What Parents Need to Know About LifeStance Health Online Therapy

The online therapy company has therapists with a range of specialties, including family.

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Psychologist making notes during online session with patient
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LifeStance Health is a large, multi-state online therapy company offering many types of therapy with therapists from a range of specialties. It contracts with local offices to provide in-person therapy and has stellar customer service over the phone. In the current climate, mental health providers are scarce throughout the country and LifeStance is not immune from this issue. As a result, provider availability is highly variable based on region and need.

Key Stats

  • Price: No plans listed on the website
  • Insurance Accepted? Yes
  • Types of Therapy: Individual, couples, family, kids, teen, group, medication management, psychiatry, substance use treatment, eating disorder treatment
  • Communication Options: Text-based therapy, email, live messaging, live audio/phone, live video, in-person
  • HIPAA Compliant? Yes
  • Accepts HSA or FSA? Yes
  • Is There an App? No
  • Prescriptions Available? Yes

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Available in 34 states
  • Many types of therapy offered, such as couples, individual, group, and family
  • You always get a human when contacting customer support
  • Many locations in metropolitan areas
  • Several therapist types (psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, licensed therapists) 
  • Easy-to-navigate website 
  • Accepts many insurance plans 
  • Offers video or in-person therapy
  • Serves clients ages 2 and up

Cons:

  • Virtual therapy not available across all 50 states
  • Lists providers on the site that aren’t taking new clients
  • Email-based customer service poor or non-existent 
  • Referrals from a primary care doctor may be required for therapy services
  • No information on pricing upfront

More than half of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. Every year, one in five people experiences a mental illness, and that statistic carries over to children. Yet less than half of people who experience mental illness are getting mental health care.

LifeStance Health is a large organization that is centralizing the mental health sector of health care by partnering with regional organizations and putting them under the LifeStance umbrella. Its goal is to give patients more options, more availability, and a smoother process for finding and using mental health care. The company values compassion, relationships, and diversity while keeping mental health care accessible and affordable. 

To evaluate LifeStance, I attempted to test this service myself from Oregon (where I reside), researched the company website, and spoke with subject matter experts. We also surveyed 105 users at 55 different companies, LifeStance included, to see how it stacks up against the competition. Here’s how it fared.

What Is LifeStance?

LifeStance Health is a fairly new company, co-founded in 2017 by Michael K. Lester. Its services are available in 34 states (the company has over 600 in-person clinics), and there are approximately 5,400 trained clinicians on staff.   

Most news stories about LifeStance Health are in the financial sector. It gained a lot of momentum in 2021 on Wall Street but, at the time of writing, has been losing money. Investors filed a class action lawsuit against it in August 2022.  However, it has not had any scandals or news stories related to the quality of its care.

What Services Does LifeStance Health Offer?

A positive and negative feature of LifeStance is that, since it partners with local offices, the services vary based on local availability. On the plus side, this means practices can cater to the needs of their community. But it also means the same services are not offered in all areas. Throughout the U.S., LifeStance contracts with all types of mental health providers, including those that provide services for:

  • Individual therapy for children, teens, and adults
  • Family therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Medication management
  • Group therapy
  • Substance use disorder counseling

Within these services, there are different types of providers such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and nurse practitioners. The types of certifications vary based on education and state. 

Who Is LifeStance For?

The LifeStance website makes it clear that it welcomes all types of patients, including those from all types of cultures and families, as well as patients of all ages (age 2 and up). It can treat a large number of conditions, although this, again, varies by provider.

How Much Does LifeStance Cost?

Unlike some online therapy companies, LifeStance’s prices are not centralized across all offices and there is no information on the website on how much sessions cost if you choose to self-pay. 

Users have reported that they have paid $75 to $300 out-of-pocket per session, which is higher than the national average.

Does LifeStance Take Insurance?

LifeStance says that it is in-network with most commercial insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, AARP, Beacon, and Empire BCBS. It also accepts Medicare and Medicaid. If LifeStance accepts your insurance, you will be responsible for a copay.

Navigating the Website

The website is welcoming and easy to navigate. You're greeted with friendly, serene photos of individuals and families in neutral tones. Along the top, clearly labeled, are resources such as a robust blog and podcasts.

Homepage

For each condition LifeStance providers treat, there is a page explaining what it is, signs and symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Depression LiveStance

There are several blue buttons that stand out to help direct you to pages where you can begin the search for a provider. To find a provider, you must select your state and/or metro area. From there, you are redirected to the website for your local LifeStance branch. You can perform an advanced search to filter for your specific needs or look up a specific provider if one has been recommended to you. Search filters include: type of provider, age group served, languages, specific office location, specialty, issues or conditions, population specialty, and specific interventions. 

