What Parents Need to Know About Talkspace Online Therapy

The on-demand therapy for teens promises to meet them where they are: In the digital world.

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Talkspace
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Talkspace

With a focus on overall mental health and wellness, Talkspace has positioned itself as one of the top online therapy and medication management providers. While its intentions seem genuine, it falls short in some areas, including providing meaningful services catered to teenagers. However, for a young adults facing difficult issues, having access to a mental health counselor they can communicate with via text or video chat is better than trying to fight through these pressing issues alone.

Key Stats

  • Price: $276 - $516 monthly
  • Is Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Type Of Therapy: Couples Therapy, Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry, Teen Counseling
  • Communication Options: Audio, Live Chat, Messaging, Phone, Video Chat
  • HIPAA Compliant?: N/A
  • Is There an App?: Yes

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Convenient platform including app
  • Offers live video, audio, and chat sessions
  • Quick provider match
  • Available in every state
  • Accepts a variety of insurance plans
  • Easy to switch therapists
  • Access to providers during off hours
  • Ranks high in user satisfaction survey

Cons

  • Can't choose a provider during sign up
  • Sessions are short
  • Cost may be high for the services
  • 24/7 access may be unrealistic
  • Unclear about how you get parental consent
  • Therapist engagement may feel impersonal

As more people open up about mental health struggles, it inspires others to do the same. The rise of the digital world, especially social media, has played a role in declining mental health in teens. With unrealistic expectations at their fingertips, teens with young and impressionable brains often feel unworthy and hopeless. Teens and young adults are at increased risk for anxiety and depression that may lead to self-harm. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Online therapy platforms like Talkspace are trying to bridge the gap and provide a viable solution for teenage mental health needs. Does Talkspace succeed in this mission? To test the platform, I enlisted my teenager's help by having her sign up and provide feedback on the services Talkspace provides for that age group. Our team also surveyed 105 users to see what their experience with the service was like. 

What Is Talkspace?

Talkspace founders Oren and Roni Frank launched the online platform in 2012. It wasn't the first company to offer online therapy, but it did introduce a large-scale service providing private chat rooms for users and therapists. Its smartphone app makes interacting with a therapist via chat, voice, or video even more convenient. These features helped Talkspace become a model upon which many other online therapy platforms are based.

No company is without complaints, and Talkspace has had its share over the years. In June 2022, the U.S. Senate requested Talkspace and its competitor BetterHelp provide details on how they secure user information after complaints that the platforms may be sharing sensitive information with data mining companies such as Google and Facebook.

What Services Does Talkspace Offer?

Talkspace has four options for therapy:

  • Individual
  • Couples
  • Teen
  • Psychiatry (or medication management)

Sessions are conducted via asynchronous messaging, live chat, audio, or video in 30- to 45-minute intervals through the web browser or the app. While these sessions are part of Talkspace’s subscription, psychiatry and medication management is paid-per-session, and are conducted by licensed psychiatrists and nurse practitioners. 

Who Is Talkspace For?

Talkspace provides support for teens and adults with the following mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Eating disorders
  • Anger control
  • Depression
  • Childhood abuse
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Stressors in relationships (romantic, parental, friendships)
  • Grief
  • LGBTQIA+ identity issues
  • Long-term illness

According to our user survey, 55% of those who signed up with Talkspace indicated they struggled with anxiety, and 45% said depression led them to seek help.

Talkspace providers use various modalities for treatment, including:

  • Grief counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Somatic therapy
  • Emotion-focused therapy (EFT)
  • Humanistic therapy
  • Medication management

Medication management is a relatively unique service among online therapy providers, helping Talkspace stand out against other companies we reviewed. While we weren't testing this feature of Talkspace for teens, prescription medication may be a necessary component of effective mental health treatment. When it comes to teens and medication, parents should be involved, since some prescriptions may have unintended side effects, such as an increase in suicidal ideation. 

It’s also worth noting that Talkspace providers cannot prescribe controlled substances like Xanax, ADHD meds, and benzodiazepines.

How Much Does Talkspace Cost?

Talkspace offers three subscription options, all of which are billed a month in advance:

  • Messaging therapy: $69/week to message your therapist and get daily responses five days a week
  • Video + messaging: $99/week for one weekly live 30-minute video, audio, or chat therapy session plus daily weekday messaging
  • Video + messaging + workshops: $109/week; provides access to a weekly live 30-minute video, audio, or chat therapy session and daily weekday messaging, plus live workshops

Psychiatric services aren’t included in the subscription plans. A preliminary psychiatric evaluation costs $249 per session and can be up to 90 minutes long. Follow-ups are $125 per session.

