BetterHelp Controversy: What’s The Real Story? [2024]

Written By

Saba Imran

Updated:

Fact Checked

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This article explores the key controversies surrounding BetterHelp, the leading online therapy platform, and its implications for those considering virtual counseling services.

BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that connects users with licensed therapists for virtual counseling sessions.

BetterHelp positions itself as a convenient and affordable way to access mental health support for common issues but cautions it should not replace in-person therapy for more severe cases.

Since launching in 2013, BetterHelp has grown tremendously in popularity, with over 2.7 million users signing up to use the service. However, in recent years, BetterHelp has been embroiled in several controversies that have raised concerns about its business practices and the quality of care provided on the platform.

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An Overview of BetterHelp

BetterHelp provides on-demand access to therapists through text, audio, phone, and video chat sessions.

Users are matched with therapists based on criteria such as age, location, language, sexuality, faith, and specific issues the user is dealing with.

One of the main draws of BetterHelp is its convenience and affordability compared to traditional in-office therapy.

While research shows online therapy can be effective for treating some mild-moderate mental health conditions, the lack of in-person visual and non-verbal cues poses some limitations compared to physical therapy.

Still, for many people dealing with common issues like stress, relationships, or mild anxiety/depression, BetterHelp offers a useful alternative.

BetterHelp markets itself as an accessible way for people to get mental health support discreetly and on their own schedule. The service costs $65-$100 per week, which is significantly cheaper than most standard in-person therapy rates.

Data Sharing and Privacy Concerns

Modern therapy room with male therapist and female client discussing, large sign reading 'BetterHelp Controversy Facts' highlights critical engagement and professional atmosphere

One of the biggest controversies surrounding BetterHelp is its handling of user data. In 2018, the company came under fire when it was revealed that BetterHelp was sharing user data with third parties, such as Facebook, without explicit consent.

Additionally, in the same year, BetterHelp faced scrutiny over allegations of deceptive pricing, poor service quality, and inconsistent terms of service related to promotions by social media influencers.

The company’s CEO addressed the allegations, but concerns remained.

Specifically, BetterHelp provided anonymized metadata to partners for targeted advertising purposes, including sensitive information like users’ age, location, and health information. This was done despite BetterHelp’s privacy policy stating that user information would remain private and confidential.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated these practices:

  • It ruled that BetterHelp had engaged in deceptive data collection by pushing people to turn over sensitive information under the guise of it being confidential.
  • In 2023, BetterHelp settled with the FTC for $7.8 million over these deceptive practices and prohibited the company from using these types of business practices going forward.

This controversy raised alarms about how secure and private user data is on BetterHelp’s platform. Many questioned if they could trust BetterHelp to keep their information safe, given this violation of users’ privacy.

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Concerns Over Therapist Quality

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Another issue that has plagued BetterHelp is doubts about the quality and qualifications of its therapists. Some users have complained that therapists on the platform seem unprofessional, inexperienced, or underqualified.

Unlike in-person therapy, BetterHelp users claimed they could not check the credentials or licenses of the therapists they were matched with.

BetterHelp claims they thoroughly vet and screen all therapists, but some argue there is still a lack of transparency.

As of the time of this publication, BetterHelp users can easily access the credentials and licenses of therapists through each therapist profile. BetterHelp now makes this information public and transparent.

There have also been reports of therapists failing to provide adequate care or ghosting users unexpectedly. The hands-off, virtual model of BetterHelp may make it easier for negligent therapists to get away with subpar work without repercussions.

These problems have led to accusations that BetterHelp prioritizes growth over properly training and evaluating its therapist network. Critics say the platform’s low prices come at the cost of quality assurance.

Difficulties Getting Refunds

A third controversy involves BetterHelp users having problems getting refunds when eligible under the platform’s policies. Multiple users have reported that BetterHelp makes it exceedingly difficult to get refunds, even for seemingly valid reasons.

For example, BetterHelp has a policy that if a user is unhappy with their therapist, they can switch to a new one at any time. However, users say BetterHelp often rejects or ignores requests for refunds after unsatisfactory therapy experiences.

Others have complained about being refused refunds after being incorrectly charged multiple times in billing errors. These kinds of issues have cultivated a perception that BetterHelp uses deceptive maneuvers to avoid giving refunds.

As of the time of this publication, BetterHelp does offer refunds, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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Important Considerations Before Using BetterHelp

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While BetterHelp does expand access to therapy for many, the controversies illuminate the need for caution when using the service.

Users should be vigilant about checking credentials of matched therapists and reading the platform’s fine print regarding privacy and refunds. It’s also crucial that users have realistic expectations about the level of care possible with virtual therapy.

More severe mental health issues may require traditional in-person counseling and a local provider or even hospitalization.

