Online Therapy: Tips For Getting The Most From Your Sessions

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

BetterHelp online therapy can be a valuable resource for connecting with a licensed mental health professional. BetterHelp offers licensed professional therapy to help people who are facing challenges or experiencing mental health conditions.

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You can focus on your emotional state and work through challenging situations with your therapist through the platform and find productive ways to strengthen positive thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships while minimizing stress and distress. The online format is also convenient and makes it easier than ever to switch therapists if necessary. In this article, we’re providing an overview of online therapy, what you can expect from sessions, and how to get the most out of therapy.

Understanding the basics of online therapy

You may be interested in online counseling platforms but want more information before proceeding. Below are a few frequently asked questions about BetterHelp, including helpful tips on using the platform. 

Can I feel confident using BetterHelp? 

BetterHelp is a legitimate service with licensed therapists. You can feel confident knowing that BetterHelp is the largest online therapy provider and the global leader in online therapy treatment. They offer actual online therapy, unlike a chat service or online forum. BetterHelp has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2015. Therapists on BetterHelp are fully licensed, vetted, and experienced. You can find professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed marriage and family therapists, among many other licensed professionals, on the BetterHelp platform. And, because BetterHelp is a subscription-based platform, you won’t have to discuss payment with your therapist or provide them with your insurance information.

Is BetterHelp counseling or therapy? 

BetterHelp is an online platform that connects clients with licensed mental health professionals. These professionals can be board-licensed professional counselors or therapists. Once a client and a therapist are matched, they can begin therapy according to the client’s goals. Therapy through BetterHelp is sometimes called counseling. The terms counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably. On BetterHelp, both words refer to talk therapy services with a licensed mental health professional. Therapy services can include cognitive behavioral therapy, couples therapy, and more.

Who are the mental health professionals BetterHelp works with?

Therapists, through the platform, can offer counseling to BetterHelp patients anywhere in the world. BetterHelp’s counselors and therapists are contractors from various backgrounds and offer many specializations and mental health services, including clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and addiction recovery specialists. If you’re looking for a particular type of counseling, you may be able to find it with a BetterHelp counselor who is sensitive to your identity, values, and needs.

Before working for the platform, counselors on BetterHelp must pass an intensive vetting process. The BetterHelp team verifies that every mental healthcare provider is up to date on their licensing and in proper standing. Each mental health professional working with BetterHelp is a licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, professional counselor, or psychologist.

All therapists and counselors on BetterHelp are experienced and hold an advanced degree (a master’s degree, doctoral degree, or both) in their field. They all have at least three years and 1,000 hours of direct experience. After completing the necessary education, exams, training, and practice, all BetterHelp therapists have been certified by their state’s professional board. This helps you ensure that your potential therapist will have the experience and qualifications to address your concerns.

Therapists who work on BetterHelp go through a rigorous process of providing documentation of identity and licensure, so you can expect the same professionalism and expertise that you would from an in-office therapist. BetterHelp cross-checks their licensing and identity through the state licensing board that issued the license.  Additionally, all therapists on BetterHelp must complete a BetterHelp case study exam and be evaluated in a video interview.

When you match with a therapist, you can view their licensing information on their profile before starting online therapy, and you can rest assured that you will only be matched with experienced therapists.

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What can I expect from BetterHelp sessions?

In addition to expecting accredited psychologists, there are a few aspects of counseling through BetterHelp to expect when you set an individual counseling appointment, including the following.

What are live therapy sessions like? 

In most cases, clients will choose a scheduled online session once a week based on therapist availability. You can choose between live video, phone, or chat sessions with your licensed therapist. During the session, you will speak to your therapist, and they may offer advice, techniques, and validation, the same as in in-person sessions. They may also take notes as you speak, which they can later consult to better provide you with support. Live video sessions can offer a similar experience to in-person counseling, although with video sessions, there is no need to commute to an office, and you can be comfortable at home or anywhere you have an internet connection. After the session, you might receive worksheets or homework assignments from your therapist to further work through your mental health challenges and concerns. 

What messaging options will I have? 