If you self-pay, you will have 30-minute therapy sessions. If you use insurance or workplace partnerships, you may have 45-minute sessions.

Overall, Talkspace’s therapy prices are relatively affordable compared to in-person therapy, which is a big selling point for Talkspace. The average cost of in-person therapy hovers between $100 and $200 for one 45- to 60-minute session. Talkspace's rates fall at or somewhat below that, and the price to use the service is comparable to similar online platforms.

Does Talkspace Take Insurance?

Yes, Talkspace accepts a wide range of insurance plans, unlike some competitors, including BetterHelp. 

However, if you have a high deductible plan, it may actually be cheaper to self-pay. You can usually submit out-of-pocket payments to your insurer to apply toward meeting your deductible. This also applies to out-of-network deductibles if Talkspace falls into that category. 

It’s also worth noting that Talkspace doesn't accept Medicare or Medicaid, which is unfortunate.

Does Talkspace Offer Discounts?

When we signed up, Talkspace offered a promotional credit of $100 off the first month. Two weeks into the subscription, I received an email offering an additional $100 credit for a second month. 

Generally, Talkspace does offer promotional offers on the first month of therapy; you can find those displayed in a banner on the top of its homepage.

Navigating the Talkspace Website 

Talkspace’s homepage is relatively barebones, but that may be a design play considering the main message you’ll find there: “Life is hard. Getting therapy shouldn’t be.” 

TS1

The purpose of the Talkspace homepage is clear when you start navigating it: It wants you to sign up. Even links that appear to lead to informative articles all end on a sign-up page. Still, I eventually found helpful links to the company’s blog, mental health assessments, and other mental health resources in the footer. 

Talkspace

Talkspace

I also found the contact link here; however, the corresponding page acts more as a troubleshooting and FAQ spot. I couldn't find a phone number or email address for direct contact.

Talkspace has channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, but its Instagram page has the highest number of followers at 154,000. Across all platforms, Talkspace has an underwhelming number of posts and limited interaction. Most public comments to posts relate to billing and customer service issues, and these go unanswered.

Does Talkspace Have an App?

Yes, it does. The Talkspace app is available for both iOS and Android devices. After sign-up, you can access your portal either on the website or via the app, where you can communicate with your therapist and sign up for sessions from any supported device.

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Talkspace?

Signing up with Talkspace is easy, but at first seemed less thorough than I expected, especially since I was signing up my teenager. 

Talkspace

Talkspace

After I began the sign-up process, I had to answer a four-question intake form, only one of which related to what prompted my teen to seek assistance. After that, the form asked one question each about sleep habits, physical health and gender identity.

Next, you choose whether you want a therapist of a specific gender—my teen chose female. After filling in her date of birth, the system asked if parental consent would be a problem, and we indicated it wasn't. 

Of note: this was the only mention of parental consent. I never had to give permission for my teen to speak with a therapist. 


I reached out to Talkspace support and asked about the parameters governing parental consent, and received a list of state laws indicating our state did require consent. When I pushed to ask how Talkspace gets parental consent, I never heard back.


For this review, we opted for the Video + Messaging plan for $99/week. It gave my teen four live-session credits for video, audio, or chat sessions to use throughout the month. Since we did not choose to use health insurance, we had to provide a credit card number after filling out the intake form. The promo code automatically applied to the price, bringing the total for a month of teen therapy to $296.

Matching With a Therapist

Once the charge was authorized, the website prompted my teen to answer more in-depth questions about her mental health, medical history, and issues of current concern. At this point, the site matched my teen with a therapist it believed fit her needs. Interestingly, she was matched with a male therapist, even though we indicated preference for a woman. In a platform that boasts thousands of providers, this felt strange and impersonal. The therapist's biography was short, but it did touch on their acceptable areas of practice.

Despite our experience, 64% of the users we surveyed indicated searching for a therapist was easy or very easy at Talkspace, and 83% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their therapist options.

We immediately got into the portal, which prompted us to book an appointment with the therapist. We chose the first available video session, which was four days later.