LifeStance is online at Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, where it posts mental health infographics and aligns with mental health awareness days. It does have some negative reviews on these social media sites. 

Unlike some of the other companies we reviewed, LifeStance does not have an app.

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at LifeStance?

I was seeking online family therapy for my daughter and myself when I attempted to sign up for therapy at Lifestance. After navigating the website easily, I put a few filters into the advanced search. I was pleasantly surprised to see a long list of providers in my metro area come up in the search, especially because I've found that mental health providers are often hard to come by these days.

Signingup

I scrolled through and found a psychologist with a Psy.D. A page opened up with a photo and a long bio, including a nice amount of information about the practitioner’s services, theoretical orientation, and specialties. She looked like a good fit, so I clicked on her location and was directed to the practice’s site. 

To connect with any practitioner from there, I had to call them on the phone, which is not my favorite mode of communication, especially since I wanted telehealth. The operator answered right away but asked who had referred me. When I told her I found them online, she sounded surprised. She said they were not open to new patients. 

I started over. I repeated this process several times, including with social workers and other types of mental health providers, before I asked the operator if I was speaking to a centralized office or a local one. She told me I was speaking to a local office but if a local office was busy, I would get redirected to another LifeStance office. I would never get an answering machine. 

While I liked this system, I asked if they could tell me who was accepting new clients so I wouldn’t have to call each office directly. She said they didn’t know of anyone who was accepting new clients without a direct physician referral. She suggested I go to Psychology Today's online directory and find someone available there, which made me feel like they were giving up on me. 

I was frustrated that so many practitioners were listed on the website who were not available and that I had to call each office location even though I wanted telehealth. I tried to find a customer service email on the LifeStance website and, after some searching, found one, sent an email saying I was a journalist, and asked if I could do a short trial. 

I got no response for five days, then finally heard back from the director of operations, who told me they needed more information before offering me therapy. They said they could talk to their leadership about letting me do a trial for the purposes of the article. I emailed back saying I would like to move forward. Then I got ghosted.

I also got COVID at the same time. When I followed up several weeks later, I never heard back. Thankfully, one of our other reviewers had a slightly better experience signing up and making an appointment with a therapist. She found a provider with availability that fit her schedule and made an appointment online by clicking Find a Provider, inputting her home state and zip code, and choosing a provider from the options displayed. That said, the provider did end up canceling on her because he didn’t actually offer adolescent therapy, which is what she was looking for. But, she was able to talk to customer support on the phone and get a list of available clinicians that fit her needs. Then, she could search their bios and pick one on the website.

Matching With a Therapist/Choosing a Therapist at LifeStance

Our surveyed users found signing up for LifeStance fairly easy. 

Many states have an online option that directs you through the website to your possible providers and helps you match your search criteria. Sixty-six percent of our users found it easy or very easy to sign up for therapy services through LifeStance.

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at LifeStance?

LifeStance therapy sessions can happen in person or virtually. You schedule virtual appointments in the patient portal. You can access them via the same portal, and they take place as a video call on your phone or laptop.

Unlike some online therapy companies, there is no chat therapy feature associated with LifeStance. Messaging your provider and live-chatting with them in between sessions is possible. However, you only receive access to these features once you are signed up with a provider.

Video Sessions

As mentioned above, virtual sessions happen on video calls, typically, and you can attend them via your patient portal. Of the users surveyed, 34% reported that they used their smartphone for their teletherapy sessions, and 20% used a laptop.

Session frequency and duration seem to depend on the therapist and the type of therapy offered. Most therapy sessions are 45 minutes. Intake and testing sessions will run longer.

Medication Management/Psychiatry

Psychiatry sessions take place the same way therapy appointments do—via live video calls. 

Some medication management sessions might be very short, especially if you are keeping medications the same and simply checking in, but typically, they’re 40 minutes long. Note that medication management, including psychiatry, is only available for patients 10 and up in most areas, but you may need to ask at your specific location.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at LifeStance Health?

Missed sessions incur a late fee, and LifeStance has a 48-hour cancellation window. You have to keep a credit card on file ahead of your appointments; this will be charged if you are a no-show.

Switching Therapists at LifeStance

To switch therapists, there are three ways to go about it. You can tell your therapist you’d like to switch and they can help you directly, or they can release you to find someone else on your own. Your therapist might also refer you to someone else if they meet with you and see that you are not the right fit because of specialty, need, or personality. Or, you can contact customer service on your own, without involving your current provider, and they can help you switch to someone new. 

