In college, before online therapy, I visited a counselor. A lanky, older gentleman invited me to sit, a leather couch spanning the entire width of his small cramped office. From imposter syndrome to family woes, the experience was so uncomfortable I never went back.
When I did, I found a therapist who could give me a safe space to share and heal. There I felt understood. Unpacking past traumas and accepting my reality became a reality.
At that time I called New York City home. Living in the Big Apple meant a high cost of living making therapy more of a guilty pleasure than a necessity. Talkspace, an online therapy and counseling service, strives to provide an affordable option for individuals who need a low-cost solution. Their ads plastered all corners of the city with Michael Phelps staring at me in subway cars and from pay phone booths. According to their website, more than 1 million people use Talkspace due to the positive results! Within a few hours, I’d signed up and picked my therapist.
[Note: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own. I’m not a medical professional or mental health counselor, so it’s best to consult a specialist before deciding if online therapy is for you. If you do choose to sign up for Talkspace, I will not receive any monetary gifts or compensation from this post. Thanks for reading!]
One of the perks of online therapy is having a session anywhere in the world. The mobile app and website makes counseling more accessible for women, people of color, and underserved communities. There are 4 steps to sign up:
- the assessment
- plan selection
- finding a therapist
- starting therapy
After you’ve opened an account, you’re placed with a matching therapist. Your matching therapist helps you pick your regular therapist. So this is the time to share things you’ve been dealing with, and ask questions about counseling online. At the start my matching therapist asked me a little bit about myself and my interest in online therapy. You’ll also talk through your goals for therapy. All of this helps your matching therapist get a better idea of who to pair you with. The assessment is different from the overall Talkspace experience, as the matching therapist chats with you in real time.
Choosing a Talkspace Plan
Talkspace is a subscription based service and offers six different plans for online counseling, including Couples Therapy and Therapy for Teens. [Editor’s note: Talkspace has also added a Psychiatry plan to their program which offers medication. This review speaks to the online therapy program which is the portion I have experienced]. Their plans are surprisingly affordable, and pretty close to what you’d typically spend in a month at Starbucks. If the cost of therapy tends to be a concern for you, then you may want to look at Talkspace as an option.
Here’s a look at their plans:
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: Talkspace’s basic plan. This includes unlimited text, video, and audio messaging with your therapist 5 days a week. Plan starts at $65 per week, which comes out to approximately $260 monthly. On this plan, live video sessions can be added for $65 per 30-minute sessions.
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: Prefer a little more face to face interaction? This second tier gives you just that. You get unlimited text, video and audio messaging plus 1 live session per month (additional sessions can also be added). The Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium is $79 per week, coming out to $316 monthly.
- LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate: If you prefer the structure of traditional therapy, but still want the best of counseling online then this plan is for you. For $99 per week ($396 monthly), the LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate offers unlimited text, video + audio messaging AND 4 live sessions per month. You still have access to your therapist daily, 5 days a week.
- Couples Therapy: Talkspace offers two options for Couples Therapy. The first, a monthly unlimited messaging plan for $99 per week ($396 monthly). The second, a quarterly plan with unlimited messaging for $89 per week ($1068 every 3 months). There’s no live video sessions offered with these plans.
In 2018, the online and mobile therapy company introduced “Talkspace for Teens” for children ages 13-17 as well. These plans start at $65 per week. With Talkspace for Teens, parents have to provide consent both in video + written format in the presence of their teen before a counselor can assist them.
Talkspace offers a number of payment options as well. You can either use a debit card, credit card or PayPal to pay for your monthly subscription. Your employer might be able to help you pay for online therapy too. There are select Health insurances that partner with Talkspace to offer employee assistance programs and health benefits.
Finding a Therapist
Getting through the first few parts were a breeze. The most challenging part is finding a therapist. As Choosing Therapy‘s Editor of Consumer Technology, Caitlin Bell, affirms in their 2022 Talkspace review, “for many, it seems like you may have to do a lot of work before finding the right therapist and before you even have your first live therapy session.” After the assessment you’ll review three profiles. My matching therapist let me know that I could choose one of these 3 or decide to get matched with a different therapist. Talkspace has a network of over 5,000+ therapists nationwide, so there are tons of opportunities to find the right one for you! And all of their mental health specialists are licensed and trained – 3,000 hours of clinical experience is required before working on the app.
I decided to go with a counselor who had experience working with depression, PTSD/trauma and mood disorders. Therapists like mine are trained in a number of different styles, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness. Though these are just a few of the approaches used.
One thing to note about finding a therapist on Talkspace: often you’ll work with someone who is licensed in the state where you live. So you might be paired off with someone who lives in another part of the country but can legally practice within your state. This also means though that if you move or relocate you might have to choose another therapist similar to having an in-person therapist.
Online Therapy Begins!
Once you’ve chosen a therapist a new room is created. Some therapists offer a free 30-minute live session, which can make your interactions more personal. At the start, check and see if your therapist offers a live check-in! This is a nice way to “meet” and get to know each other.
Messaging with your therapist is like DM’ing a close friend. The service gives you the option of accessing your room either from the Talkspace website or the app. One thing that’s really nice about online therapy, is that you can set a passcode to keep your conversations private. That way you know everything you share is safe and secure.
When you’re ready, you can notify your therapist that you’ve replied. I really enjoyed that Talkspace provides a “Guaranteed Response Time” or estimated time your therapist will get back to you. This is especially nice for when your therapist has a day off, like during the weekend, or when texting your therapist after work hours.
Talkspace Pros + Cons
- Great for people who are constantly on-the-go or travel a lot and have time constraints to connect in-person with a therapist
- More affordable than traditional therapy
- Frequent responses which makes it nice to hear from your therapist
- Feels a little impersonal but this can be remedied with live video sessions
- The progression of patient-therapist conversations don’t feel natural – in-person there’s more of an ability for therapists to get an understanding of the individual through visual cues + voice which can inform the session
- May not be great for individuals who are a bit more timid or not used to easily sharing their feelings – can allow these individuals to shy away from opening up + talking about what they’re going through
Talkspace is great for anyone who can’t easily access therapy in-person or who is looking for an affordable option. I like the messaging format which makes it feel more like you’re chatting with a good friend (who is really knowledgeable in healing techniques and modalities!)
Because online therapy is an on-going conversation though it can be challenging to have a clear end between sessions. This makes time for reflection shorter. The subscription model also means that sessions automatically renew at the end of every month whereas with an in-person therapist you can pay per session.
Finally, traditional therapy might be better for introverts who are more reserved. The online space might allow them to retreat and hide, making honest patient-therapist conversations more challenging. The one-on-one interactions of in-person therapy can create accountability for introverted individuals, providing them a space to genuinely share their thoughts and feelings.
Overall though, Talkspace is a nice option for individuals who want the benefits of therapy without the restrictive nature of in-person session. Online therapy gives these folks a bit more flexibility in terms of when, where, and how they can connect with their therapist which can prove especially useful for busy professionals, people on-the-go, and entrepreneurs.