Within an hour, I received an email saying the provider had canceled. I returned to the portal to find an impersonal message saying that the time didn't work for him. We messaged back and forth to find a date and time that worked the following week, seven days after signing up.

My teen didn't receive any other message from the therapist. We sent messages asking about how things worked, and the only response received before the live session was that the provider would initiate the video call through the portal.

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Talkspace?

Under the Talkspace plan we chose, my teen was able to communicate with her therapist in three different ways. She tested video and live chat sessions, but she could have also opted for a simple audio session. 

All live sessions take place inside of the Talkspace portal. At the scheduled time, the therapist would initiate the session. My teen usually arrived first and waited several minutes for the provider in a virtual waiting room.

My teen used her phone app and her laptop to participate in therapy sessions. She used the app on her smartphone more frequently, as did 39% of the users who took our survey. Thirty-one percent reported they used their laptops to access the Talkspace website. My teen preferred using her phone and reported the app was very easy to use.

Messaging Your Therapist

We used messaging to schedule appointments as our other messages went unanswered or received generic responses. The therapist never reached out to schedule another appointment after one session with my teen. This was different from my experience with other more traditional therapists, who schedule follow-up appointments at the end of each session. 

I was disappointed by the lack of communication from the therapist, given that our plan included messaging between sessions. However, this may have been this particular therapist because the second provider my teen switched to was more interactive when it came to responding to messages and scheduling appointments.

Video Sessions

My teen logged into the portal on the computer or the app before video sessions. The therapist initiated the video calls and ended them promptly within a 30-minute timeframe. My teen never reported any difficulties and said that the technology was easy to use.

Live Chat Sessions

My teen used the live chat option for one 30-minute session. Again, the chat takes place inside the portal either via the website or app. This method is convenient and affords an extra measure of privacy since there isn't a worry of being overheard in conversation.

While my teen used the chat to ask questions, the therapist often sent voice note responses. This allowed him to give longer answers without typing. My teen indicated that it felt more personalized than simply receiving texts.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at Talkspace?

Talkspace requires at least 24 hours’ notice to cancel a live therapy session. Should you miss that window, the company uses one of your monthly session credits. We canceled sessions without any issues.

Switching Therapists at Talkspace

After my teen participated in the live chat, we switched therapists. It took a bit of searching to find where to do this, but we eventually found it under her name in the portal. We dropped down to the "Payment and Plan" selection, where the current therapist bio popped up. Under this is the option to "Change Provider,"

We clicked the link and were prompted to give the current therapist a star rating and details. I wished there was an option to skip this. 

Once past this screen, we chose gender and specialty preferences. The site then immediately generated a list of three therapists, the top match being another man—again ignoring the preference for a woman. I appreciated that this time, though, we could choose from a list. What’s more, had we disliked these three therapist options, we could have done another search.

The switching process was easy, and the new therapist replaced the previous one in the portal. I liked how we had the option to share previous communications with the former therapist if we wanted to. I didn't like that the new therapist ignored the previous information, though, even when my teen referred her to it.

Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Talkspace

Canceling the service was easy. We found the link under the same Payment and Plan section where we switched therapists. Once I indicated my desire to cancel, I was again asked for another star rating for the therapist.

The site gave a series of options before letting me cancel:

  • Pause the subscription for 30 days.
  • Switch therapists.
  • Try a maintenance plan.

The maintenance plan option was half the price at $50/week. With this plan, we could still message the therapist any time, but only get one response a week. The basic Messaging Therapy plan is $19 more a week, but provides responses from the therapist five days a week, making the maintenance option seem not worth the price.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

Is online therapy for teens a replacement for in-person counseling sessions? That was one of the questions I posed to subject matter expert and clinical psychologist Amy Marschall, Psy.D. While she agreed that online therapy can be just as beneficial as in-person therapy for teens, it may become problematic for a service to present itself as being available around the clock. Dr. Marschall pointed out that having an on-demand therapist may prove counterproductive to developing coping mechanisms and autonomy for a teen or anyone else struggling with mental health.

This constant availability also becomes an issue for therapists. Burnout is widespread among mental health workers in the wake of the pandemic. The first therapist's calendar showed round-the-clock appointment times, including weekends. He canceled two appointments, yet never indicated that any time was off the table. On the other hand, the second therapist had a limited calendar and set healthy expectations for returning messages—so maybe it is up to the therapist to set their own boundaries at Talkspace. Still, this seems like a big burden to place on the provider and can lead to mixed messages for the therapy seeker. Cancelling sessions you think you scheduled is jarring and could frustrate some users.