BetterHelp has taken some steps to address criticism, including revamping its privacy policy after the FTC settlement. Additionally, the platform stands to gain from improving its ethical practices and quality control over its therapists.

As online therapy grows, BetterHelp’s controversies highlight key areas virtual providers must prioritize to earn people’s trust.

The Value of BetterHelp’s Platform Beyond the Controversies

a Caucasian male therapist and an Asian female client—engaged in a serious discussion on the value proposition of betterhelp

Despite the controversies, BetterHelp does offer advantages that serve certain mental health needs:

Convenience and accessibility

  • On-demand scheduling is convenient for busy and irregular schedules
  • Discreetness and remote access are helpful for those hesitant about in-person therapy

Specialized therapist matching

  • Large online therapist network makes finding providers experienced in specific issues easier
  • Beneficial for those seeking help with niche or stigmatized concerns

Customized experience

  • AI matching connects users with the right therapist for their needs
  • Research shows proper match quality improves therapy duration and progress
  • Multiple communication options suit different user preferences
  • Users can find the right mode that makes them most comfortable opening up

For people who benefit from the accessibility, flexibility, and stigma-free care, BetterHelp provides valuable services.

Who Does BetterHelp Work Best For?

a male researching on his laptop in a brightly lit room Who Is Betterhelp Best For

BetterHelp may be a good match for certain demographics and situations, such as:

  • Individuals with busy, irregular schedules who want therapy accessibility outside typical daytime work hours
  • Those living in rural areas with limited local therapist options
  • People hesitant about in-person therapy due to discomfort or privacy concerns
  • Those seeking help for niche issues like eating disorders, LGBTQ+ concerns, etc., that may benefit from a specialized provider
  • Users who prefer asynchronous communication like text messaging or email with therapists
  • Individuals with mobility limitations or transportation barriers make getting to an office difficult
  • People who benefit from increased discreetness in discussing stigmatized mental health problems
  • Low-income individuals in need of more affordable virtual therapy options
  • Expats, travelers, or digital nomads wanting ongoing therapy while on the move

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Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 35K licensed professionals

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Subscriptions as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

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Verdict

a Caucasian male therapist and an Asian female client—engaged in a serious discussion. The room's contemporary decor creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. A large wall display prominently features the wording "Is It Right For You?"

The BetterHelp controversies highlight important considerations for those exploring online therapy:

  • Vet credentials of any therapist you are matched with to ensure they are properly licensed and qualified.
  • Read the fine print on privacy policies and user agreements to understand how your data may be handled.
  • Have realistic expectations about virtual therapy’s limitations for serious mental health needs.
  • Advocate for your care – provide feedback to your therapist and request a new provider or refund if dissatisfied.
  • Approach online therapy aware of the risks involved. With proper diligence in selecting providers and treatment options, you can maximize the potential benefits.
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While BetterHelp expands access to support for many people, users should determine if its virtual approach is appropriate for their specific mental health needs and not assume it can fully replace individual in-office counseling.

As online therapy continues to evolve, how companies like BetterHelp address ongoing privacy, quality, and service concerns will shape public confidence and utilization of these virtual mental health resources.

References

  1. Two-way messaging therapy for depression and anxiety: longitudinal response trajectories. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02721-x
  2. Psychology Today, Cost of therapy. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/therapy/cost-and-insurance-coverage
  3. Federal Trade Commission order. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/03/ftc-ban-betterhelp-revealing-consumers-data-including-sensitive-mental-health-information-facebook
  4. BetterHelp Privacy Policy. https://www.betterhelp.com/privacy/
  5. Wikepedia: BetterHelp. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BetterHelp
  6. Therapy Helpers. https://therapyhelpers.com

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About the author

Saba Imran

Saba Imran

I'm passionate about medical research and writing. I earned my Master's degree in Microbiology because I love learning about tiny microbes and how they impact health. With over 7 years experience as a healthcare researcher and medical writer, I've published many times in international journals. Participating in research projects has given me in-depth knowledge to make complex topics easy to grasp. In my free time, I volunteer at the community science museum to get kids excited about science and discovery. My goal is to take difficult concepts and make them understandable through meticulous research, hopefully benefiting people across the globe. I believe clear science writing can empower us all. Social

35 thoughts on “BetterHelp Controversy: What’s The Real Story? [2024]”

  1. The article pointed out some fair criticisms of BetterHelp, but it also mentioned that the company has fixed those problems. So while we should definitely keep a close eye on online therapy platforms and make sure they’re operating ethically, I still came away feeling optimistic. I mean, this type of service could potentially help a ton of people who aren’t able to access traditional therapy for whatever reason. As long as companies like BetterHelp are responsible and transparent about addressing concerns, online therapy could be a really positive thing for society overall.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your thoughtful perspective on the article about BetterHelp and online therapy. I agree that while valid concerns were raised, it’s encouraging that the company has taken steps to address them. You make a great point about the potential for online therapy to expand access to much-needed mental health services. Especially for those facing barriers to traditional in-person therapy, having a convenient and affordable online option could be lifechanging. Of course, as you note, close oversight is crucial to ensure online therapy platforms operate with the highest ethical standards. But if companies can provide quality care while being fully transparent and accountable, virtual therapy could become an incredibly valuable resource that benefits society as a whole. I appreciate you highlighting both the need for ongoing vigilance and the reasons for optimism when it comes to the future of online therapy.

