Talkspace is a virtual therapy company that offers therapy for individuals, couples, and teens, as well as psychiatry services. The sessions are short and the care you receive can be uneven. Still, some individuals seeking occasional general support may find this service useful.
Pros & Cons
- Offers a range of services, including individual, teen, and couples counseling
- Range of appointment formats
- Accepts insurance
- Prioritizes therapists being available to clients daily
- Expensive for the types of services rendered
- Website and app are difficult to navigate
- Severe allegations of data issues against the company
- Length and format of services sis not appropriate for conditions it claims to treat
- Some providers have minimal availability for live sessions
- You cannot view pricing until you sign up
Mental health care is neither affordable or easily available for many people in the United States. Therapy sessions can cost between $100 and $200 each, if you don’t have insurance, which is simply too expensive for many, especially lower income individuals or those facing racial-ethnic income disparities. The issue isn’t only with individuals seeking care. Couples also feel challenged when seeking out services due to a lack of financial access and issues finding childcare, both of which the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated. Receiving couples counseling that is affordable and virtual could support many in strengthening their relationships, only underscoring the importance of Talkspace’s mission.
Even if you can afford therapy, you might not be able to find a therapist with availability, especially if you live in a therapy desert (a region where there aren’t enough mental health providers to meet demand).
Enter Talkspace, a virtual mental health platform with a mission of making therapy affordable and available to all by offering individual, teen and couples therapy, as well as online psychiatry. However, even with the best of intentions, organizations can come up short when attempting to make good on their mission statements. We decided to review Talkspace to assess the quality of its services and determine if it is truly providing care that is affordable and accessible. We sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 users of each company. I also tried out its individual and couples therapy services, consulted with a subject matter expert, and spoke with a Talkspace therapist to learn more about their experience.
What Is Talkspace?
Talkspace was founded in 2011 by married couple Oren and Roni Frank. Oren was a former marketing veteran while Roni was a software developer who did a short stint in a masters-level counseling program, which she did not complete. After experiencing a transformation in their marriage thanks to couples therapy, they were inspired to revolutionize the way the masses could access mental health care.
In 2016, the app launched. Initially, many were thrilled by the innovation of Talkspace’s services, creating a company culture of enthusiasm and excitement. However, this zeal led way to major controversy just a few years later.
In 2020, the New York Times released an investigative piece detailing a discrimination lawsuit brought against the company, allegations of employees writing false positive reviews, and extremely unethical uses of clients’ personal content from their therapy sessions. In 2021, Oren Frank stepped down from his position as the CEO of the company. Roni Frank stepped down from her position as the head of clinical services. They both also left the company’s board of directors.
What Services Does Talkspace Offer?
Talkspace currently offers therapy for individuals, couples, and teens. Its plans vary—for individuals and teens, it offers three tiers of membership. You get unlimited messaging therapy with the first tier, unlimited messaging therapy and weekly 30-minute therapy sessions with the second, and everything from the second tier, plus access to Talkspace’s workshops, with the third.
Its psychiatry services offer an initial evaluation and then ongoing medication management. Talkspace also has three tiers of membership for its psychiatry services. The first tier offers a single 60-minute evaluation, the second tier is a 60-minute evaluation and one follow-up session, and the third tier is the initial evaluation and three follow-up sessions.
Who Is Talkspace For?
Talkspace is for individuals, couples, and teens who are seeking therapy or psychiatry services.
Its website states its services are appropriate to treat the following conditions:
- Anger management
- Anxiety and stress
- Bipolar disorder
- Childhood abuse
- Chronic illness
- Family conflict
- LGBTQIA+ issues
- Mood disorders
- Parenting issues
- Relationship issues
- Substance use
- Trauma and grief
We do have some concerns regarding Talkspace’s ability to treat some of these conditions, but more on that later. With this in mind, we believe Talkspace is best suited for individuals and couples with busy schedules who are navigating situational stressors and other mild to moderate mental health issues, and need occasional, general support.