I could not get a current therapist with Talkspace to go on the record with me. However, between unofficial conversations with therapists from the platform and my teen's experience using the platform, I would conclude that overworked therapists are common at Talkspace. A recent survey published on Indeed.com supports this opinion.

My teen indicated little to no connection with either of her Talkspace therapists, even after a couple of sessions and message exchanges. Her initial therapist seemed especially distant and disengaged, even during live sessions. She said that he repeated the same advice, but never gave actionable ways to implement it or any further direction to follow. The second therapist indicated she could provide guidance, but her messages were sporadic, and she had limited calendar time for live sessions.

Our user survey tells a very different story, however. Ninety percent of Talkspace users rated the service as good to excellent overal, ranking it in the top three out of the companies we surveyed. Of note, though, only 8% indicated they used the company for teen counseling, so perhaps the service is simply better suited to adults seeking individual therapy. 

The survey did show that 78% of users felt all or most of their needs were met by their therapist, but this question didn’t specify whether that was the initial match or a subsequent one. That said, 50% thought they’d still be seeing their therapist at least six months from the time of the survey, 92% said their therapist’s qualifications were good to excellent, and 75% said they’d use Talkspace again if they had to search for a new therapist. And, 82% said they were likely or very likely to recommend the service to others. 

Privacy Policies at Talkspace

The website gives clear access to the privacy policies that govern how Talkspace collects, stores, and uses data. While it does contain a small amount of legalese, the section is easy to read and understand.

Since Talkspace falls under medical services, all information shared is subject to privacy and protection under HIPAA regulations.

That said, in 2020, New York Times uncovered evidence that Talkspace violated this policy for marketing purposes. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker opened an investigation into these practices and urged Talkspace to clarify its privacy practices.

Talkspace vs. Its Competitors

BetterHelp, arguably Talkspace's biggest competitor, ranks just below it in our survey, with 86% of users rating it a good to excellent service overall (compared to 90% with Talkspace). The price point between these two companies is similar, though BetterHelp is a bit less expensive, at an average of $68/week. However, BetterHelp doesn’t accept insurance and the company told us that it engages in surge pricing. In other words, if you happen to live somewhere where the demand for therapy is great—or just happen to sign up during a time when demand is high—you will pay more. This means that ultimately, Talkspace may be the better bet if you have coverage. It also doesn’t offer a messaging subscription on the level of Talkspace, which might turn off some teens. 

Since this review focuses on teen therapy services, I want to highlight BetterHelp’s program for teens, Teen Counseling. It earned an 85% overall user satisfaction rating in our survey. Teen Counseling concentrates on the mental health needs of teenagers and their parents. This might make Teen Counseling seem more appealing to parents and teens looking for a more focused approach than Talkspace's, especially since the company advocates for parental involvement in their teen’s therapy. That said, only 28% of Teen Counseling users said they were likely or very likely to still be seeing their therapist in 12 months' time, compared to 42% of Talkspace users. 

Talkspace’s therapist qualifications also seem to outrank Teen Counseling’s, with 92% of users rating them good to excellent, vs. 85% for Teen Counseling users. And 97% of Talkspace users said they thought the service was better than other services they’d used in the past, compared to 88% of Teen Counseling users. So, while Teen Counseling may cater more directly to teens and parents, the quality of its services don’t seem to measure up to Talkspace, at least in terms of what our users thought.

Final Verdict

After trying Talkspace, my teen could see the value in what the company offers, but she did not find it helpful. Upon further discussion, she said she believed the lack of choice on that first match swayed her overall opinion, even if the subsequent provider may have been better. She also felt that 30 minutes was too short for a “beneficial” therapy session. She never had an opportunity to build a rapport with her therapist, and came away from her sessions believing he wasn’t engaged. 

As a parent, I was not impressed with Talkspace, but I agree that it does offer a resource for teens who want help navigating mental health issues. While Talkspace may have some problematic tendencies, it does provide support for a vulnerable age group—and it can do so for teens in all 50 states. With its easy interface and large network of providers, I can understand why it is enticing and appreciate the company’s attempt at providing a viable alternative to in-person therapy for teens.

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 them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we attempted to interview therapists who either currently work or worked for this company in the past and worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

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