If you’re interested in tending to your mental health but find it difficult to schedule time to do so, online therapy might be a good option. Most U.S. adults already spend about a third of their time on their smartphones, and with online therapy, speaking to a therapist via text or video chat is not much more complicated than downloading an appTime spent on average on a smartphone in the U.S. 2021. Statista Research Department. Accessed 6/28/2021. . What’s more, seeking help via telehealth services is an effective way to help manage your COVID-19 mental health symptoms, such as social anxiety and difficulty navigating loss and grief, global experts findZhou X, Snoswell CL, Harding LE, et al. The Role of Telehealth in Reducing the Mental Health Burden from COVID-19. Telemedicine and e-Health. 2020;26(4):377-379. .
With these factors in mind, I decided to give Talkspace, one of the more popular online therapy apps, a try.
Talkspace at a Glance
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Talkspace Online Therapy
- Thousands of licensed therapists
- Start immediately
- Easy matching to find you the right therapist
- Message your therapist 24/7
- Receive ongoing support via secure messaging and live video sessions
- Insurance accepted. Most insured members only pay a $25 copay or less
On Talkspace's Website
- Usability: The interface is incredibly user-friendly. It’s like opening up any other messaging app or FaceTime and talking to a friend.
- Quality of care: You’re connected with a therapist who can speak to your current concerns, and if they aren’t a good match, switching is easy. Also, periodic in-app assessments help measure your overall progress.
- Cost: Starting at $260 a month, the out-of-pocket price for this service felt expensive.
What I Liked:
- You can message at any time and will receive an estimated timeframe for a response. Mobile therapy means you can take your appointments from anywhere.
- Multimedia sharing functions means you can communicate through text, voice chats or video messages.
- Outside of therapy sessions, Talkspace offers videos and exercises to help alleviate stress and improve coping skills.
What I Didn’t Like:
- When being matched with a therapist, you’re only able to see three options at a time and there’s no guarantee you’ll be matched with your preferred therapist.
- Therapists’ responses felt short and surface-level.
- Unlike in-person therapy, it’s hard to really relate and feel like the therapist is getting to know you in a way that’s productive.
What Is Talkspace?
Talkspace is an online therapy website and app that connects you to licensed therapists based on their expertise. Licensed therapists from across the country offer support for individuals, couples and teens, covering a range of mental health needs, including depression, anxiety and stress, parenting, trauma and grief, substance abuse, LGBTQIA+ specific topics, eating disorders and more.
Online therapy sites like Talkspace make receiving mental health services more accessible. Currently, there’s a shortage of mental health providers across the U.S., says Jamie Micco, Ph.D., a board-certified psychologist and chair of the Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s professional education committee.
“Rates of anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, particularly given the pandemic mental health crisis,” she says. “There simply aren’t enough qualified therapists to provide outpatient care to everyone who needs it. Apps like Talkspace provide some individual support and coping skills to those who wouldn’t be able to access care otherwise. This could also prevent milder or subclinical anxiety or mood concerns from becoming more severe.”
While Talkspace doesn’t claim to replace traditional, in-person therapy, it aims to provide the opportunity for more people to utilize and benefit from therapy. Asynchronous telehealth (virtual care that takes place via text or video but not in real-time) can further bolster the results of mental health care, new research by UC Davis Health’s chief wellness officer Peter Yellowlees findsYellowlees PM, Parish MB, Gonzalez AD, et al. Clinical Outcomes of Asynchronous v Synchronous Telepsychiatry in Primary Care: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Preprint). Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2020. .
How Does Talkspace Work?
The Talkspace algorithm matches you with a provider based on your needs and preferences, as well as therapist availability. After matching with a provider, you can view information about their professional experience, what types of therapy they specialize in and more.
Depending on your plan, you’ll have access to asynchronous messaging with your therapist including video, text and audio messages, as well as live sessions (if you opt for a plan that includes them). If you’d like to try a different provider at any point, you’re able to do so, but if you’re satisfied with your therapist, you may continue to work with them exclusively.
The provider you work with will be from your state of residence and all communication between you and your provider in your therapy chat room will be private and fully encrypted, according to the company.
Who Is Talkspace for?