How Much Does Talkspace Cost?
Talkspace’s prices vary based on the plan. For individual and teen counseling, it offers messaging therapy for $69 a week. Access to weekly 30-minute video sessions plus messaging costs $99 a week. To access its weekly mental health workshops in addition to the 30-minute session and messaging, you'll pay $109 a week. Keep in mind, all services are billed monthly.
Its couples therapy plan includes talk and text-based therapy for $436 a month. Its psychiatry services are available for individuals and are session-based, with an initial evaluation costing $249 and follow-up sessions costing $125. There are options to bundle sessions for an additional discount. Bundles include weekly 30-minute video sessions and messaging.
The national average therapy fee ranges from $125 to $175 for an intake session, 45-minute, or 60-minute session. While Talkspace’s services beat out the national average, its sessions are shorter, thus decreasing their value. Despite this, 58% of users found the pricing to be affordable and 76% rated the company's value for the money positively.
Does Talkspace Take Insurance?
Talkspace does take insurance, which is a positive aspect of this platform. However, it is only in-network with a handful of plans, including Optum, Cigna, Oscar, and Regence. It has also partnered with large companies like Yelp and Sleep Number to provide online therapy to eligible employees.
It does not accept Medicaid or Medicare.
Does Talkspace Offer Discounts?
Talkspace does offer discounts. It typically has a discount code offered at the top of its homepage for about $100 off.
Navigating the Talkspace Website and App
The Talkspace homepage is rather simple. It has a moving image of a young woman talking on her phone with a call-to-action button encouraging visitors to sign up for its services.
Below the image are links to articles about burnout, Mental Health Awareness Month, and online tests to assess for various mental health disorders. If you continue scrolling, you’ll see the process of Talkspace broken down into three steps. You’ll first complete a brief assessment, then get matched with a provider, and start therapy shortly after.
There isn’t any information on pricing until after you’ve completed the assessment. You can read up on the different therapist options, but it is hard to find on the website. You have to scroll to the bottom of the page. There is a small section at the footer that reads, “Useful links,” and beneath that is a link that says, “Find a therapist.” From there, you can book directly with one of the therapists, too.
There is also a link for customer support. Upon clicking it, you will be taken to a resource page with various frequently asked questions. There is also a small pop-up in the lower right-hand corner where you can submit a request for help. It will ask you for your name, email, a description of the issue, how you currently pay for Talkspace, the type of Talkspace plan you have, and any screenshots associated with the issue.
The company has a prominent social presence, with 153,000 followers on Instagram, 31,400 followers on Twitter, and 51,100 followers on Facebook. Each page features content that is repurposed across platforms. Content consists of infographics on different mental health issues and helpful tips like how to contact an insurance company to see if mental health services are covered. I noticed Instagram had the highest level of engagement, however there were multiple comments from various individuals stating they’d been “scammed” by Talkspace. The company did not respond to the majority of the negative comments. It occasionally responded to the positive comments.
Does Talkspace Have an App?
Talkspace does have an app. When you download it, you’ll be invited to sign up immediately. There are infographics describing the benefits of signing up, including statistics on its clinical outcomes, how a licensed therapist can offer additional emotional tools, and that there aren’t any appointments required for its messaging services. Once you begin the signup process, the look of the app mirrors the website.
I didn’t have the best user experience with the app and found it tricky to navigate. Upon signing up, I found myself struggling to find my account information. I spent a few minutes clicking different buttons and was continually sent back to the messaging section of the app, which left me a bit frustrated.
How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Talkspace?
Signing up for therapy at Talkspace is a simple and brief process.
You’ll answer a series of screening questions about why you’re seeking therapy and any mental health symptoms you’re experiencing. You’ll also be asked about your gender preference for your therapist.
