Today, more adults than ever before are struggling with some form of mental health issue, yet therapists can be in short supply or simply too expensive. The good news though is that the online therapy sector is now helping more Americans get the help they deserve and ever more providers are popping up.
Talkspace is one of the most established and best regarded online counseling providers in the US today. They offer a range of therapies for a raft of conditions mostly via chat. On the other hand, Brightside is a newer and smaller provider who are able to offer therapy sessions as well as prescribe medication.
In this review, we are going to look at how the two compare to one another. We will examine the range of conditions they treat, their treatment methods and take a look at the therapists or professionals they employ. Of course, we will also assess the cost effectiveness and overall value for money of both. By the end of this review you will hopefully know which of these providers might be able to offer you the help you are searching for
What is very interesting about the virtual therapy space is that most providers offer something unique and many operate very different business models from one another. Talkspace and Brightside are not really trying to do the exact same thing or fill the same void and in our view both have a very valuable place in the market.
Talkspace offers an excellent service for those who are seeking mostly online, text chat support for a range of conditions, whereas Brightside offers video sessions with a range of therapists mostly specializing in anxiety treatment and help with depression. Brightside offers a psychiatry service which enables them to prescribe some medicines whereas Talkspace’s services are much more limited.
Deciding which of these two is better for you is largely a matter of personal preference. For example, some patients love the text chat style of Talkspace and feel that it really allows them to open up. On the other hand, some users feel like they are talking to a computer and prefer to hear a therapist’s voice like you get to experience via Brightside – in which case Talkspace’s video therapy is much more expensive.
The initial sign up process for both providers is very fast and takes a matter of minutes. Both ask prospective patients to complete a short, basic questionnaire which is then used to help match them with a therapist. However, please note that Brightside does ask for some identity verification – this can sometimes slow down the application process – whereas Talkspace does not.
Whilst the sign up process is simple enough for both, some Talkspace users reported that getting matched with a therapist took a number of days. Also, whilst Brightside can be very quick in assigning a therapist (we say assign as service users don’t get any choice in the matter), getting an appointment booked in can take longer owing to their smaller roster of available therapists.
Of course, an online therapy provider ultimately lives and dies on the quality of its therapy services rather than its signing up process. We shall examine this further on.
Winner: Talkspace – letting you choose your own therapists is a huge upside.
Whenever a patient engages in therapy, they open up and show real vulnerability. As such any therapy provider needs to demonstrate that it will only share information and details as appropriate, and that patients are as safe and protected as possible.
The way that Talkspace operates allows users to remain largely anonymous offering an extra layer of privacy and feeling of safety for patients. On the other hand Brightside does ask patients to verify their accounts and to answer rather a lot of personal questions which can make some people uncomfortable. However, this is ultimately for the safety and wellbeing of both patients and therapists.
Both Talkspace and Brightside are HIPPA compliant meaning that patient information and data is handled professionally, and used correctly.
If you value absolute anonymity, then Talkspace is a better option than Brightside. They ask for less details, you can use a nickname, and during text chat nobody hears your voice or sees your face.
Winner: Tie, both are very safe. Unless you specifically want chat-therapy only, then Talkspace is better.
Most patients appreciate the value of good mental health care & support. Most patients know that this is one area where simply looking for the best bargain is not really advisable. At the same time, many Americans these days are on a tight budget and do need to keep an eye on costs. Indeed, one of the main benefits of teletherapy is that it is affordable. So, who offers the best value for money – Brightside or Talkspace?
Both Talkspace and Brightside operate on monthly subscription business models and neither allows any kind of pay per session option. Both also work out cheaper than face to face, in-person therapy too. Note that if you are prescribed medication from a Brightside psychiatrist, then this is not included in any package and will cost extra.
Winner: We feel that Brightside definitely has an edge here as their packages all offer live sessions. Furthermore, if we look at the Brightside median package ($299) as an example, it offers a 30-minute live session each week with a therapist. However the Talkspace median package ($315) only offers 1 live session per month.
Both Brightside and Talkspace can accept insurance but if you are hoping to have your treatment covered by an insurer, you have much better prospects using Talkspace.
Talkspace is widely recognized and in-network with many insurers including Medicare and in some states, Medicaid. Patients may also be entitled to treatment from Talkspace under an EAP (employee assistance program).
Whilst Brightside does work with some insurers, at this time they are not as widely established with insurance providers as Talkspace are. They do accept Cigna and some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans but not Medicare or Medicaid.