Talkspace offers online therapy for individuals, couples and teens. It also provides online psychiatry including psychiatric medication management. Its network of licensed providers covers a wide range of therapy needs including:
- Chronic Illness
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Trauma and grief
- Childhood abuse
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Anger management
- Substance abuse
Clarity of Options and Rules
When you join Talkspace, you’re immediately connected in a chat room with a consultation therapist who asks what brings you to therapy and about your previous experience(s) with it. You then receive an overview of how the service works and your options. Next, you can review the different plans, view prices and learn about any promotional discounts Talkspace offers.
You can take your time with this process, and while the platform has a useful FAQ section, you can ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable committing to a plan. For instance, the consultation therapist addressed concerns I had about being able to switch therapists if I wasn’t satisfied with my match, as well as my worries about live session availability. This conversation helped me feel confident and motivated to sign up for Talkspace.
Once you select and pay for your plan, you’re prompted to take a short matching intake questionnaire. The chat room then becomes the main chat space where you are ultimately connected with your therapist.
How Much Does Talkspace Cost?
Talkspace currently has three therapy subscription options for individuals:
1. Unlimited Messaging Therapy Ultimate: $396 a month
- Text, video and audio messaging
- Therapist responds daily, five days a week
- Four 30-minute live sessions a month
2. Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: $316 a month
- Text, video and audio messaging
- Therapist responds daily, five days a week
- One 30-minute live session a month
3. Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: $260 a month
- Text, video and audio messaging
- Therapist responds daily, five days a week
Talkspace accepts certain health insurance plans and works with select employers, employee assistance programs (EAP) and education organizations to provide its services. Talkspace also accepts payments from health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), but it’s strongly recommended you check with your provider first.
I opted for the Ultimate plan for my first month and received $100 off thanks to a promotion, so I only paid $296. When it comes to canceling, altering or continuing your subscription, though, the options can get a little confusing. Unlike other subscription services that might allow you to cancel an auto-renewal process in advance and continue your services until the final date of service, hitting “stop subscription renewal” in the app means your service terminates immediately. Changing your plan in any way also takes effect immediately, which means if I downgraded my plan to a cheaper one, I would immediately lose the benefits of the more expensive plan before the month lapsed.
Due to my confusion with this structure, I accidentally canceled my subscription altogether when trying to make a change to my plan. Luckily, Talkspace offered me $150 off my next month and allowed me to continue with the Ultimate plan for $246 as a resolution.
Note: Live session credits don’t roll over from one month to the next—they must be utilized within a month of your service start date. (It costs $65 per additional 30-minute session beyond what’s included in your subscription).
Does Talkspace Take Insurance?
Talkspace accepts insurance and works with a number of providers including Premera, Cigna, Optum, Gatorcare, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and more. The company also works with many employers, employee assistance programs (EAP) and schools to provide access to mental health services.
Does Talkspace Offer Discounts or a Free Trial?
Talkspace does not offer a free trial program, but right now, there is a code for $100 off your therapy sessions.
Talkspace’s mobile app and desktop-optimized website make it easy to communicate with a therapist via video, voice message, text or a combination.
Can Talkspace Prescribe Medication?
For anyone who needs treatment that includes medication, Talkspace Psychiatry can match you with a prescriber in your state who specializes in psychiatric evaluation and will personalize your treatment through live video sessions. Talkspace Psychiatry is separate from Talkspace’s therapy service and primarily focuses on medication management. Those who want to receive therapy in addition to psychiatry sessions need to sign up for both services. The initial evaluation session for Talkspace Psychiatry costs $199 and follow-up sessions cost $125.
Therapist Options on Talkspace
When choosing from my therapist options on Talkspace, I researched each one. I chose a licensed professional counselor (LPS) with more than 10 years of experience. They practice cognitive behavioral therapy and specialize in treating issues around stress, anxiety, self-esteem and more.
On Talkspace, each therapist’s profile features their photo, a brief introduction, availability, timezone, professional license number and treatment experience, which includes their therapeutics approaches, focus areas, number of years in practice, amount of time they’ve been on Talkspace and how many people they’ve helped on the platform so far. While you aren’t able to search for a specific therapist, Talkspace will recommend three therapists based on the answers you filled out in your questionnaire.
