When the pandemic hit the United States, shelter-in-place orders and social distancing rules cut Americans off from their usual sources of close contact with friends, families, co-workers, and physicians. Employers encouraged working remotely, schools shut down early, and common gathering places like gyms and bars were off-limits. As isolation increased, the severity of the mental health crisis in the United States deepened, and more people relied on virtual services like Talkspace.
According to the, the heightened stress has many understandable sources: fear and concern regarding personal health as well as the health of loved ones; anxiety over unstable financial situations or jobs; and the potential to lose support services that many patients rely on. These unusual stressors have been linked to some or all of the following symptoms: changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; worsening of mental health conditions; and increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.
Furthermore, to make matters worse, not only have depression and anxiety related to the virus increased in populations around the globe, but access to mental health services has also become more difficult. Traditional methods of care like visiting mental health clinics or therapists have been put on hold while social distancing is recommended. However, the demand for professional help is still increasing, and more and more people are now turning to online solutions, especially in the field of mental health. Luckily, therapy services are more easily adapted to socially distant practices and tools than other areas of medicine like physical therapy or examinations of ill patients.
Online therapy has been building real momentum over the past decade, but some historians report that online therapy actually originated nearly fifty years ago during the International Conference on Computers when Stanford and UCLA staff used linked computers to demonstrate a psychotherapy session. Today, we define online therapy as “a licensed mental health care professional providing mental health services via email, video conferencing, virtual reality technology, chat technology, or any combination of these.”
The accessibility of virtual therapy has been a boon to many during times of crisis, and lately, it has allowed patients to seek mental health assistance in an era of uncertainty., an online therapy platform developed in 2012 by Roni and Oren Frank, has been one such service that has witnessed an influx of users since the pandemic hit, reporting a 70 percent increase in clients registering with insurance between March and April of this year and a 90 percent year-over-year increase in client volume since mid-March 2020.
More widespread use of mental health services is a positive thing, but critics of online therapy have expressed concern about the process of online therapy, its usefulness, and its ability to help patients cope with the pandemic. In this article, we are going to take a look at the details of what it looks like to get started with online therapy, how it works, and why its reviews prove that online therapy is in fact helping Americans cope today.
How Talkspace it Works
Getting started with Talkspace is simple. Using the app or website, clients sign up with a nickname, password, and valid email address. Then, they complete an assessment with a consultation therapist. Users will chat with the therapist and answer some general questions (demographics, age, location, etc.), as well as discuss why they are seeking therapy. The therapist will then ask a selection of questions that address common mental health issues such as depression or anxiety as well as sources of those problems like relationships and work-related stress. The goal of this initial consultation is to allow the consultation therapist to learn about the client’s needs in order to identify the best therapist with whom to match them.
During the consultation, the user will also identify which service and payment plan works best for them — there are various levels of service offered depending on the amount of interaction a client desires with a therapist and whether they would like live video sessions.
Following the initial conversation, a client is matched with a therapist, which can take roughly one day. Once the match is complete, therapy can begin. One user who reflected on the intuitiveness of the service that:
“ The Talkspace app is easy to use. Upon opening it, you’re taken to a confidential ‘talkspace’ where you can send and receive messages from your therapist.”
The therapists working at Talkspace, according to the company, “have been fully vetted and trained to use Talkspace. [They] do not use interns or therapists who are not fully licensed and still under supervision. All of [their] therapists have over 3,000 hours of clinical experience.” They also note that the therapist matched with a client will be licensed in the client’s state.
If a client is unhappy with their selected therapist, they can simply request to switch at the push of a button. Although the intake questions are designed to identify the “best match,” sometimes a second try is necessary.
Therapists who are employed with Talkspace specialize in various areas of mental health; they include but are not limited to: addiction, anger, bipolar disorder, career challenges and changes, chronic impulsivity, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, family and parenting, sleeping troubles, self-esteem issues, substance abuse, trauma, life transitions, LGBTQ, intimacy and health, grief, and the list goes one.
The wide range of specializations makes it probable that clients will be paired with a therapist who is well-equipped to best understand their unique position in life.
Security of Talkspace
One of the biggest concerns among Talkspace’s users is the question of whether their data is secure. Disclosing your most personal secrets with a stranger via text can be worrisome. To combat these concerns, Talkspace offers extensive information on theirprivacy policies. VeryWellMind, a prominent online mental health resource partnered with the Cleveland Clinic, recently conducted an evaluation of the company’s privacy policies, and determined the following about Talkspace:
They make it clear that they keep the information you share with them safe, but you use the service at your own risk.
- All data is encrypted.
- They request your name, e-mail address, birth date, and gender.
- They do not share email addresses with third parties.