BetterHelp’s messaging tool can be a valuable way to connect with your therapist outside your live sessions. Messages are not “live,” so you can message your therapist anytime. Your therapist may respond with feedback and guidance when they are available, often within 24 hours.

How long is each BetterHelp therapy session?

BetterHelp sessions are often scheduled in 30-45 minute blocks depending on therapists’ and clients’ preferences, availability, and needs. This typically applies to cognitive behavioral therapy, marriage and family therapy, and all other types of mental therapy.

How many therapy sessions do you get with BetterHelp? 

You can do four live sessions monthly (one live session a week) by phone, video, or chat. You may be charged an extra fee if you want to do an extra session in a week.  In most cases, a few sessions at the beginning will focus on creating a space where you feel comfortable and feel safe. These sessions may involve taking a questionnaire, discussing concerns, going over treatment techniques, and ensuring the session will offer support and be beneficial for you. Sessions will continue as long as you want them to. 

What if I change my mind? 

How long a person uses BetterHelp varies according to individual needs and preferences. You can easily cancel your account at any time for any reason. If you would like to continue online therapy but do not feel your therapist is a good fit, you can request to match with a new therapist. Clients can learn more on the BetterHelp FAQ page.

What will I talk to my therapist about in my sessions? 

BetterHelp therapists can work with you to individualize counseling based on your preferences and therapy goals. Online counseling through the platform is talk therapy, also called psychotherapy. In talk therapy, a client and therapist communicate about issues causing the client distress or areas the client wants to strengthen. 

In sessions, you can identify your pain points and collaborate with a therapist to find strategies and solutions to assist you in learning healthy ways to cope and manage thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships.

The topics you cover with your therapist can depend on the challenges you’re addressing, the amount of time you’ve been working with a therapist, and a variety of other factors. If you’re just starting therapy, your first session may consist primarily of introductions so that you and your therapist can get to know each other, as well as a brief discussion about the concerns you’d like to address. The first session can help you determine whether the professional you’re paired with is the right therapist for you.

During your next session, you may start to set some goals and discuss underlying challenges that may be contributing to your mental health concerns. For example, if you’re experiencing panic attacks, identifying negative thought patterns that contribute to your symptoms may be the first step toward limiting their effects. As you build trust in later sessions, your therapist may help you implement other positive changes while providing emotional support and useful insights. Over time, many people find that their sessions are primarily check-ins to ensure they’re heading in the right direction.

Some of the issues covered by therapists include severe mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, substance use disorder, or managing difficult emotions or interpersonal conflicts with friends and family. Most therapists do not handle medication management, but some are certified to do so.

Getting the most out of therapy sessions

Engaging in the therapy process in an open, honest, and communicative way can help you ensure you’re making real progress toward achieving your goals. Below are a few therapy tips for getting the most out of your counseling sessions. 

Therapy is a non-judgmental space, so be honest 

Choosing therapy can be a sign of strength, an act reflecting your desire to feel better and grow as an individual. Once you’ve decided to put time and energy into therapy, you may want to focus on maximizing the benefits. 

To get the most from your sessions, start by reminding yourself that nothing is too embarrassing or shameful to tell your therapist. A good therapist will generally provide you with a safe, comfortable, non-judgmental space so that you can be your most authentic self. Be honest about your mental health history. Showing your therapist the real you can help the two of you develop a strong therapeutic relationship and make it easier for them to give you proper care and advice.

Feeling reserved about revealing personal feelings and topics can be common, particularly as you’re getting to know your therapist or going through an adjustment period. However, the more your therapist knows about you and your day to day life, the more they may be able to support you. If there’s a topic that you don’t feel comfortable discussing, let your therapist know. You can set boundaries in sessions and revisit them later if necessary. If you are experiencing the effects of a serious mental illness, you may not wish to talk about these topics right away, but addressing them at some point could have mental health benefits. Remembering that therapy is a safe space can help you do the emotional work necessary to achieve your goals.

View therapy as a team effort

Collaborate with your therapist and view them as part of your “team", along with the other people in your life who make up your support system. Having a therapist in your support network can be valuable if you experience a stressful event or need someone to talk to about what’s going on in your life. If you are experiencing mental illness, your therapist will be on your side as you work toward healing.  