Achieve Your Potential With Talkspace Online Therapy
Improve your mental health in the most convenient and affordable way with Talkspace. You'll get matched with a licensed therapist in your state from the comfort of your device, and receive ongoing support via secure messaging and live video sessions.
The Talkspace Experience
I was very eager to start Talkspace because of the flexibility it offered to speak to a therapist as often as I wanted. I wasn’t excited by the first three therapist options I received, particularly because of the lack of diversity in terms of race, age and gender. Most of the options I swiped through were of the same race and similar age. Nonetheless, I swiped until I had a variety of therapists to choose from and selected the therapist who seemed like the best fit for me.
In my first messages to my therapist, I was upfront and vulnerable about the issues I wanted to tackle. I was met with very short and impersonal responses, which seemed automated and felt very demotivating. As detached as this therapist’s advice seemed, I tried to follow it, but I only felt increasingly anxious about this person’s inability to speak to anything personal that I shared.
Though Talkspace encourages you to get to know your therapist, I requested a new therapist within a week. You’re only able to look at three therapists at a time when requesting a new match, which makes it feel like a high-stakes decision. While getting to know your therapist is an important investment, I also felt like I was racing against the clock to find a therapist I liked enough so I could start working on my issues and get my money’s worth.
Since then, I matched with another therapist with whom I connected well. To make sure this dynamic was more successful, I set clear expectations around my desire to receive personal answers and communicate frequently. My therapist often gets back to me within a few hours, though they sometimes take up to 12. This therapist provided slightly more personal responses in comparison to my previous Talkspace therapist, but they were similarly short and not very interactive. I also prioritized scheduling live sessions within the month of my subscription so I wouldn’t lose any sessions.
One glaring downside to the service is the therapists’ availability for live sessions. In my first week on Talkspace, I wasn’t able to get on my assigned therapist’s calendar for over a week. The therapist I saw most recently also conducts many consecutive video sessions, so they’ve arrived late to every appointment we’ve scheduled so far. This detail might also explain why I sometimes receive very short responses via text. Having experienced similar brevity in text responses from the two therapists I tried on Talkspace, I could assume it might be the case with other clients seeking therapy on the platform as well.
Overall, I liked having the option to text my therapist and call upon points previously discussed in our video sessions. It made tackling issues more manageable and, as a result, helped me manage my stress. Given that the out-of-pocket price for this service—$396 a month without a promotion—felt expensive (my insurance provider is not listed as a partner), I’ll likely only continue using Talkspace if it’s sponsored through my employer or through a future insurance provider if I start working somewhere else.
After two months on the Talkspace platform, I can say I’ve appreciated having a therapy option I can easily incorporate around my schedule. People who might benefit from trying Talkspace include those with busy schedules and those who would otherwise need to navigate a long commute for therapy.
Talkspace will likely be the most helpful for you if you’re self-motivated. Communication will really be driven by you and your needs, so it’s helpful to go into this kind of service knowing what you want to work on.
“Given the brevity of the interactions of an app like Talkspace, I would recommend that people have one or two specific goals that they stay focused on, especially goals that would be best achieved with the accountability of a therapist,” says Micco. Some examples of goals could be improving one’s sleep schedule, reducing avoidance of social situations or increasing exercise to improve mood.
Also, if you know you want to be matched with someone who is similar to your own demographic, make sure to be as upfront about it as possible.
Online Counseling With A Certified Therapist
With Talkspace's online therapy, you may speak with a qualified therapist in the comfort of your own home for a much lower price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Talkspace legit?
Talkspace offers a network of licensed therapists across all U.S. states and Canada, according to the company. The platform’s providers average about nine years of professional experience each and undergo vetting and training before providing care to Talkspace users.
Is Talkspace effective?
Talkspace reports that 98% of users found its platform more convenient than traditional in-person therapy, and 80% felt Talkspace was as effective or more than traditional therapyTalkspace vs. Face-to-Face Therapy. Talkspace. Accessed 1/26/2023. .
Does Talkspace use real therapists?
Talkspace uses all licensed therapists and providers.
Can Talkspace therapists diagnose?
Talkspace therapists are able to help provide a mental health diagnosis, but do not prescribe medication. However, they can refer individuals to psychiatrists, mental health facilities or other needed medical professionals.