- Users may communicate with their therapist using a nickname rather than their real name.
- Talkspace requires an emergency contact.
If you are accessing the site through your employer or insurance payor, additional information may be collected by those parties. This information includes your demographic information that determines eligibility, which is not shared with your therapist.
They require a security code to log in and recommend users log out of the app before closing it. Users can also choose facial recognition technology to log in or can use the website with their login and password.
It is important to note that due to Federal Law, which mandates that therapists keep records of each client for a specific timespan, chat dialogues cannot be erased.
Additionally, Talkspace is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (), “a federal law that [requires] the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent and knowledge.” It is also SOC-2 Type 2 certified, which credits the company with the highest level of security as verified by third-party credentials and requires companies to establish and follow strict information security policies and procedures including in their security, availability, processing, integrity, and confidentiality of customer data practices.
Overall, the reviewers concluded, it appears that Talkspace has high standards to ensure customer safety and data protection.
Services and Costs
As mentioned above, Talkspace offers several levels of engagement from which a user can choose as well as different types of therapy. Let’s review the options:
Unlimited Messaging Therapy
This option is best for clients who are looking for ongoing communication with a therapist at a lower cost. Starting at $65 per week, this option allows clients to send therapists unlimited messages throughout the day, which may include text, video, and audio messages. The client, in return, can anticipate daily from their therapist.
Most therapists are trained in a variety of therapies that help clients navigate their issues. Popular approaches the following: Person-centered therapy, also called client-centered, which requires the client to take an active role in his or her treatment while the therapist plays the role of offering support without providing much explicit direction or instruction; Gestalt therapy, a type of client-centered therapy that helps clients focus on the present and understand what is really happening in their lives rather than what they perceive to be happening based on their past experiences; and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term, goal-focused approach that uses hands-on, practical problem-solving. CBT’s ultimate goal is to change a person’s established patterns of thought and behavior and, therefore, change how the client feels about and responds to events or new and past trauma.
Since its inception, client reviews have praised the usefulness of online therapy and supported the notion that text therapy can be as effective as talk therapy.
Rebekah Svensson from Awkward; Yet Healthy — a blog focusing on health and physical and mental wellness — describes her three-year relationship with her Talkspace therapist.
“[My therapist] has been there for me, pushed me when she knew I could handle it, coddled me when she knew I needed it, challenged me when I didn’t think I was strong enough, and applauded me when I wouldn’t acknowledge my hard work,” Svensson wrote. “But this saint of a human being has stuck with me through it all…I am honored to say I use Talkspace because of the people they employ.”
Mental health advocate Claire Fountain shared her unpleasant early forays with therapy during childhood as well as a moment in her twenties that left her feeling desperate for the help of a professional.
“ I was hurting and needed to talk to someone qualified as I navigated that life experience. I filled out my questionnaire and was paired with a Therapist,” Fountain wrote. “It’s two years later now, and the rest is history. I love the help I get with Talkspace. I was given a therapist who is exactly what I needed — who is respectful, qualified, and best of all, genuine. She is committed to my therapy as much as I am.”
Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium and Ultimate Options
The premium option that Talkspace offers, which costs $79 per week, offers all of the benefits of the unlimited messaging basic plan plus a 30-minute live session per month. Those interested in more frequent sessions — as often as once per week (advertised as four per month) — can opt for the LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate plan for $99 per week (compared to in-person therapy, which averages$75 to $150 weekly).
“ The price is definitely reasonable compared to the competition and in exchange for the services that you receive.” –VeryWellMind Testing Insight
Erin H, Talkspace user, shared the following sentiment on July 2, 2019 on eCounseling:
“ I love Talkspace. I have felt well cared for from the beginning. I was matched and communicating with my therapist within hours of set up… My therapist sends voice memo responses to my messages, twice a day, and the voice memos usually total around 8 minutes of her validating, summarizing, and asking further questions of me.Literally no complaints from me. I’m a millennial and this is my 5th therapist and she is hands down the best I’ve had. She allows me to set the pace, tone, and goals of therapy. This was also the most pain free finding and choosing a therapist that I’ve ever had. Yay technology!”
Talkspace for Teens
According to the, the prevalence of depression and anxiety in teens has increased over time, and diagnoses of both are more common with age. These are also the dozens of other mental health illnesses adolescents experience, including ADHD, behavioral problems, and developmental disorders. Recognizing that the mental health needs of teens are just as important as adults, Talkspace developed an option directed towards helping teens through the exciting, yet often volatile and tumultuous years of adolescence.
