn’t say, nor did his bio). And I appreciated that he followed up our session with parenting-specific worksheets for me to review between our sessions.

      It was clear that the worksheets were prepared by BetterHelp, and so I find it reassuring that the company had this type of resource for parents like myself available and ready to send. 

      If I’m honest, I think I also liked that BetterHelp was a bit more generalist as a therapy platform. It meant that we could discuss parenting topics, yes, but it also meant I didn’t feel guilty if I deviated off-topic into my family life or how I’m feeling more generally. In other words, I feel confident that BetterHelp can treat me as me—not just me, the parent—and that’s important because, as parents, we sometimes forget to take care of our own needs to care for our children, even when that actually harms us in the end. 

      BetterHelp also made it pretty easy to fit therapy around my schedule. Because I work all day (and take care of my son at night) it can be tough to fit in therapy sessions but I was able to find a live session that was easy to slot into my lunch break.

      This is the advantage of virtual therapy from a platform like BetterHelp: you don’t need to commute somewhere. Plus, BetterHelp allows you to message your therapist whenever and wherever you want—even late at night while you’re sitting in your child’s room after a fever nightmare, waiting for him to fall back asleep (true story). 

      Ultimately, what I liked best about BetterHelp was my therapist. I happened to have been paired with a great therapist, but I can see where someone may not be paired as well. I could tell that my therapist was focused on me and his job: providing competent care. 

      Other BetterHelp users seem to agree with me too. My editors surveyed 105 BetterHelp users and of those:

      • 86% thought their therapist's qualifications were excellent, very good, or good
      • 84% said the therapy services were better than those they’d used in the past
      • 77% said they were likely or very likely to recommend the service to others like them

      That said, it’s hard to ignore the fact that BetterHelp doesn’t accept insurance. Of 105 users we surveyed, only 58% found BetterHelp to be affordable or very affordable—and 42% (more than any of the other 55 companies we evaluated) said they wished BetterHelp accepted insurance. I agree with them.

      For the past year, I have been also seeing a psychiatrist (virtually) at a platform that does allow me to use my health insurance benefits to pay for the cost, and this dramatically cuts down on how much I pay per month. (For context, one whole year of my insurance-paid psychiatry appointments is equal to one month of BetterHelp talk therapy.) This means I’ll be unlikely to remain at BetterHelp for much longer, even though I really do like my therapist.

      It’s expensive raising a family—and paying for health insurance premiums—so it’s hard for me to justify the expense of BetterHelp, especially knowing that one week of BetterHelp therapy is equal to the month of the insurance-covered therapy my wife gets. 

      Still, I think BetterHelp is a useful resource, especially for parents who might not have (or need to use) their health insurance to cover this expense. 

      The convenience of being able to message your therapist wherever you are and whenever you need it is tremendously helpful for busy parents, as is the ability to join a therapy session from an app on your phone.

      I also appreciate that BetterHelp can get you access to a therapist quickly, especially considering that in many states around the country, there are very long wait times to get treatment because there aren’t enough therapists to meet demand (these areas are called “therapy deserts”). I do live in a rural area where there aren’t a ton of therapists like there were when I lived in New York City—when I’d asked my general practitioner and my psychiatrist about getting therapy, they’d both warned me about wait times. At BetterHelp, I only had to wait 24 hours. I can only imagine this would be valuable to other parents too, especially if they happen to live in a therapy desert too. 

      Edited by Hannah Owens
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