If you are signing up for couples therapy, you will answer the questions for you and your partner. Upon finishing those questions, you’re prompted to pay for your subscription. This is the first time you’re able to see how much therapy at Talkspace costs, which I found frustrating. I imagine it would be really disheartening to answer all of the questions only to realize the platform is outside of your budget.
After completing payment, those seeking couples therapy will be prompted to invite their partner to join their account. You’ll enter your partner’s email and they will need to make a Talkspace account. Together, both of you will wait to be matched with your couples therapist.
Budget is a major factor in seeking mental health care. Talkspace could improve upon this by offering a clear breakdown of how much each subscription costs before prompting people to answer intake questions.
Matching With a Therapist at Talkspace
When you’re entering your payment information, you are notified that you will not be charged until you’ve been matched with a therapist. The matching process typically takes 48 hours, though I got a notice saying that the platform has been experiencing a higher volume of requests and matching may take longer. That said, I was matched within 48 hours.
After matching with a couples therapist, you and your partner will share a chat with the therapist and either of you can schedule the appointments. Your partner will need to sign an informed consent intake form prior to the first session.
How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Talkspace?
Upon matching with my individual therapist, I was taken to my personal user portal which essentially consists of a chat box with the therapist. I was prompted in the chat to let my therapist know my preferred availability for appointments. I sent a follow-up message to let them know I was hoping to get started as soon as possible.
They sent a long message letting me know that their live sessions were booked for two months. They proceeded to explain that a week’s worth of messaging is equivalent to one 30-minute session. They stated that I was able to send up to four minutes' worth of audio recordings in case I didn’t feel like typing.
I was put off by this—the plan I paid for cost extra to include live sessions. I became concerned that I’d been matched with a therapist who wasn’t a good fit for the features of my plan.
I don’t believe texting is a suitable substitute for therapy. As a therapist, I typically refrain from processing therapeutic material with clients over text. Challenging feelings can be brought up anytime therapeutic content is processed. For the sake of my clients’ mental well-being, I always opt to hop on a phone call or hold the processing until our next session so I can create a safe and contained space to hold their emotions.
While I have my own professional stance on texting therapy, I reached out to our subject matter expert, Hannah Owens, LMSW, for a second opinion.
“Texting with your provider is not a substitute for talk therapy,” says Owens. “Therapy involves a very specific establishment of a safe space and time—asynchronously texting your therapist does not allow for that safe space and time to be created.”
With this in mind, I switched therapists immediately in hopes of finding someone who could facilitate a live session.
Individual Therapy Sessions
The therapist I switched to was able to hold a virtual session within the week. They sent me a long message asking what name I preferred to be called, setting expectations on when they could respond to messages, and sharing some general personal background information. I appreciated the clear boundaries. The information they shared allowed me to connect with them without feeling overwhelmed by knowing too much about them.
I received two reminder emails prior to my session—one was a day before, and the other was 10 minutes before. I simply signed into my account on my laptop and clicked a button in the chat that allowed me to start the session.
Here is where things started to feel a bit off. I waited about six minutes for my therapist to join our session. I actually thought they might have forgotten about the appointment and I began to feel a bit worried. I sent them a message in the chat asking if we were still meeting.
They logged on and were visibly flustered. They apologized for their tardiness and said they didn’t get a chance to message me. They were logged on through their phone, and I noticed they were looking off-camera and clicking around on what I assume was a computer. A few minutes in, they shifted their gaze to the other side of the room and began typing as I talked, presumably taking notes. The sound of them typing and not looking at the camera felt very distracting.
The structure of the session felt clunky, and I noticed they didn’t have the best bedside manner. They asked me pointed questions that were very personal and intimate, which is absolutely appropriate for therapy, but typing notes and not maintaining eye contact led me to feel disconnected and uncomfortable sharing about my life.
After our session, I reflected on the general uneasiness I felt during our time together. Then, I considered how that experience might feel for someone who is experiencing a significant psychological issue, like a bipolar mood swing or frequent panic attacks. It left me concerned that Talkspace lacks competence in treating some of the disorders it states it can.
