The Signs To Look For: How To Know If Therapy Is A Scam

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For those who have never tried it, online therapy may sound too good to be true. After all, therapy websites promise counseling services via licensed therapists and mental health experts anytime around the clock, seven days a week, and you can sign in anywhere with an internet connection—including at work or school. Online counseling has been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy for treating disorders like anxiety, depression, and trauma, and it often costs less than traditional counseling. Most online counseling platforms have a wide range of experienced therapists to match you with based on several factors unique to you. 

But are therapy websites a scam? Some may be, but most are not. If you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell the difference between reputable therapy websites and those you may want to avoid. 

Verify the counselors’ qualifications

Therapy should make you feel safe

There are some therapy websites that have mental health professionals counselors without any credentials—prompting many to declare therapy a scam. These websites may perpetrate the myth that therapy doesn’t work, and is simply a focus on one’s self that isn’t controlled or “real therapy” by any stretch of the imagination.The side effects of this can be immense, prohibiting people from pursuing therapy that can help them.

To ensure you are working with a licensed professional counselor, look for sites with licensed therapists (LPC, LMFT, LMHC, LCSW, etc.) with master's (M.A./M.S.) or doctorate (Ph.D./Psy.D.) degrees. Paying close attention to the degrees a counselor holds often can give you an indication of what their focus is as well.
If you’re not sure, you can always call the main service organization and ask for a therapist that works in the area of specialty of a specific personality disorder or area of need. A good therapist (and a reputable one) will be happy to show you credentials or proof of clinical experience when asked, giving you a sure sign that you’re going to get the best therapy possible for your needs.

Watch out for ineffective customer service

The quality of customer service available on these sites can be very telling. Customer service indicators of a possible scam site may include:

  • Unfriendly customer representatives.
  • Representatives that blame you for problems with your account. 
  • Representatives that are unresponsive to requests for assistance.
  • Customer service representatives who do not actually solve the problem. 

Customer service representatives should be always completely professional and friendly. Any reputable company will likely take extra measures to hire the best associates and avoid those who won’t represent the company’s values. Genuine therapy sites employ responsible customer service representatives that treat your inquiries in a respectful way, clearly explaining policies and offering solutions that are timely and helpful.

Question unfair pricing

Before you sign up with an online therapy service, do some research into the price per hour of a local therapist. If the site you're considering demands that you pay more than you would for in-person therapy, you may want to look closer into their practices and reputability. Therapy sites usually offer a subscription in which you pay a monthly or quarterly fee versus an hourly fee. Thus, you can choose an online therapist that often charges less and gives you more time and flexibility than you would receive by going into an office for treatment. 

Don’t ignore your gut feeling

When you encounter someone or investigate a business, and you get an immediately uneasy feeling about it, chances are there's a reason. Your gut may be telling you "Watch out! This therapy is a scam." But even if there's no reason, you're likely not going to feel comfortable with someone that your gut is telling you just isn't right. If you're not comfortable with your therapist, that means you're not going to feel comfortable confiding in them in an honest and transparent way. It follows then that you’re unlikely to get the help you want and need. With an online therapist, this is even more important because you're not getting the benefit of being in the same room with the person. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong or that you don't feel comfortable with that person, it may be a good idea to keep shopping around for a therapist that better fits your needs. 

Check out the reviews and recommendations

If you're looking for a business or a professional for any reason, you want to listen to other people who recommend them. This can be a little more difficult with a therapist because not everyone is willing to give an endorsement, even if the therapist is exceptional. But look for recommendations from other therapists and from former or current patients that are willing to talk about their experiences. This may reveal more about what you can expect and whether the therapist you're considering will be helpful to you. It's not a guarantee, but it's going to give you a better idea of what to expect.

BetterHelp online therapy reviews and FAQs

No matter what route you take to find a therapist, make sure you look at each of these factors and find a therapist who is licensed, helpful and makes you feel comfortable. Here are some recent reviews of BetterHelp counselors:

Therapy should make you feel safe

“I can’t say enough good things about Teresa Henson. She truly has shown me that regardless of this being her job she cares about people. She made me feel so comfortable especially since this was my first time doing online counseling. She is going through major battles in her life and still made sure to assist me whenever I needed. She took the time to give me tools that I could use in the future and has helped tremendously with the way I communicate with others. I will definitely come back and search for her. I wish her nothing but the best and know whoever is lucky enough to get her as a counselor is in great hands! Thanks so much for everything Teresa.”

“Ashley is amazing at her job, I previously never thought it was possible to have such a great therapist. I suffer from sever[e] trauma and other conditions that I thought were too sever[e] for online therapy, due to the pandemic online is the safest option so I had to bite the bullet and try regardless of my previous failed attempts. Ashley has single-handedly changed the way I view online therapy and therapy as a whole, she is so knowledgeable and actually knows what she's doing, she works with you for the best approach she provides TRUE therapy and care. Everyone is different but for me personally she is the best care I have ever experienced and I definitely recommend her!”


While online therapy is still a relatively new field, there are plenty of legitimate and extremely helpful online therapy services available to you. As long as you know how to sort scams from actual therapy providers using the information outlined above, you can receive high-quality help from the comfort of your home.

If you’re questioning online therapy, consider its effectiveness as stated by professionals. A recent New York Times article highlighted how many more therapists are growing more comfortable with teletherapy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The article pointed out that peer-reviewed studies to date have shown that remote therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. It’s also likely to create more availability and increase the number of people who can receive care. 

If you’re ready to start online therapy, you can be matched with and begin speaking to a counselor in as little as 48 hours through BetterHelp

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