Blog, Mental Health, Reviews

I Tried Online Counseling Again | BetterHelp Review

I knew quite early in the year that therapy would go a long way to help me cope with everything and as person-to-person therapy is a bit too pricy here in the Netherlands, I once again turned my attention to online therapy. There are multiple services available but Talkspace and BetterHelp are the two main ones or well the largest. As I’ve already tried Talkspace and had a less than lackluster experience, I wanted to try BetterHelp this time. I was a bit hesitant to give them a try because of the big controversy in 2018. I then not finding any big red alarms from the more recent years, figured that there shouldn’t be any harm in trying them out. I joined back in May and spoiler alert: I’m very happy. I have quite a bit to share so buckle up, it’s going to be a long one.

When you join BetterHelp, you fill in a very standard survey and once that’s done, you get matched with a therapist a few hours later. As I had an especially bad experience with my previous online therapy, I asked Therapist A multiple questions. I wanted to ensure that they have experience with the main issues I would like to discuss in our sessions. One of the main subjects is infertility, and as I personally feel that this topic can quickly become clouded by personal feelings on the matter, I needed to ensure the therapist would be the right fit for me when it comes to that. His response was pretty good, and I felt that he read my message but I was a bit put off by the fact that 1) he didn’t answer all of my questions and 2) immediately send me a form to fill in about what I want from therapy. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why they would need that form, but I wasn’t quite sure if Therapist A was the best fit and wasn’t the most excited (or comfortable) to jump in and share my struggles immediately. I filled in the form, asked the questions he left unanswered again, and then went ahead to schedule our fist live session for the next day. I asked to be matched with another therapist after our third session. Therapist A wasn’t the ideal fit for me. His approach to therapy was to tell you a story about someone else, his other clients (which I didn’t like because that should remain private), with the hopes that you would pull what you need from it. I at times felt as if I’m giving him therapy, as I knew way too much about his personal life and would advise/share my opinion on certain matters in hopes it would help him. What quickly started to happen is that instead of seeing him as my therapist, he slipped into a friend role. And I’m sorry, but I don’t need a friend that knows a little bit of mental health, I need a therapist. Another thing he kept doing is comparing himself to me and I guess he was trying to make me feel superior? Or better about myself and my accomplishments? We talked a little bit about my published book, and he kept going on and on about how he wishes he could write and no one would want to read his words. I didn’t like that at all. I’m sorry but my therapist shouldn’t be the negative Nancy between us two. There was also another incident where we had talked a little bit about America, this happened in our second session. He had asked me if I would ever want to visit America or want to live there. I, being honest, said no. He asked why, so I told him my reasons and then he broke me off and said: “Wow, you basically just said that my country is shit, but don’t worry I’m not offended.” Excuse fucking me, I don’t care two fucks if you’re offended or not. I’m not going to mince my words and be careful with what I say when it comes to my therapist. If I start worrying about being sure not to upset him, then I’m no longer going to get the therapy I need from him. I know it might sound cruel, but I’m sorry. I need to be able to share my opinions freely without judgment with my therapist. Also, to add to the whole you just called my country shit remark, we were also talking about my home country and I said: “It’s a beautiful country, the culture and most of the people are great, but it has some ugly problems.” I said the same thing about America. I think you can say that about every country. Some countries just have bigger and uglier problems than others. I then felt the need to apologize and explain more what I meant, which annoyed me once the guilt wore off. I’m a straightforward person, but I always try to see both sides of the coin and be considerate – with others, I just don’t want to do that with my therapist. He accepted my apology, and I went ahead to schedule our next session. Oh, I do want to add that I told him in that apology message that hey, I’m going to say it as is and if this is going to bother you, then we’re clearly not the right fit. Now, up to this point, I was still unsure if he was the right fit for me, but decided to give him another chance. In the third session, I decided to finally talk about something a bit meatier, and I brought up infertility. It just happened to be in that time frame where we had to take a one-month break because of COVID-19 and I was feeling a bit upset about it. I understood why the decision was made, but I was starting to get impatient with the process. We’ve been trying for years. I’ve been on hormones for months. And nothing. So, I vented to my therapist and he had a very, let’s say unique, response. Therapist A, had personal experience with infertility as he and his wife struggled quite a bit for their daughter. You would expect that if you’ve experienced infertility, you will always know what to say to those still struggling, but you will be surprised how hurtful their words can be. I don’t remember his exact words but it was along the lines of: “Never stop trying. It’s in God’s hands. It will happen when it’s the right time.” Etc. etc. etc. It also became clear to me the more he talked about his experience is that he was more on the sidelines when everything was happening. He spoke of that if his wife was upset when the cycle was a failure, he would never know what to say to help and etc. I don’t know why all of this rubbed me up the wrong way, but regardless of how unreal it feels now, months later, it felt real to me back then. So, I asked to be matched with another therapist. There is a lot more I can say about this therapist, but this isn’t the point of the blog.