Couples Therapy Sessions
Scheduling a couples therapy session mirrored the process of scheduling an individual therapy session. The only difference is that you’re instructed to invite your partner to the personal chat room, and there is a link to an informed consent that your partner must fill out.
Unfortunately, we ran into some tech issues when attempting to add my partner to the room and having him fill out the informed consent. Every time we attempted to do so, we received an error message. However, our therapist was responsive in attempting to help us resolve the problem. When they weren’t able to, they provided an alternative method of him signing off on the informed consent paperwork and provided us with a contact to Talkspace’s customer service to get the issue ironed out.
Our couples therapist seemed surprised that our session was 30 minutes long, noting that they hadn’t seen such a short couples session before on the platform and our plan must be new. I was in agreement with them—30 minutes is an incredibly short time for two people to share their feelings adequately .
The session itself felt good. Our therapist worked to develop rapport and learn about our history while also managing the session time, which is no easy feat for such a short session. They were attuned and professional, never leading me to doubt that they were invested in our wellbeing. While I found them to be a great therapist who made both myself and my partner feel comfortable, I do not believe 30 minutes is sufficient for a couples therapy session.
“Generally, I would say that thirty minutes is not enough time for a proper therapy session,” says Owens. “Most people cannot jump right into the issues they're facing—it often takes time to really delve into what's happening and to recognize the emotions and systems involved, especially if the client is new to therapy.”
This is very true, it took my partner and me a bit of time to get acclimated to the session. While I would recommend our therapist to a friend, I can’t comfortably recommend Talkspace’s couples therapy sessions due to their brevity.
What Happens If I Miss a Session at Talkspace?
If you cancel with less than 24 hours notice or no-show a session, you forfeit one of your sessions for the month. For example, if your plan offers four live sessions, but you late-cancel one of the sessions, you would then only have three sessions left for the month. You are able to reschedule sessions with more than 24 hours advance notice with no penalty.
Switching Therapists at Talkspace
Switching therapists at Talkspace is easy. On the website or in the app, you navigate to your settings page and then click the tab that reads, “payment and plan.” When you do so, you’ll see at the bottom of the page an option to change your provider. You will then see a list of providers that you can pick from.
Once you make a selection, you are instantly transferred to your new provider and can immediately move forward with scheduling a session.
Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Talkspace
You can pause your Talkspace plan for seven days at a time. This is useful if you’re going on a trip or have a busy week but don’t want to forfeit one of your sessions.
Canceling therapy at Talkspace is simple. Head over to the settings page, click on the tab where you can access information about your payments and plan, and then at the very bottom of the page, there will be an option to stop your subscription renewal. Be sure to do this before your next billing cycle to avoid getting charged.
Quality of Care and User Satisfaction
I was curious to learn how therapists are treated on the Talkspace platform. I was able to connect with one current therapist on the platform who was referred by another Talkspace therapist who enthusiastically recommended it. This therapist is still discerning their feelings about the platform.
They shared that compensation is based on a very low rate paid for every 1000 words exchanged between the therapist and the provider. They are also paid $10 for any session that is canceled and are given bonuses for long-term clients. This information alone is concerning—poor pay can lead to burnout, which then leads to higher therapist turnover. Higher therapist turnover impacts the client’s quality of care.
We asked our survey respondents how they felt about Talkspace’s quality of care. Thirty-nine percent of users stated they believe they’re receiving good quality of care. Just 2% stated they are not receiving strong quality of care.
However, Talkspace is not qualified to treat some of the conditions it has listed. For example, bipolar disorder exists on a wide spectrum. In some iterations of this diagnosis, it isn’t uncommon for an individual to suffer from suicidal ideation—20% to 60% of those living with this diagnosis will attempt suicide in their lifetime. A weekly 30-minute telehealth visit is not a sufficient form of treatment in those cases. “Telehealth is absolutely not appropriate for those experiencing suicidal ideation,” says Owens. Talkspace may have providers who are capable of treating bipolar disorder or suicidal ideation, but it simply isn’t possible to do so adequately within the constructs of its treatment options.