Use the BetterHelp journal feature 

BetterHelp has a journal feature within the Android and Apple apps that you can utilize to write about your feelings, track your mood, and note observations from your sessions.  When you meet in your sessions, your therapist may have read your journal entries and already know what you’re experiencing to support you best. 

Communicate concerns 

While it can be important to remain patient during the therapeutic process, you can also talk to your therapist if you feel stuck or like something isn’t working in therapy. They may suggest alternative options for progress if you are too far out of your comfort zone. If you and your therapist find that you’re not on the same page, a few minutes of conversation on the phone or video call can help you feel confident you are on the right track and make a plan. Healthy relationships between a client and therapist lead to better outcomes for clients, according to research. You can also change your therapist at any time through the BetterHelp platform. 

Talk to your therapist about your goals 

Think about how you hope to benefit from therapy. You and your therapist may set goals for what you’d like to accomplish through your sessions. If you find yourself wondering if there is a specific tool or strategy you can use to address a particular challenge or trauma from your past or present, feel free to ask your therapist. If they know what you’re considering, they may be better able to support you and help you stay focused on your objectives. While you may have specific goals involving healing and personal growth, therapy is not just for those with mental health issues. You can also use therapy as a chance to discuss your career goals or areas in your life where you would like to improve. For example, perhaps you would like to improve your relationship with your business partners or work on overcoming your aversion to public speaking. These are both goals you could discuss in your therapy journey.

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Prioritize therapy

Your therapist may offer strategies for coping or dealing with your concerns to practice outside of therapy. Using these regularly between therapy sessions can help you. If your therapist gives you “homework,” try to follow through. Additionally, stick with your schedule. If you feel you need to change appointment times, talk to your therapist. If you have to cancel, try to cancel at least 48 hours in advance. 

Take time to reflect and relax after sessions

After therapy, you might try reflecting on the session, how it went, what you learned, and how you feel. If it was an emotional session, relaxing and decompressing might be beneficial. Self-care, like implementing an exercise routine or prioritizing sleep, can be an essential part of tending to your emotional well-being, and it has benefits for your body, too. Studies show that mindfulness practice can be one way of reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Try to be open to change and new perspectives 

If you’re working with a therapist, you may have reached a point where you’d like to improve your life. Making healthy lifestyle changes may be beneficial. Being open to change and considering new perspectives may also offer you more options for feeling and living better. Give changes and new perspectives a try. If they don’t function for you, work with your therapist to find other options.

Therapy options 

Online therapy services offer many different options for clients. Teen therapy is available for younger people in need of therapy, or you could speak with a licensed marriage counselor if you are experiencing issues in your marriage. Online counseling services include assistance for a variety of issues, including substance use, mental illness, interpersonal challenges, difficult emotions such as grief, and more. 

Online therapy can reduce barriers to treatment for many individuals when compared to traditional therapy sessions. For example, it can offer availability, flexibility, and affordability to those who may not have available options for a non-public practice in their area. Financial aid may also be available for some people who are seeking therapy but have a hard time affording weekly sessions. Additionally, a recent study showed that 71% of participants found online therapy through the BetterHelp platform had similar benefits as in-person face to face counseling and was preferable to traditional therapy.  

Through BetterHelp, you can address your mental health goals with a licensed mental health professional. You can find therapist options, including marriage and family therapists, social workers, and more. The affordable, convenient platform offers options for therapy sessions on your schedule and from your location. While BetterHelp does not accept health insurance, it may be as affordable as an insurance copay, with the subscription costing between $65 and $100 per weekly and $260-$400 monthly (based on factors such as your location, referral source, preferences, therapist availability and any applicable discounts or promotions that might apply) to have sessions with a qualified therapist. You can also have a database of over 30,000 licensed therapists and providers. If you are working with someone who isn’t a good fit, you can choose your next therapist at no extra cost.

Takeaway

If you’re interested in trying counseling through the BetterHelp platform, you can utilize a few tips to make the best of your sessions. For example, communicating with your therapist, writing in your BetterHelp journal, and utilizing homework assignments can be a few ways to feel rewarded by your therapy experience. Consider talking to a counselor to gain further insight and support.
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