Clear Winner: Talkspace
Talkspace has been lauded by both its users and the e-counseling industry in general the range of different treatments on offer. Talkspace specializes in offering a range of talking therapies for issues ranging from anxiety, grief, relationship counseling and substance abuse.
However, Brightsides therapists are more specialized in depression and anxiety and tend to primarily focus on offering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Whilst CBT can prove highly effective in helping patients to “manage” symptoms and episodes, it does seek to address the underlying causes of a problem.
For this reason, Talkspace edges out Brightside, although Brightside does win a consolation prize for offering psychiatry and medication (where appropriate).
Finally, please note that some conditions such as bi-polar and dissociative personality disorder may not be best addressed by talking therapies or by virtual counseling at all. As such, perhaps neither Talkspace nor Brightside are the ideal option for anybody seeking help with conditions such as these.
Narrow Winner: Talkspace
Now let’s take a look at the quality and professional standards of the therapists working at both providers.
All of Brightside’s therapists have a relevant masters degree. Users mostly report that therapists are professional but compassionate and very good. However, because Brightside has a limited number of therapists available appointment slots can be hard to arrange. Also bear in mind that with Brightside you cannot choose your own therapists.
Talkspace is a much larger organisation with more therapists to choose from (*and remember you can choose). However, they are more of a mixed bag in terms of qualifications and some users reported that they felt their therapist was offering generic answers during chat sessions.
Basically, Brightside has a higher standard of therapists but Talkspace does make up for it in terms of availability and in offering the choice to change therapists easily.
Anybody who is beginning a journey into a therapy usually wants to feel heard and valued by their counseling provider and therefore customer service is highly important. To assess the customer service of both Brightside and Talkspace will look at both their support functions and their user experience in general.
Neither organisation offers much in the way of ‘live’ or telephony customer support. To contact customer services at Talkspace users have to submit a “ticket”. Whilst this may not be ideal, responses tend to be swift. Brightside, allows users to contact them by email and once again most of their users were satisfied with how the (relatively small) organisation handled problems and queries.
In terms of operating models and user experience, Talkspace has a distinct advantage. One of the details that users really liked about Talkspace is that they allow applicants to speak (via text chat) to a therapist straight away after signing up. Even though this initial conversion is only intended to help a user “match” with a therapist, a lot of patients really liked this little touch.
Brightside on the other hand, does not allow patients to have any choice in their therapist and instead assigns one based on your questionnaire and of course on availability.
The Brightside therapists are also highly qualified professionals and well regarded by patients but not allowing freedom of choice does dissatisfy some users. Of course, do bear in mind that all Brightside packages allow you to speak with a therapist each week which does enhance user experience.
Both the Talkspace and Brightside platforms are modern, easy to navigate and of practical use to their patients. The initial use of their platform and app tech is to match patients with a suitable therapist based on the information they provide.
Patients can either log into the site or use the fast, free mobile app to both manage appointments and conduct sessions. One big advantage of Talkspace is that users can access 24/7 chat support via the app; however, the chat function does not appear to be staffed by therapists themselves but by a mixture of counselors, social workers and coaches. With the Brightside app, patients can message their therapist whenever they feel like it but will have to wait for a response.
With both apps users are also able to track their progress. By regularly inputting data about mood and wellbeing the app’s algorithms can help them to assess how well the treatment is working and to identify high and low spells.
Betterhelp is another well established leader in the online counseling sector and offers a similar service to Talkspace. Betterhelp offer therapy by live video sessions as well chat support for a wide range of common issues like anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD.
Like Talkspace, Betterhelp mostly employ techniques such as CBT and psychodynamic therapy to facilitate treatment. Before deciding to open a Talksapce subscription, you should at least consider Betterhelp and maybe even take them up on their 1 week free trial before coming to a final decision.
Betterhelp cannot prescribe medication and so are not necessarily a competitor to Brihghtide. If you think you may need meditation or psychiatry, then Brightside is the more logical treatment provider for you.
If you want to know more, then we previously wrote a full Betterhelp vs Talkspace comparison. However, before you make your final decision, why not also check our in-depth Betterhelp review to get a more thorough idea of how they work and what they can offer.
Both of these providers offer a very valuable and cost effective service to their patients. There is no clear winner between the 2 as they operate slightly differently and it is therefore largely a question of what exactly you want help with and of personal preference.
If you want more live sessions and the possible access to medication then Brightside is the better option. On the other hand, Talkspace will probably be more than adequate to satisfy the needs of most users as long as they are happy conducting most of the sessions via chat.