I couldn’t find the option to easily change my counselor in the app (they’ve changed this so it’s very easy to find now) and contacted the support team. They got back to me very quickly with a link to all suitable counselors. I then had to choose my top 5 and the support team will then see which of the 5 is available. I personally prefer this and think this should be an option from the start. I read through a good 25 profiles and only found about 8 I really liked and thought would make a good fit. I remember reading Therapist A’s profile and reviews and not being overly impressed with what I saw. I was matched with Therapist B within hours. I was annoyed to find that 1) she couldn’t access any of the old messages with Therapist A and 2) she couldn’t access any of my old journal entries or forms I’ve completed for Therapist A. We spoke a bit back and forth, and I then had to fill in the same form as before which asked what I wanted from therapy. I then went ahead and scheduled our live session for the next day. The difference between her approach and Therapist A’s approach was night and day. Onno, who sat by me in the first and last session with Therapist A, actually commented on the fact of how different their approach is. Onno knows absolutely nothing about therapy as he never had to see a therapist before, whereas I have been seeing a therapist on and off for years. Also, my best friend is studying to become one and we talk about if often. Therapist B’s approach to therapy is more along the lines of what I personally need from therapy. I do most of the talking, and she will ask questions that will lead me to see a different perspective. She is very professional and I feel comfortable enough to talk to her about anything. There has never been a hint of judgment, as it should be, and I can’t say enough good things about her. It’s has made such a big difference as she was able to help me through some pretty horrible things: the loss of my mother, the loss of my grandfather, the frustrations of infertility and so much more. I have zero intention of stopping therapy anytime soon and will continue to have my weekly sessions with her for as long as she remains on the platform.

There’s quite a bit to still share about the platform so let me quickly jump through them.

  • You have the option to make journal entries that you can set to automatically share with your therapist. I don’t really use this option as much as I tend to message my therapist directly here and there between our live sessions. I would much rather just wait for our next session to discuss anything that popped up in the week.
  • It’s very easy to schedule your live sessions. You can choose between live via texting, phone call, or video call. I always choose the phone call option. You will get multiple reminders before your session. It manages to not cross the line of spamming you which is something I wish more companies will take to heart. You get a reminder at the 24 hours before mark, and then another two at the 30- and 5 minutes before mark. The app needs to be open on your phone for the session to start. The connection is relatively good. There isn’t a lot of lagging or too many cut-outs, so the session is relatively smooth. It’s not perfect, but the session is clear enough and if I miss anything, I will just ask my therapist to repeat herself. It doesn’t happen often so I don’t have anything to complain about. I’ve had worse connections trying to talk to my father in South Africa.
  • You also can get multiple worksheets from your therapist to fill out, it’s those forms I mentioned before. They’re easy enough to fill in and I don’t have any complaints other than the fact that it should remain on your profile if you switch counselors.
  • Another option BetterHelp offers is Groupinars which is basically their way of saying webinars. Here are some of the webinars available on the day I’m writing this blog: – Decisions, decisions…which away to go? – Overcoming Overthinking – Coping with Mental Illness – Toxic Friendships: Bully or BFF? I personally have yet to register for any of these webinars but intend to so one day. It seems to be relatively easy to join. I will come back on here to share my experience.
  • Something I also really like that doesn’t have much to do with the performance of the app is the fact that I get the student discount.

Overall, I’m very happy with my experience with BetterHelp. Before I go, I do feel that it would only be appropriate to mention Talkspace. Unfortunately, I can’t actively compare the two as I didn’t have the standard experience on Talkspace, but if we compare the BetterHelp platform as of now August 2020 with the Talkspace platform as of October 2018, I do personally prefer BetterHelp. But saying that, Talkspace seems to show a lot of improvement. If my current therapist ever leaves BetterHelp, I might consider giving Talkspace another try.

While editing this blog, I quickly browsed over the Talkspace review and wow, someone was not impressed. I left that experience with the idea that online therapy isn’t the right fit for me and it would never work. But look at me now, actually getting therapy without any big financial strain. I think that is the biggest difference between the two separate experiences is that with Talkspace, I barely got any therapy whereas here on BetterHelp, I’ve finally been matched with a therapist that fits my needs and I’m receiving therapy every single week. But who knows, maybe if I stuck around longer on Talkspace, I would’ve had a good experience. What I can see now is one month isn’t enough to see if it’s the right fit for you or not. It will take some time to be matched with the right therapist and once that happens, your experience will change completely. The one thing I can say is that I personally prefer weekly live sessions to the daily messaging therapy that Talkspace seems to still encourage. I do quickly want to add that my mental health entering the two experiences was very different. First of all, back in 2018, I was still very uneducated when it came to my (current) struggles with mental health. I was also fresh out of sharing my childhood trauma with the world. I was in a very vulnerable place back then. Whereas when I joined BetterHelp in May 2020, I’ve been educated on my struggles and have learned healthy coping skills. I was and still is in a vulnerable place, but I’ve learned those building blocks which makes the world of difference. I now know what I need from therapy and I’m able to identify more if those needs are being met. I hope this all makes sense. I’m trying to be as thorough as possible without being too picky with the finer details. It’s a very thin line.

Now more than ever, I can’t stress how important your mental health is and how much of a difference you will see in your life if those needs are met. If you’re able to afford therapy, I encourage you to pursue it. At least give it a try, and remember that there is the right therapist for you so don’t hesitate to search for them. You have the control. You can choose who you see and share your struggles with. If Therapist A rubs you up the wrong way, ask for another therapist. If Therapist B doesn’t deliver, ask for another therapist. Going through multiple therapists until you find the right fit isn’t a negative thing. Every person is unique, so it only makes sense that what you will need from a therapist will be unique to you. It’s going to be okay. Focus on that light at the end of the tunnel and take every baby step you can. It’s going to be okay. Do what you can, control what you can, be as gentle with yourself as you can, and forgive yourself for making mistakes. It’s going to be okay. Take care and stay safe! If you ever need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me. My email is cassandra@butterflyfingers.com

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

End Note

PS I’ve been thinking about opening my Telegram Messenger account to my readers. Would you much rather be able to chat on me via there or just shoot me an email? Let me know in the comments down below.

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