Do the new online counselling startups offer good value for money?
June 26, 2015 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Hi all, I have seen a few articles about the startups offering online mental health services at low cost. Joyable has gained quite a bit of press for offering a structured 3-month CBT programme to combat social anxiety (something I suffer from in some situations) for $240, and looking for reviews of that I also discovered Talkspace and Betterhealth. With the latter two you are matched with a therapists and get to send unlimited messages for $25-$40 a week, depending on the plan. These could be about any issue, not just social anxiety. Has anyone tried these and can make any comment on them? I find very few reviews by users on places other than the business's own web sites, and of course those could be selectively chosen to present the winner scenario.

I did register with Betterhealth, filled out a few questions and was looking for someone with expertise in dealing with midlife singles and creating an authentic solo life after relationship breakdown. I was first matched with someone specialising in couples and familes, so I asked to try another and was matched with someone who mainly does play therapy with children/ adolescents and seniors. So I paused for a bit and de-activated my account though I could try again another time. My doubts were that the matches didn't seem related to my issues and seemed almost random, and also I wondered if a counsellor normally got paid $100+ an hour when they see someone, would they really give much time and thought to my e-mails or would they dash off a brief canned response which was more like reflective listening and just repeating back what I said. I don't expect wonders for either $240 in the case of Joyable or $40 a week with the other ones, but equally if I plan to use a service for 3 months it will be enough of an amount to make me think carefully first. Anyone got experiences of these to share, or other similar sites they have used which they can speak for or recommend?
posted by AuroraSky to Human Relations (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: oops sorry meant to say with Joyable you get matched with coaches, and with Betterhealth I think it's people like social workers and counsellors, I didn't mean to say therapists. Sorry for any confusion!
posted by AuroraSky at 3:51 PM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: Depending on the state these services may not even be legal.
I find that effective therapy (speaking as a licensed mental health professional) has to be in person. Yes, text communicates many things, but many interventions that therapist use start with a pause in words or looking down. And building an in person relationship is key for dealing with social anxiety.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:24 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been very happy with my therapist through InYourCorner, formerly PrettyPaddedRoom, which basically lists various therapists and handles billing and schedules for online appointments. Video Skype isn't as good as in-person, but the flexibility of scheduling sessions, no travel time, and much lower cost for my area makes up for that. I can pay for twice a week sessions with a good therapist online, compared to once a week with an okay therapist in-person. I picked my therapist based on a brief email interview with a shortlist of those I thought had the skills I wanted, and I liked her answers.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:40 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Those services sound sort of scammy to me. If you can't find a therapist right away who you can see in person, you should check out MoodGYM. It's completely free, so it won't hurt to try it out! It's basically an online, interactive CBT workbook.
posted by colfax at 2:17 PM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ultimately no matter what program you use, the bulk of the work is up to you, not a coach or a counselor. Its all about how willing you are to growth and change. I would steer clear of a one size fits all approach like Joyable. Depending on how you feel about working solo vs. with someone else, has a ton of self help material. You could even use it in addition to the work you do with your counselor.

Online is a great option for people with limited access or those looking for a specialty not readily found in their area. However true therapy is best done in person if at all possible. Communication is overwhelmingly nonverbal.
posted by acertainseason at 6:48 AM on June 28, 2015

Response by poster: Deep thanks to all who answered, all very helpful responses. I have signed up with Moodgym as a first step while I am busy with all the activities relating to applying for and moving to new accommodation and getting that kitted out, settling in a new neighbourhood etc. I can see the value of in-person help for non-verbal communication reasons, and have a few friends who have benefitted from participating in a local university's training project - they help with the research and the people counselling them get training hours under their belt, and the only cost is transport to and from the venue. I am minded to try this option now, and if I benefit from that social-anxiety specific help I might try Skype therapy with someone from InYourCorner to get a few other unrelated issues off my chest.

Thanks for helping me sort through my thinking on this issue.
posted by AuroraSky at 12:51 PM on June 28, 2015

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