Talkspace for Teens offers the same services as those offered to adults; however, services start at $65 per week for unlimited text with two daily responses from the therapists. As with the adult models, prices increase as live sessions are added. Usage requires consent of parents via video messages. Once complete, teens work with their therapist and are encouraged to talk about any issues that may be bothering them, including school challenges, cyberbullying, substance use, anxiety, the future, and much more.
According to, teen user of Talkspace for Teens who spoke about her experience with her therapist,
“She’s been amazing. I feel like I won the jackpot with her. She always seemed to understand what I was going through and guided me through it.”
Another specialized service offered by Talkspace is its couples’ therapy. This online relationship therapy is offered to help couples struggling with communication, commitment, or any other issues. Prior to engaging with the therapist, clients are asked to discuss with their partner what they would like to work on in couples’ therapy. Common issues include financial problems, parenting, infidelity, sex therapy, in-laws, and chronic health issues, to name a few. Then, similar to the aforementioned plans, can opt for unlimited messaging therapy or select to engage in a live session. This plan starts at $99 per week per couple.
Claire Walkes-Thomas, contributor on, decided to try Talkspace’s couple’s therapy when she and her husband were encountering marital problems. Walkes-Thomas shared her experience about how their therapist made it possible for her to recognize confidence issues she was having, and the couple was able to grow together through therapy. Overall, Walkes-Thomas reported her appreciation for the experience for the following reasons:
- It’s convenient for using on-the-go, especially if you or your partner have hectic/clashing schedules.
- There’s no need to wait a week for your next appointment. You can offload anywhere, any time.
- You’re only matched with therapists who have specific skills in your desired field.
- You can choose how to communicate with your therapist — text, voice messages, or video.
- Having a check-in morning and evening allows you to really reflect on what has been said, so your sessions aren’t limited to the things you can think of to say within a limited one-hour session.
- It is cost effective compared to in-person couple’s therapy.
Another Talkspace user, who used the platform in 2015, shared her experience as well:
“ Regina worked with me and my husband for several months. She really helped us to understand how to deal with issues, and how to communicate with one another. Thanks to Regina, we now have a healthy, happy relationship.”
Talkspace and COVID-19
Talkspace’s services are not limited to therapy; they also offer professional psychiatry for those who need a little more support. In fact, it is estimated that adults in the U.S. live with a mental health condition, yet nearly half don’t receive treatment. Furthermore, it is estimated that four out of five prescriptions for psychotropic drugs are written by physicians who are not actually psychiatrists. To address this disparity in care and the under-utilization of psychiatric services, Talkspace stepped up. Some clients may benefit from medication assistance in their management of mental illness, and Talkspace offers personalized treatment from a prescriber trained in mental health care and prescription management.
The cost for psychiatric services starts at $199 for the initial evaluation, and it costs $125 per follow-up session. However, for new clients, Talkspace offers bundle discounts: $312 for the initial evaluation plus one follow-up session (10% savings), $518 for the initial evaluation plus three follow-up sessions (15% savings), or $799 (20% savings) for the initial evaluation plus six follow-up session.
Talkspace has done its best to serve the growing number of people who are battling isolation, depression, and anxiety during the pandemic and its uncertainty. Their dedication takes the form of providing ongoing educational content for its viewers to ensure that they receive reliable, trustworthy information about how exactly COVID-19 is impacting us. Additionally, Talkspace provides resources and tools to help people move through the emotions of the pandemic. They have covered an array of topics on their, including how to keep your mental wellness as a priority to how to stay focused while working from home.
Most recently, Talkspace announced the of its new commercial health plan relationship with Cigna, a global health service that offers supplemental insurance plans. Talkspace took a look at traditional employee assistance programs (EAPs) and found them not up to the task of serving companies and their workers during the constraints of a pandemic. Their solution was to innovate and offer a digital employee assistance program (Digital EAP), which removes the chief barrier between employees and receiving care: a shared physical office location. Through the new partnership, eligible customers can use Talkspace’s Unlimited Messaging Plan as well as a range of digital wellness solutions to support employees remotely. Cigna is one of many insurers now partnered with Talkspace, including Optum, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Humana. It marks a milestone in which 40 million Americans are now covered under their insurance to access online therapy.
Talkspace has also made headway in overcoming two of the other largest barriers people face in receiving mental health services: cost and coverage. By centralizing their services, they are able to offer inexpensive, convenient services that can now be covered, allowing users to utilize the platform to help them overcome their challenges and move forward with their lives. The Digital EAP marks another step in Talkspace’s mission to make sure all people have access to the mental wellness support they need at a price they can afford.
Any evolution in an existing field will be met with skepticism, and mental healthcare is no different. Still, an honest appraisal of customer reviews and the ways Talkspace is democratizing therapy and meeting the needs of 21 st-century workers makes it clear that online therapy is an invaluable tool for helping people cope during trying times.