While I’ve shared my concerns regarding the quality of the care I received, our survey indicates that Talkspace users were generally satisfied with their experience. Fifty percent of Talkspace users said that they were likely to still be seeing a therapist from the platform within the next six months. Eighty-four percent of users would recommend Talkspace to a loved one. If they needed a new therapist, 75% of current Talkspace clients would stick with the platform to find a new one.
Privacy Policies at Talkspace
In June 2022, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden took a public stance against Talkspace and BetterHelp. They penned a letter expressing their worries regarding how the companies handle their users’ personal data. Specifically, they stated that mental health apps are mining data to share with big tech companies. That alone is concerning. They also state that though this data may be anonymized, it can also still provide identifying details of users.
Talkspace vs. Its Competitors
Users are convinced Talkspace beats out its competitors, with 97% of users stating the platform is better than others they’ve used in the past. Fifty-six percent of users reason that the company has a more user-friendly app and website than other platforms they’ve used.
BetterHelp offers individual, teens, and couples therapy, but it does not offer psychiatry services. Brightside offers individual therapy and psychiatry services, but no teen or couples sessions. Online-therapy.com offers individual and couples sessions, but not teen counseling or psychiatry services. Each of these platforms state it treats similar conditions, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, and more. It is worth noting that Brightside holds a strong emphasis on anxiety and depression treatment and Online-therapy.com is very broad in the conditions it can treat.
Eighty-six percent of BetterHelp users rate the platform positively. Talkspace and Brightside are tied at 90% when it comes to their general rating. Online-therapy.com comes in with an 85% positive rating.
Talkspace’s offerings are higher priced when compared with other virtual therapy services. For example, BetterHelp costs $60 to $90 per week, while Talkspace costs $69 to $109 a week. Brightside offers weekly 30-minute video sessions, messaging, and virtual cognitive behavioral therapy lessons for $299 a month, about $100 less than Talkspace’s version of a similar plan. Online-therapy.com offers 45-minute video sessions and messaging plus its own virtual cognitive behavioral therapy lessons for $80 per week. Brightside doesn’t offer couples therapy, but Online-therapy.com does for $88 a week.
Despite these differences, 76% of Talkspace users believe the platform’s services offer good value for the cost. Seventy-three percent of BetterHelp users rated the platform’s value as good, which is just a bit more than the 71% percent of Brightside users who rated the platform’s value as good. Online-therapy.com’s value rating beats all of the platforms, with 79% of users stating the platform has good value.
My concerns with Talkspace are centered around the quality of care it can provide for the issues it states it treats with the services it offers. As a clinician, I am not confident in stating that text messaging is therapy and that 30 minutes is a sufficient amount of time for a therapy session. However, these concerns have a scope beyond Talkspace and speak to the general intersection of technology and mental health. While teletherapy has been a wonderful advancement in making therapy more accessible, I fear it is leading some companies to cut corners by providing inadequate care.
Despite my experiences on the platform and my professional concerns, our user data for Talkspace is generally positive. All things considered I can’t confidently recommend it to the majority, but it may be a good fit for those who need general support for life stressors.
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 signup 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 interviewed one therapist we found who currently works for this company and worked with one subject matter expert to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers.
- Price: $276 to $436
- Is Insurance Accepted? Yes
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual, teens, couples, and psychiatry
- Communication Options: Text-based therapy, audio messaging, live video
- HIPAA Compliant? Yes
- Is There an App? Yes
- Accepts HSA or FSA? Yes
- Prescriptions Available? Yes
- Billing Cadence: Monthly
Dome P, Rihmer Z, Gonda X. Suicide risk in bipolar disorder: a brief review. Medicina. 2019;55(8):403. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723289/