      Reply
  2. I couldn’t help but think about the bigger picture here.Mental health is such a massive challenge in our society and there are so many people out there who struggle to access the support they need due to financial, logistical, or cultural barriers. Of course the these services need to be run ethically and responsibly. So while I absolutely believe that the concerns raised about BetterHelp need to be taken seriously and addressed head-on, I also hope that this controversy doesn’t scare people away from the concept of online therapy altogether.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing. I appreciate how you highlighted both the valid concerns that need to be addressed, as well as the significant potential benefits of making therapy more accessible to those in need.

      Reply
  3. I hear ya it’s a tricky situation for sure. On one hand, making mental health support more accessible is a noble goal. Lord knows too many people suffer in silence because they cant afford therapy or are afraid of the stigma. So….. I respect the intention behind these online services, even if the execution was not always perfect.
    That trust is sacred and has to be earned through transparency and professionalism.
    At the same time I feel for the folks who found comfort in these platforms. Having that suddenly ripped away could be devastating, especially if they were making real progress. It’s like the rug got pulled out from under them.

    Reply
    • Thank you for leaving a comment. We’re all works in progress, stumbling our way towards something better. As long as we keep picking ourselves up and pushing ahead with compassion, I believe we’ll get there eventually. Have a great day!

      Reply
  4. The fact that this article on the problems with BetterHelp has an ad from BetterHelp is insane!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment and for bringing up this important concern. I understand how the advertisement might seem to undermine the credibility of the article. However, I want to assure you that the content of the article was written independently and was not influenced by the advertiser. We do not receive any type of upfront payment for our reviews/opinions/articles from anyone.

      As a journalist, my primary responsibility is to my readers, and I am committed to providing accurate and unbiased information. The article presents a comprehensive and thorough examination of the BetterHelp controversy, discussing both the concerns raised and the company’s response to those issues.

      Our Editorial Integrity & Company Methodology Policies are publicly available at the bottom of this page.

      Reply
  5. The author didn’t shy away from discussing the criticisms. I guess my takeaway is that while I absolutely think we need to hold online therapy services accountable and make sure they’re operating in an ethical way, I also don’t want us to lose sight of the possible benefits. If BetterHelp and other companies are truly committed to fixing problems and prioritizing patient well-being, online therapy could be a truly valuable resource for a lot of folks who are dealing with mental health issues.

    Reply
    • I believe online therapy is a promising development that could do a lot of good, but only if implemented thoughtfully with strong protections for patients and high standards of care. Ongoing public discourse like this are crucial for striking the right balance as virtual therapy grows. Thank you for sharing your reflections and sparking an important conversation.

      Reply
  6. But I also gotta believe people are trying to do more good than bad in this world. Maybe in wanting to make counseling affordable and convenient for folks, some corners got cut accidentally. Still gotta own up to it and make things right of course! But condemning the whole operation might be jumping the gun.

    And you know what – seeking help online took guts for a lot of people. Having that lifeline thrown into question could really sting, maybe even set back progress. So I feel for both sides here. It’s a messy situation all around. But that’s life sometimes…we stumble, we get back up again.

    Reply
    • I resonate with your view that life is rarely straightforward, and stumbles are a part of the journey. What matters most is how we learn from these challenges and strive to do better moving forward. Approaching this situation with understanding, accountability, and a commitment to improvement can lead to positive outcomes for everyone involved.

      Thank you again for sharing your insights and reminding us to approach this matter with compassion and nuance. Your perspective is a valuable contribution to the conversation.

      Reply
  7. Betterhelp has other issues.
    The pay is terribly low. Therapists get paid by the hour, not the session. 25 clients a week pays around $750. No benefits. Contract work. So taxes also come out of that pay. BH cuts off client services at the end of their paid time, even on last paid day the client can be cut off if they don’t put in an active credit card. Therapist cannot see what is clients last day. So closure often gets missed. No shows and cancellations the therapist gets $5-7. Probably the best way to work for them would be as an employee and not contractor.

    Reply
    • I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights and experiences. Your perspective is invaluable in fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding online therapy platforms.

      Reply
  8. I read the article about some of the concerns raised regarding BetterHelp’s services and business practices. While the allegations about data privacy and counselor qualifications are worrying if true, the article didn’t seem to prove systematic wrongdoing conclusively.