Our users found this process fairly simple— 46% did switch therapists up to three times once they started with one, which indicates the matching process isn’t necessarily successful in the long term. This speaks to the ease of the process on the customer service side, but also hints that the matching process is not as thorough as it could be at the onset of therapy, leading people to switch one or two times before they find someone who meets their ultimate needs.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

While I wasn’t able to meet with a LifeStance therapist myself, some of our other reviewers did and had generally good experiences. One thought the session length of 45 minutes was good and felt like she was “on the right track” with her therapist. She appreciated that they would follow up on what was discussed in a previous session, and check to see if she felt like she’d made any progress with her concerns. Another reviewer was “delighted” with her therapist, feeling like they were compassionate and really listened.

LifeStance received overall positive reviews from the users we surveyed, as well. Eighty-eight percent of users ranked the online therapy they received from LifeStance in their top three of all the services we surveyed. Eighty-nine percent of users felt that the qualifications of the therapists at LifeStance were good, very good, or excellent, and 77% said the same for the company’s value for the money. 

Additionally, 52% of our surveyed users said they would still be seeing their therapist in six months’ time, and 46% thought they would still be with their therapist in a year. However, some of the negative reviews of the company stem from its billing department. 

There is no information about prices on the website, which can be a barrier to care for patients who want to budget before making a commitment to a provider. Established patients have had issues with billing mistakes, including being billed even after they have discontinued treatment. 

“Parents trying to support their families might find LifeStance's unpredictable and faulty billing system disturbing or even unfeasible,” says Hannah Owens, LMSW, a subject matter expert we consulted. “Continuing to get billed for services in which they are no longer partaking could lead to financial strain, and might even convince families that seeking treatment is not worth the hassle or that treatment is financially inaccessible. This could keep families from getting the help they need.” Parents who have enough on their plates already, especially when they have a child or family member in need of mental health care, do not need financial hassles to add to the load.

Privacy Policies at LifeStance

LifeStance is HIPAA-compliant in both its in-person and online therapy practices and is bound by law to maintain patient privacy. This means it should only be using your information for the purposes of your treatment. However, to operate its business, it may use your information without your authorization. At the time of writing, there have been no issues reported with LifeStance’s privacy policies. 

Anecdotally, when I was trying to get a family therapy trial for the review, the director of operations asked me via email (on which my editors were copied) if I had any specific concerns I wanted to address in therapy with myself or my child. This struck me as a bit odd considering the delicate and sometimes private nature of mental health, especially surrounding diagnoses and children.

LifeStance vs. Its Competitors

LifeStance is different from some other online companies in that it contracts with local offices to provide therapy services instead of being its own company with therapy provided in-house (even a virtual house). It’s not a subscription; it’s more like traditional appointments, and therefore often goes through your insurance like any doctor’s appointment, even if you are doing an online-only treatment plan. 

Compared to other popular online therapy services, LifeStance is highly rated, though often comes in below other well-known companies like Talkspace. In our user survey, 90% of Talkspace users rated the company overall as good, very good, or excellent, compared to LifeStance’s 88%. While 73% of LifeStance users found a therapist who met all or most of their needs, Talkspace edges it out with 78% user satisfaction in this category. Sixty-four percent of Talkspace users felt the process of looking for a therapist was easy or very easy, and only 60% of LifeStance users agreed. Additionally, 69% of LifeStance users were satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options at the company, whereas a notable 83% of Talkspace users felt the same.

Final Verdict

I think my experience is telling: The provider shortage at the time of writing is hitting everyone, and LifeStance, while its website does not note this, is no exception. The customer service at the actual offices is exceptional, but the corporate communication could use some work.

If you want to try LifeStance, my advice would be to see if your primary care physician refers you to a local LifeStance office and go that route. Our research shows that LifeStance-affiliated providers are highly qualified and that users were satisfied with their provider’s expertise. Even for telehealth-only patients, LifeStance requires you to work with a local office.

Users are generally happy with LifeStance, so if you’re able to get in, you will likely be satisfied. Or, if you are referred to a LifeStance office by your doctor, or if an office you have been going to gets taken over by LifeStance, your quality of care will likely not be affected and will probably improve. However, if you are hoping to find a therapist on your own from the comfort of your own home, this is not the easiest path.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist-matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost, and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend the company.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process works, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company.

Edited by Ally Hirschlag
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Sources
Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. About mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021.

  2. Mental illnessNational Institute of Mental Health. 2022.

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