    As an affordable online counseling option, BetterHelp seems to have helped many people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to therapy. However, appropriate safeguards clearly need to be in place to protect patient privacy and ensure properly trained counselors.

    Reply
    • I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the potential benefits of affordable online counseling services like BetterHelp. For many individuals who may not have access to traditional therapy due to financial, geographical, or other barriers, these platforms can provide a valuable lifeline and support system. It’s crucial to acknowledge the positive impact that such services can have in expanding access to mental health care.

      Reply
  9. As someone who spent years in the mental health field before retiring, I have mixed feelings on BetterHelp. On one hand, reaching people where they are with virtual sessions can clearly help overcome access barriers. But from experience, I can’t ignore concerns about loose vetting letting unqualified “therapists” slip through cracks, giving care that may actually harm vulnerable folks seeking support in good faith. While technology opens doors, the human skills developed through rigorous in-person training and experience remain irreplaceable, especially for more complex cases. If BetterHelp matched clients only with seasoned professionals, I’d feel more reassured. As is, I have doubts.

    Reply
  10. I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to feel disappointed or even betrayed by a company you trusted with your mental health care needs. Reading some of the complaints from BetterHelp users about privacy concerns or Counselor missteps, my heart goes out to them.

    At the same time, providing convenient, affordable online counseling for the masses seems sincerely meant to help. Perhaps the rapid growth made proper oversight a challenge. And connecting with the right counselor fit can always be tricky – even in traditional therapy.

    Reply
    • I truly appreciate you sharing your perspective and experiences regarding the challenges that can arise with online therapy platforms like BetterHelp. Your empathy for those who have felt disappointed or betrayed by the service is palpable, and I share your concern for their well-being. Thank you for bringing your compassionate and nuanced perspective to this conversation. Your willingness to consider multiple angles and to approach this topic with empathy is commendable. It’s through open and thoughtful dialogues like this that we can work towards improving mental health services and supporting those who seek help, whether online or in person.

      Reply
  11. Hadn’t heard about the FTC investigation before this. Glad they’re making companies change those data practices, this seems to happen to a lot of companies. Although, my data is just about everywhere these days lol

    Reply
    • Thank you for contributing to the conversation and participating in the community! Wishing you the best!

      Reply
    • Hi there! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s true that the FTC investigation into BetterHelp’s data practices may not have been on everyone’s radar. I wanted to make sure to include that information to give a full picture of the company’s history and how they’ve handled user data. It’s encouraging to see the FTC taking action and requiring changes to protect consumers. And you’re right, it does seem like this is a common issue for many companies these days! It can be overwhelming to think about how much of our personal data is out there. But by staying informed and advocating for better privacy practices, hopefully we can start to see some positive changes. Thanks again for engaging with the post and adding your perspective!

      Reply
  12. No company, especially one growing rapidly in a complex healthcare arena, will be perfect. While concerning practices should absolutely come to light, the fact that BetterHelp exists and serves many clients also has value for society. I hope reasonable improvements can allow the platform to move forward in providing online counseling options for people struggling with life’s challenges.

    Reply
    • You make an excellent point about the need to balance holding companies accountable for concerning practices with recognizing the value they provide to society. It’s true that no company, especially one operating in the complex and rapidly-evolving healthcare space, will be perfect. BetterHelp has certainly faced its share of challenges and criticisms as it has grown. However, as you note, the fact that the platform exists and is able to serve a large number of clients who might otherwise struggle to access mental health support is incredibly valuable. I agree that shining a light on areas where improvement is needed is crucial for driving positive change. At the same time, I hope that BetterHelp is able to make reasonable improvements and continue to play a role in expanding access to online counseling services for those who need them. Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful and nuanced perspective on this issue.

      Reply
  13. Hmm the convenience seems nice but those stories about unqualified therapists are worrisome. I’d have to really look into the specific counselor’s background before signing up.

    Reply
    • You raise a valid concern about the importance of verifying a therapist’s qualifications, and taking the time to thoroughly research your potential counselor’s background is a smart approach to ensuring you receive quality care.

      Reply
  14. This was super insightful about the pros and cons. As someone considering online counseling, it’s helpful to go in aware of the risks and limitations involved with virtual platforms like this.

    Reply
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  17. The accessibility benefits seem really promising for folks struggling to make time for in-person sessions. But good call that it likely can’t replace individual therapy for many serious conditions.

    Reply
  18. The author did a nice job showing BetterHelp’s good points but also openly talking about the problems some folks have had. This gives readers a clear picture to decide if it seems right for their situation or not. But they don’t ignore that things like protecting privacy and having good therapists matter too for a service folks trust. Just lays it out in a real balanced way.

    Reply

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